The Wolverine

November 2011

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 29 of 119

The Effort Is There, But Consistency Is Missing On The O-Line Darrell Funk inherited an offensive line built for movement and spread-offense blocking. He���s guiding it toward becoming a fiercer, more physical crew of road graders. The Wolverines aren���t there yet, he acknowledges. But it���s not for lack of effort. ���Each kid has worked extremely hard,��� he noted. ���We���re not where we want to be. We���ve got a lot of improvements to make, but the kids have come to work every day. They���ve improved in certain areas, sometimes not at a high enough rate or a fast enough rate for me.��� The measurement comes down to two facets of play, Funk offered ��� physical performance and schemes adherence. Both need work, he acknowledged. ���Our base philosophy of playing physical and playing tough ��� we���ve got to improve there,��� Funk said. ���There has been evidence of that at times, and there have been times it didn���t happen. It���s got to be more consistent. We���re committed to being a physical group up front. That���s the way we���ll always be here. ���Schematically, communications-wise, we���ve had some breakdowns. It all falls squarely on me. It starts with me, but there are some things I think are fairly simple that haven���t been executed that we just need to be able to do.��� Funk cites as evidence the Michigan State loss, in which the Wolverines appeared overwhelmed at times up front, surrendering seven sacks. ���These kids have got to understand the intensity of that game,��� Funk said. ���Some did, some didn���t. Some guys have played in that game before and Offensive line coach Darrell still didn���t realize what they were in for. That���s Funk named center David where it starts ��� it starts with intensity. ���We try to play like that all the time, so it���s not a Molk as U-M's most consissituation where we say: ���Okay, this week, it���s a big tent performer on the line. Photo by lon horwedel rivalry game, so now you���ve got to crank it up.��� We want to be cranked up all the time. ���They need to learn from that. We wore down a little bit as that game went on. It starts with the intensity and the physicality of that game, that we weren���t ready for.��� Fifth-year senior center David Molk sets the tone up front, and he���s provided leadership, while serving as Funk���s most consistent performer regarding grades, execution, etc. Molk also struggled at MSU, yet clearly leads an interior line out of which Funk demands improvement. ���He���s been consistent,��� Funk said. ���He is a physical, finishing type of player, and he���s got a skill set that helps us. It needs to rub off more, especially on the guys to his right and left.��� Those guys are redshirt junior left guard Ricky Barnum, redshirt junior right guard Patrick Omameh, and redshirt sophomore wild card Michael Schofield, who started several games for an injured Barnum. ���He has improved every week,��� Funk said of Schofield. ���I see a possibility of a three-man rotation in there at guard, or even a changing of the guard at either of those spots. Those three that have started games are really about even, in terms of their overall production on Saturdays. ���None of them are at the level we want yet. We���ve got to get something else. If a rotation would help us, fine, or if guys being motivated because of competition gets a higher level of play, that���s great. It doesn���t matter how it gets done.��� Redshirt sophomore left tackle Taylor Lewan in particular is getting it done, Funk noted, playing a physical brand of football without taking penalties. While fifth-year senior right tackle Mark Huyge struggled against MSU, he���s been solid as well. Collectively, Funk noted, they need to buckle the chinstrap a little tighter over the final month, setting a tone both now and in the future. ��� John Borton 30��� the wolverine��� ������ November 2011 plan, how I want to play, is based on watching his film. I���ve watched just about every piece of film from his senior year. ���I watch the Ohio State game all the time, from 2007. He is a tremendous player. I talked to [Jeff] Backus when he was in here. He���s an awesome guy, and just talking to him, he understands the tradition of everything. The tradition of Michigan is just unreal here. You���re not going to find that at any other university.��� More than anything, Lewan aches to carve out a major niche in that tradition. He wants to win big and leave an impression on every defender he encounters. When he lines up across from a defensive end on any given play, he���s determined to leave a mark. ������ Offensive coordinator Al Borges on Lewan ���He���s been smart. He���s played smart. He���s getting better and better at it all ��� the time.��� ���It might sound selfish, but I want him to remember me,��� Lewan said. ���Like, ���Man, I���ve got to play Michigan.��� I want him to know that when you play Michigan, it���s a tough team to play. I want to be one of those people who are known as one of those tough guys. ���Everybody does, whether it���s a defensive end, a corner, a kicker. Nobody wants to go through life being known as soft. I want, when I play against somebody, for them to know you���re playing a real university, with real things happening, and real tradition ��� and that you���re carrying that tradition.��� That sense of tradition, Lewan admitted, soared inside him when Hoke and his staff walked in the door. ���No other coaches, in my opinion, could have handled it better than they have,��� Lewan said. ���They came in and they knew the circumstances of everything that was going on, how people were feeling about situations, and they took in every single thing. ���I think they made every right decision. These coaches have gotten to know us. They���re father figures ��� all of them. Coach [Darrell] Funk, Coach Borges, Coach Hoke, Coach [Greg] Mattison.���

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