Michigan Wolverines Football

Wolverine Bye Week Overhaul, Time to Shake Up the Offense

EAST HARTFORD, CT - SEPTEMBER 21: Brady Hoke, coach of the Michigan Wolverines, congratulates Devin Gardner #98 after a touchdown in the second half against the Connecticut Huskies at Rentschler Field on September 21, 2013 in East Hartford, Connecticut.   (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images
Phil CallihanContributor ISeptember 23, 2013

The Michigan Wolverines are 4-0, but all is not well in Ann Arbor. 

The offense, which began the year putting up 59 points against Central Michigan and 41 against Notre Dame, has been abysmal against Akron and UConn, two teams that have a lone victory between them.

Three of Michigan's past opponents have some of the worst defenses in the nation, and Notre Dame isn't stellar either.

Michigan's Big Ten schedule includes four teams with top defenses among the best in the nation.

Heading into their bye week, it’s time for the Wolverines to make some changes to their offense, which currently rests at No. 63 nationally. With two weeks before their next game, now is the time to fix the problems that have prevented them from scoring more consistently.

 

Shuffle the Offensive Line

Sep 7, 2013; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines quarterback Devin Gardner scrambles out of the pocket during the fourth quarter against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Michigan Stadium. Michigan Wolverines defeated Notre Dame Fighting Irish 41-30. M
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

The interior of the offensive line has struggled all season. Last week, head coach Brady Hoke and offensive coordinator Al Borges expressed frustration with their progress and hinted at possible changes. 

Center Jack Miller and guards Graham Glasgow and Kyle Kalis have been pushed around, hampering the Wolverines running attack. Even the addition of Erik Magnuson as an extra blocker on some plays didn’t make things any better.

It’s time to see what Magnuson, Chris Bryant or Ben Braden can do playing every down. The coaches may be reluctant bring in another center and potentially disrupt the exchange to Gardner, but it’s hard to imagine anyone not being an improvement over Miller.

 

Limit the Playbook

Sep 14, 2013; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; (EDITORS NOTE: caption correction) Michigan Wolverines quarterback Devin Gardner (98) throws a pass before the game against the Akron Zips at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Four games into the season is usually when teams begin to open up the playbook. Unfortunately, the Wolverines need to do the opposite.

Borges loves to use a multitude of formations and pass packages to attack opposing defenses, but that’s not possible given the current state of the offensive line. The Wolverines need to use the pro set more to provide Gardner with more protection when passing the ball. 

He also needs to add more plays that allow Gardner to roll away from pressure. Right now, defenses are able to bring a straight rush, and when Gardner gets under pressure he’s developed a bad habit of spinning to avoid defenders. These spins have resulted in some epic mistakes.

 

Get RB Derrick Green in the Mix

Aug 31, 2013; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines running back Derrick Green (27) rushes with the ball in the third quarter against the Central Michigan Chippewas at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Running back Fitzgerald Toussaint has rushed for 354 yards this season. A decent total, but he has missed opportunities for many more. He seems tentative, either due to concerns over his injury last season or looking for bigger plays, and has passed up or just missed holes that would have resulted in positive yardage. 

The Wolverines need to give freshman Derrick Green an opportunity to do better. Quarterback Devin Gardner is the team’s leading rusher with 385 yards on the ground. The team needs a more balanced attack and needs to not be so reliant on Gardner and Toussaint.

 

Get Quarterback Shane Morris More Reps

EAST HARTFORD, CT - SEPTEMBER 21:  Brady Hoke, coach of the Michigan Wolverines, talks with Devin Gardner #98 and Shane Morris #7 before a game with the Connecticut Huskies at Rentschler Field on September 21, 2013 in East Hartford, Connecticut.   (Photo
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Devin Gardner has shown the strain the past two games. He might benefit from having a chance to see the game from the sidelines for a few drives.

And the Wolverines would definitely benefit by preparing Morris in case Gardner gets injured. 

Coach Hoke should consider getting him in the game during the first half during the Big Ten season.

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