The Wolverine

2014 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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122 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2014 FOOTBALL PREVIEW BY JOHN BORTON T here's nothing like a good punch to the jaw, for getting one's attention and fixing future focus. Erik Magnuson and Michigan's offensive linemen absorbed a few in 2013, both literally and figuratively. Magnuson, a 6-6, 295-pound redshirt sophomore, won't soon forget his first play in the backyard brawl in East Lansing. He'd heard anecdotes about the ill-tempered affair. He'd been cautioned about what to expect. None of that mattered. In this case, nothing could substitute for experience. "The first play of the game, a guy caught me with a grab to the facemask and an uppercut to the chin," Magnuson recalled. "He pushed me back about 10 yards. The play ended, and I tightened my chinstrap a little bit tighter. "I said, 'Let's go. This is the real deal, now. This is Big Ten football. This is not high school anymore, Erik.' That's a different intensity level than I've ever played at before. It was, 'All right, let's go. This is big time.'" Magnuson wanted to experience big- time football, coming all the way from La Costa Canyon High School in San Diego to soak up a Midwest football atmosphere in 100,000-seat coliseums. Now he's absorbed a fat-lipped face full of it. He's battled through a Big Ten survival test on a shoulder that required postseason surgery. He's played four different positions on a crisis-mode offensive line. He's felt the sting of the flipside to all the glory of life in the Michigan football fishbowl. Magnuson hardly stands alone in that respect. Everywhere he looks in the offensive line room, there are underclassmen similarly smarting and motivated to strike back. They came to uphold an almost mythic Michigan offensive line tradition. When that doesn't happen right away, nobody's shy about letting you know. "We know how embarrassing that was," Magnuson said. "That kind of motivates you more than anything, coming in seeing the newspapers say how bad we were. That's not good. "You try to block out as much as you can, but being in Ann Arbor, especially during football season, it's a football town. Everybody loves football, no matter where you go. "If you go somewhere to eat, someone's going to remind you of how bad of an offensive line you have. You try to avoid it as much as you can, but even without the newspapers, we watch film. We knew what happened. We don't need people telling us." Sometimes, Magnuson admitted, he didn't try to block out all the negative commentary. "The stuff we didn't block out, we use for motivation," he said. "You've got to push ahead. When we meet as offensive linemen and just go through stuff without our coaches every week, we use it as motivation. Don't do this, because remember what happened last year. You've got to work harder. "It's always in the back of our head, and always will be until this season. We'll see what happens this season, but until we have a good season, until we have a good offensive line performance, it's always going to be behind us." Part of putting 2013 in the rearview mirror involves working tirelessly on a new plan for 2014, Magnuson acknowledged. Michigan changed offensive coordinators in the offseason, bringing in the man who made Alabama's Tide roll the past two years. To say Magnuson's excited about the advent of the Doug Nussmeier era might be understating the case. In addition to proving a high-level technician, Nussmeier comes across as a unifying force for a crew in need of one, the redshirt sophomore noted. The pressure of underperforming, young or not, and of a season-ending losing skein sometimes puts everyone to the test. There's a new feeling coursing through the unit these days, several have posited. "He makes a huge difference," Magnuson said. "He's proven to be a great offensive coordinator. Just what he brings to the team besides his coaching helps us a lot. He's a real positive coach. He's all about us staying together as a team, working together, bringing energy. "Sometimes last year, we lacked that. We kind of pointed fingers a little bit. We didn't stay together when things didn't go our way. Coach Nussmeier is all about staying together and being a team … that's something we need." Magnuson also points to Nussmeier's offensive approach injecting a greater level of understanding for him and his linemates, one he hopes translates into more success. "Simplicity is the greatest thing for us," he said. "Sometimes when you have these coordinators and football geniuses that know everything about football, they make it too complicated. With our inexperience last year, complexity kind of held us back. "When you get an offensive scheme that simplifies stuff, especially on the offensive line, we're able to play fast. We're able to play without thinking. That's huge. If you can play without thinking, you know exactly what to do. That puts you one step ahead of the defense." Magnuson insists he's looking to be two steps ahead. The shoulder setback kept him out of spring football, which meant he missed valuable time during the installation of Nussmeier's system. He locked into learning mode through observation, though, and has the summer to work with teammates in getting up to speed. He'll go into fall camp regarded as the No. 1 left tackle for the Wolverines, according to offensive line coach Darrell Funk. Then it's a matter of getting comfortable in that spot, and making it his own. That's quite a change from last fall, when he proved the Michigan offensive line version of an Army brat, in terms of changing locations. LESSONS LEARNED Lineman Erik Magnuson Is Ready To Punch Back In Round Two Magnuson, a redshirt sophomore, will go into fall camp regarded as the No. 1 left tackle for the Wolverines, according to offensive line coach Darrell Funk. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL "When we meet as offensive linemen and just go through stuff without our coaches every week, we use it as motivation. Don't do this, because remember what happened last year. You've got to work harder." MAGNUSON 122-125.Erik Magnuson.indd 122 6/19/14 2:54 PM

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