Michigan Football: Back to Work for Humbled Wolverines
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Saturday's 41-14 loss to Alabama was a humbling experience for Michigan coaches, players and fans.
The Crimson Tide exposed Michigan's deficiencies on the offensive and defensive lines.
The Wolverines need to use the remaining non-conference games to get their house in order. After all, Michigan's main priority is winning the Big Ten.
Next on the schedule is Air Force, Massachusetts and Notre Dame. The Wolverines open the Big Ten season at Purdue on Oct. 6.
That's only four weeks to solve a variety of problems.
Apparently, the center position is still up for grabs. Throughout training camp, it appeared Ricky Barnum had nailed down the slot, but left guard Elliott Mealer took many of the snaps against Alabama.
"They had been both playing a lot of center, a lot of guard. Just felt some of the shotgun stuff Elliott was a little better," coach Brady Hoke said (via mgoblue.com) at his postgame press conference. Redshirt freshman Jack Miller also took some snaps.
Toussaint's Return Would Help
The sooner Fitz Toussaint returns at tailback, the better. Vincent Smith rushed for 33 yards on 13 carries but is known to be more effective as a pass-receiver. Thomas Rawls, the talented sophomore from Flint, looked a step slow against the Alabama defenders, gaining just nine yards on six carries.
The passing game featured dropped passes and errant throws early in the game. Jeremy Gallon eventually showed why he was Michigan's most constant receiver last year, coming up with four receptions. Devin Gardner, who appears to be settling into the lineup with Roy Roundtree and Gallon, drew Hoke's praises for his 44-yard touchdown catch.
"I think Devin's a pretty special athlete," Hoke said. "To get another athlete on the field helps us."
The defensive side of the ball is even more muddled.
Alabama simply ran Michigan out of the park. The Crimson Tide shoved the Wolverines around at will, rushing for 232 yards on 42 carries. Big Will Campbell made a decent showing at tackle, finishing with five tackles and a sack. A pair of true freshmen, Mario Ojemudia at end and Ondre Pipkins at tackle, could play more next week.
Cornerback Blake Countess, who was injured early in the contest, was sorely missed. Courtney Avery, who normally plays the nickel position, helped out at corner along with Raymon Taylor and true freshman Terry Richardson.
The two starting safeties led the Wolverines in solo tackles, another sign of a shoddy overall performance. Thomas Gordon, who is trying to recover from an indifferent 2011, came up with five solos, as did Jordan Kovacs, who is expected to have an All-Big Ten season.
"It was a tough loss," Kovacs said after the game. "It was a deflating loss. It should sting, but at the end of the day, you can't let Alabama beat you twice. You have to learn from it, watch the film and make your corrections to get ready for Air Force next week."
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