The Wolverine

November 2021

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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74 THE WOLVERINE NOVEMBER 2021 T here's a thin line between love and hate, so the say- ing goes. Few would ever believe that would pertain to football, but many former Wol- verines over the years have spo- ken of having exactly that type of love/hate relationship with their coaches, including the late Bo Schembechler and assistants. For former Michigan offensive lineman and current TheWol- analyst Doug Skene, it was Les Miles. The former U-M lineman and line coach (1987-94), and future LSU head coach, was known for being hard on his players, often coaching them to the breaking point. And for Skene, that mo- ment came in 1992, his last in a Michigan uniform. During a late-season practice, Miles be- rated Skene for what he thought was a missed block, and Skene felt otherwise. The big lineman glared at his coach. Miles yelled at him to stay after practice. "And when it was just the two of us on the field, I looked at Les and said, 'I'm going to kill you,'" Skene recalled with a laugh. "His eyes got really big, and he said, 'Hold on, big fella — we're on the same team here!'" The two ironed out their differences. Years later, Skene said, he understood exactly why Miles was so hard on him, crediting him for not only making him an NFL player, but also for some of the lessons he'd use in the business world. The good coaches have a way of do- ing that. The best ones, though, are those who demand accountability but are also so beloved by their players that you can see it in their play. For this year's example, we go back to the men up front, led by Sherrone Moore. Many shrugged their shoulders when head coach Jim Harbaugh replaced vet- eran line mentor Ed Warinner (now at Florida Atlantic) with last year's tight ends coach, wondering how Moore would stack up to a man considered a great technician. They focused instead on running backs coach Mike Hart's ad- dition, or Steve Clinkscale and Ron Bel- lamy in the secondary. Moore, though, has been as influen- tial as any of them, better than anyone could have hoped. "He's done a fabulous job, as evi- denced by how the guys are playing," Harbaugh said Monday before U-M's game with Michigan State. "The things you don't see … a cohesive group on and off the field. They play for each other, play for the team, and he's done a fabu- lous job." They play for their coach, too, and to make him proud. Lineups have shifted due to injuries to guards Trevor Keegan and Zak Zinter, but results haven't. Guys block to the whistle, and all of them look much improved over a year ago. Their play is a big reason quarterback Cade McNamara had been sacked only twice through seven games and why the running game ranked fifth nationally as of Oct. 25, averaging 253.3 yards per game. "Coach Moore's done a great job," Hart said. "He's a high-en- ergy guy, and those guys really love playing for him. He gets ex- cited before games, during games. "They respect him so much. He coaches them hard, but with so much love. I think that's one thing — that's what makes him such a great coach." "Coach them hard, love them harder" is his mantra, Moore admitted in early October. A former lineman himself (at Oklahoma), he insisted there's "something about the offensive line that's special." "The camaraderie between five guys on the field is just some- thing special you really love," he added. When it's clicking, it's poetry in motion for students of the game. It all starts with the ap- proach and pushing the right buttons, and Moore has been an out- standing mentor and motivator. "They believe in him, and they know that he believes in them, so they believe in him," Hart said. "Even when there's a mistake they've made, he doesn't rip butt. He doesn't do anything like that. It's, 'OK, here's what we have to do. Why did you do that?' "He's just a guy that gets it. He played the position. He's obviously a little bit younger as a coach. It's just a different style of coaching that makes him a great coach … he listens to his guys. I saw the defensive backs were even talking about it. He listens to his guys and he knows how they feel, and that's what these kids want." They also want to win, and that's also evident in their play. With Moore's tutelage, they've been one of the most pleasant surprises of a group that pro- vided so many during the first half of the season. ❑ Chris Balas has been with The Wolver- ine since 1997. Contact him at cbalas@ and follow him on Twitter @Balas_Wolverine. INSIDE MICHIGAN   CHRIS BALAS Walking That Fine Line … To Excellence Sherrone Moore has surpassed all expectations in his first year coaching U-M's offensive line, after moving over from mentoring the tight ends in the offseason. PHOTO BY BRANDON BROWN

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