The Wolverine

December 2018

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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DECEMBER 2018 THE WOLVERINE 25 "Just going into the huddle and Shea calling the play, they just look like some bad dudes," he said. "I love them for it." It peaked against the Spartans, after which the line received praise from several former Wolverine of- fensive linemen for looking like the Michigan lines of old. The current crew received texts and letters, and were determined to prove it was no fluke the following contest against Penn State. They made their case by playing extremely well again in a 42-7 win. "Watching the Michigan State game as a unit with the offensive linemen, in the locker room, it was just unbelievable," Runyan said. "I've never seen a locker room with that much atmosphere in there. Ev- erybody in the Michigan State game had an overwhelming sense of pride in what we did." They've gotten there through hard work with Warinner's teachings and positive reinforcement. If it's not a championship-level play in practice or in games, the coach said, it gets addressed in a positive way to help them get better, to understand what the standard is. "And the standard is we're trying to win every game and we're trying to be at a championship level, and we're trying to win a Big Ten title," he said. "That's how we coach them. It's not about who we're playing against, it's about how they're performing. "To get kids to do that, they have to see themselves getting better." Ruiz promised during camp that the offensive line would be a strength of the 2018 Wolverines, and he and his teammates have backed up such talk. They were tired of getting kicked around, Bredeson said, and they chose to do something about it, with a big assist from their new leader. "We've been in those big games before and I've personally seen us not be able to finish them," Bredeson said. "That was a big focus for us this offseason. Change the culture in the offensive line room. "We were going to finish games. If we needed a first down to win one or a touchdown to win one, we were going to be able to deliver." There were still a few games to go before they could be fully judged, but the results through 10 games were remarkable. ❏ Junior left guard Ben Bredeson has been named Michigan's offensive player of the game twice (Western Michigan and Michigan State) and the top offensive lineman in another (Northwestern). He was also listed as a Midseason All-American (second team) by the Associated Press. PHOTO BY BRANDON BROWN Numbers Compared To Last Year Tell The Story Many weren't sure if redshirt junior left tackle Jon Runyan Jr. would hold on to his position after a tough outing against Notre Dame, but he has. Not only has he improved, he's been arguably one of the Wolverines' best offensive linemen in a few big games this year. Pro Football Focus graded Runyan at 77.8 overall (an average grade is around 64) following the Wolverines' 42-7 victory over Penn State, second only to quar- terback Shea Patterson's 80.7 among players who were in for at least 15 snaps. Runyan actually led all offensive players who were in for a significant amount of U-M's 79 snaps in a 21-7 win at Michigan State Oct. 20, checking in at 75.3. Runyan said his mom always points out when Pro Football Focus has him rated high. "She's all over Twitter," he said with a laugh. He also noted the PFF numbers don't always jibe with how he's graded by Mich- igan, noting they don't always take into account blocking responsibilities, etc. But some numbers aren't debatable. Last year's Michigan team allowed 6.38 tackles for loss per game, which ranked 91st nationally out of 129 Football Bowl Subdivision teams. Though it wasn't all the line's fault — running backs and tight ends were also to blame at times — U-M ranked a dismal 110th nationally with 2.77 sacks allowed per game. This year's numbers after 10 games: 4.7 tackles for loss allowed per contest (tied for 19th nationally) and an average of just 1.5 sacks (tied for 31st), huge improve- ments for a group that has gotten better across the board. Defensive line coach Greg Mattison is among those who have seen great improvement. Even though his line doesn't go head to head with the O-line as much in practice during the regular season, he's seen enough to know what's good. "You know me, too," he said. "I'm biased, but everything starts up front. These guys are so much better." — Chris Balas

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