The Wolverine

September 2018*

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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30 THE WOLVERINE SEPTEMBER 2018 STATE OF THE OFFENSE BY CHRIS BALAS M ichigan head coach Jim Harbaugh knows his of- fense was a disappoint- ment last year, but he's cho- sen to look forward rather than dwell on what went wrong in 2017. The Wol- verines finished 110th nationally (out of 129 teams) in passing offense (171.2 yards per game) and 105th in total of- fense (348.9), wasting an outstanding year by the Michigan defense. Harbaugh wouldn't name an offen- sive coordinator in July, choosing the "by committee" approach. It's been working well, running backs coach Jay Harbaugh said Aug. 8. "The collaboration has been fantas- tic," he said. "It's a lot of guys who are really proficient in a certain area of offense or have called plays before and had a ton of success. It's like a musical band — you've got a good bassist, you've got a good drummer, you've got a good guitarist, you've got the lead vocals, maybe backup vocals. "We've got a lot of guys on offense, so it's a pretty extensive band. Every- one's got to do their part and not ex- pand beyond their part. When you do that and everyone's in harmony, you get a really good final result." Here's a position-by-position look at what they'll have to work with and how things appear to be shaping up heading into the Sept. 1 opener at Notre Dame: OFFENSIVE LINE Jim Harbaugh brought in expe- rienced (and former Ohio State) of- fensive line coach Ed Warinner to work with this group, and it appears to have paid off. Warinner insisted in the spring the Wolverines had the personnel to put together a "solid Big Ten line," and Harbaugh said in July they'd seen indications of it. "The offensive line is really showing some signs there of coming together, believing in each other," the head man said. "It's more experienced, more ath- letic … I see stronger." An example — new strength coach Ben Herbert asked each lineman to try to move a 900-pound sled 10 yards in the winter. Few were able to manage it, and those who could struggled. All of them could do it with relative ease by the end of summer. "I see them moving better, lower, quicker and faster," Harbaugh said. "[Fifth-year senior] Juwann Bushell- Beatty, I just see him more dialed in, more focused, working harder at it. He's losing weight, putting it on in better spots." Sophomore center Cesar Ruiz "is do- ing really good" in Harbaugh's estima- tion, as expected, but the right guard position isn't as settled as some might believe. Redshirt sophomore Stephen Spanellis, who played decently at cen- ter in the Outback Bowl, is pushing ju- nior Michael Onwenu — a nine-game starter a year ago — there. "There might be some competition at the right guard spot, but overall I think it has a chance to be better," Har- baugh said. The left tackle spot is still a big ques- tion mark. Bushell-Beatty worked there for much of spring, but redshirt freshman James Hudson has improved dramatically, and true freshman Jalen Mayfield could also get a look. "There's still work to be done, but there are real signs there," Harbaugh said of Hudson. "There are times there where you go, 'There it is! This is your position now.'" He also has high hopes for redshirt junior Jon Runyan Jr., who will likely start at one tackle spot and was one of the team's most improved players in the spring. He's also gotten a look at left tackle this fall. But Harbaugh is looking for some- one to lead the group, and he hopes he has his guy. "Mason Cole graduated, and I don't know that we're going to find a guy as good as him this year," he said. "Maybe [junior left guard] Ben Bredeson, though, could be that kind of stalwart in there like Mason has been. He certainly has a chance. He's been a starter since he was a freshman, as well. "But it's coming together … it's been a good summer for them. All you can ask is that your best players are healthy and in shape for training camp, and go from there." QUARTERBACKS Michigan went through three quarterbacks last year, in part due to sketchy line play that left two of them in the hospital. The competition was fierce this spring, and the position seems to be in good shape heading into the season. Junior transfer Shea Patterson is the heavy favorite to win the job after throwing for 2,259 yards and 23 touch- downs last year in only seven games at Ole Miss. He fits in well with his new teammates. "Guys have really good antennae," Harbaugh said. "The first question is, is he about us, or is he about himself? Shea's about the team. Guys saw that real quick. "The next thing is, who's the best? Who's the best player? Who is going to be the best quarterback? You throw the balls out there and guys compete, as they do at every other position. Guys see it, and say there's the best player for our football team. "You don't even have to take a vote SEEKING IMPROVEMENT Michigan's Offense Is Ready To Take A Step Forward In 2018 Sophomore Cesar Ruiz started at right guard in the final five games last year, but has seamlessly transitioned to his natural posi- tion of center during the offseason. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN

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