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Published: Monday, 9/30/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

UM WOLVERINES FOOTBALL

Miller’s spot could be part of shakeup on UM offensive line

BY RACHEL LENZI
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Jack Miller Jack Miller
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ANN ARBOR — Coach Brady Hoke hinted at the possibility of a shakeup on the offensive line as Michigan prepares for its Big Ten Conference opener against Minnesota.

If changes happen, they’ll come when Michigan’s coaching staff believes the unit is ready for change.

“We need a little better play from the center, whether it’s Jack [Miller] or Graham [Glasgow],” Hoke said.

Miller, a St. John’s Jesuit graduate, has started at center in the first four games, while Glasgow and Kyle Kalis have started at left and right guard, respectively. Yet the interior of the offensive line has come under scrutiny in the last two weeks, after near-upsets against Akron and Connecticut. Any decision on any changes could come before the end of this week, even as early as today.

“We wouldn’t have a problem making a change, if that’s what we deem we ought to do,” Hoke said.

Asked about any changes on the offensive line, tackle Mike Schofield wouldn’t name names as far as potential replacements, and only said that players have been shuffling in and out through the course of practices this season.

Schofield, however, brought up a statistical point that is telling.

“We have too many negative plays, and that’s a reflection of the offensive line,” said the fifth-year senior. “The offensive line, I think we’ve got over 30 negative plays [loss of yardage, interceptions, sacks or turnovers] and many of them came against UConn.”

Improving on that total begins with helping quarterback Devin Gardner, who had a season low 97 yards passing and was sacked three times at Connecticut.

Michigan (4-0) is seventh in the Big Ten in passing (215 yards) and ninth in rushing (194.2 yards), and only two players have carried more than 100 yards a game: Gardner had 10 carries for 103 yards against Akron and Fitzgerald Toussaint had 24 for 120 at Connecticut.

“We’ve got to put a focus on that, especially in the pass protection and trying to give him as much time as possible to make those smart throws and make the passes he can make," Schofield said. "With the run game, we’ve got to get the runs going and get out of the third-and-long situations so we don’t have to put so much pressure on Devin.”

Production, Hoke said, might be more critical than the chemistry that the current offensive line has built.

“We’ve got to put the guys in there who give us the best opportunity to be successful,” Hoke said.

Following a week off from the schedule, Hoke wouldn’t give a concrete answer as to where the No. 19 Wolverines stand, despite its flawless record on paper.

"But it doesn’t matter what I think," Hoke said. "We’re in the top 20.”

Contact Rachel Lenzi at: rlenzi@theblade.com, 419-724-6510, or on Twitter @RLenziBlade.



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