Michigan camp preview: Is the o-line better?

It’s no secret: This is a big year for Michigan and Brady Hoke, who last year saw a 5-0 start melt into a 7-6 finish. The offense floundered, so coordinator Al Borges was dismissed. Hoke tabbed Alabama offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier to take over. What new wrinkles will we see? It won’t really matter unless the line improves.

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Here are questions I will take to Michigan practice on Monday.

1. Is the offensive line better? The unit’s struggles are well-chronicled. The inability to get a consistent push was the undoing of the offense. The interior sounds like it’s coming along. How do the tackles look? There are no senior scholarship linemen.

2. Are the running backs running hard? True, these guys are only as good as their blockers. So, none excelled in 2013. But Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith have something to prove, too.

3. Is Jake Ryan moving well? The linebacker arguably is the defense’s heart and soul but has battled injury. Ryan has moved to middle linebacker. Can he handle the traffic? This should be a strong set of linebackers.

4. Is Jabrill Peppers excelling? Seemingly no true freshman has received as much hype as Peppers, a stud corner. Can he crack the lineup in some capacity?

5. Are the receivers and tight ends making catches? A go-to man is needed. Devin Funchess should be that guy. Freddy Canteen was a spring star after arriving early. Who else is stepping up?

6. Is Devin Gardner playing within the system? At times last year, he forced things and may have tried to do too much. Who can blame him? He was just trying to make something happen for an often rudderless attack. But he needs to stay within the confines of new coordinator Doug Nussmeier’s attack.

About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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2 Comments

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Carl K on 8/11/2014 @ 3:28pm EST Said:

If the Offensive line is average I Don’t see how Michigan doesn’t win 10 games this year. Everyone knows the talent is there, and Michigan was picked to win the division last year. Turns out they were too young the as mentioned the line was the undoing. However the same reasoning should be sound enough to expect at LEAST 9 wins from this team this year shouldn’t it?

Big Ten Fan on 8/13/2014 @ 9:49pm EST Said:

The Offensive line just isn’t there, and contrary to what some think, neither is the talent. Michigan’s offensive line talent is more on par with an upper level MAC school than a supposed Big Ten contender. On top that, Gardner is a turnover machine. Funchess is the best option in the passing game but there are reason why he was absent at times during the season. Defensively, Michigan has a solid to good unit depending on their opponent. But they lack play makers at all three levels. Peppers may be one but we just don’t know. The defense is good enough to keep them in games but not win them. Looking at their schedule, it is difficult to see enough wins to be bowl eligible.