Harbaugh: Line Lacking 'Leverage' in Run Game

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh discusses the offensive run game moving forward, and what U-M needs to do to fix it.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Jim Harbaugh likes to run the football.

But after one game at Michigan, his team isn’t getting the job done between the tackles – and he knows it.

Why? Well, Michigan struggled running the ball in its 24-17 loss at Utah, running for only 76 yards on 29 carries, good for 2.6 yards per carry average.

Simply put: not good enough.

“Of course we want to better at running the football,” Harbaugh said at his weekly press conference on Monday. “And that comes with the interior line. The interior line got to play as an entire unit. All 11 (players on offense) playing together and not one guy having a break down or (having) a missed block.”

And if Michigan is going to improve its run game, Harbaugh says his lineman are going have to get better “leverage” up front, and the Utah game was a prime example of that.

“Sometimes our guards got in positions you never want to be in as a football player,” Harbaugh said. “They know it, they know it better than anybody. I don’t think there is anything that will get pad level down then the couple times we saw in the game where we had a man completely underneath and lifted you off the ground, you are in a state of no leverage. You’ve lost all your power producing angles.

“Maybe that’s the best teacher. So I think we’ll get better at that. And we’ll get the pad level down.”

De’Veon Smith led U-M with 48 yards on 17 carries, and never was able to get a rhythm running the football despite getting the majority of U-M's carries on offense. However, moving forward, Harbaugh says the plan is to still to use multiple running backs in U-M’s offensive rotation.

“We'll use all of our options,” Harbaugh said. “All of our options are available. I don’t anticipate using just one back, nor did we in the game against Utah. I thought De’Veon ran extremely hard. He took the brunt of some missed assignment. And when a player blocks the wrong guy or misses a guy, not only will the play go for only a yard or zero yards, he took a couple big hits.

“The offensive line and fullback have to take great pride in making sure that doesn’t happen. We can improve in that area. But he ran tough, played tough. He kept coming back for more. I thought his second effort was extremely good on three or four carries.”

Michigan (0-1) plays host to Oregon State this Saturday at noon ET.

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