Offensive Line Woes Mount as Wolverines Head on the Road

Phil Callihan@umgoblogContributor ISeptember 20, 2013

Sep 7, 2013; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines quarterback Devin Gardner throws a pass during the first quarter against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

The Wolverines leave Ann Arbor for their first road trip of the season with questions on both sides of the ball.

Was their near-death experience against Akron the result of poor preparation or were the Wolverines exposed as a flawed team?

The offense sputtered for most of the first three quarters with quarterback Devin Gardner turning the ball over four times. Penalties erased huge gains on the ground and the offensive line struggled to give Gardner time to throw.

And soon after the offense got on track, then the defense evaporated.

Akron scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter and very nearly scored two more, throwing an interception in the end zone and just missing a receiver for what would have been the game-winning touchdown as time expired. Wolverine defensive backs allowed receivers to run by them for long receptions and the defensive line was unable to bring any significant pressure on the Akron passing game.

Offensive adjustments might equal a big game for Jeremy Gallon
Offensive adjustments might equal a big game for Jeremy GallonGregory Shamus/Getty Images

The offensive line struggled for the third straight game and head coach Brady Hoke declined to comment during his mid-week press conference on whether there would be any changes for Saturday’s game. Sophomore guard Graham Glasgow may get pulled in favor of sophomore Chris Bryant or redshirt freshman Ben Braden, who both played well in fall camp.

But the problems at the interior of the offensive line pale compared to the task of replacing offensive captain Taylor Lewan if he is unable to play. Lewan showed up at the team’s Monday press conference in a walking boot and was held out of practice. He is expected to start against the Huskies but his injury is a serious concern.

All this adds up to additional pressure on quarterback Devin Gardner, who struggled last week in a near-loss to Akron at Michigan Stadium. Gardner rallied the Wolverines for a late fourth quarter drive to take the lead and eventual victory. A week before Gardner had a career day against Notre Dame, but against Akron he struggled.

Tight End Devin Funchess
Tight End Devin FunchessGregory Shamus/Getty Images

A possible solution could be for the Wolverines to alter their offensive formations against Connecticut. Tightening up the interior-line splits and bringing in help from the tight ends could help slow down interior defensive pressure. But this would minimize the impact of tight ends Devin Funchuss and Jake Butt in the passing game.

A formation that brings in an extra running back would also provide Gardner with some extra time to make plays.

This all adds up to a potential monster game for Michigan wide receiver Jeremy Gallon, who starred against Notre Dame, but that’s only if Gardner has time to find him downfield.

The Wolverines have struggled under Brady Hoke away from Michigan Stadium.  With a shaky offensive line, a suddenly suspect defensive secondary and approximately 25 players traveling for their first road game, the pressure is squarely on the shoulders of Gardner.

On paper, Connecticut should not pose a threat to Michigan. But last week the Wolverines were favored by 35 points against Akron and barely survived.

Connecticut is looking for a huge win under lights in their home stadium.

Phil Callihan is a writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations in this article were obtained during media press or teleconferences.


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