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ANN ARBOR — More than five weeks after naming the starting offensive line for the Michigan football team, Wolverines coach Brady Hoke said a shakeup of the unit could be in the cards for Saturday’s Big Ten Conference opener against Minnesota.
“If we were going to kick the ball off today, Graham [Glasgow] would be the center,” Hoke said Wednesday. “And Chris Bryant would be the left guard, with Joe Burzynski and Kyle Bosch being a part of that mix at some point, possibly.”
Glasgow, a redshirt sophomore, has started the first four games at left guard and would replace St. John’s Jesuit graduate Jack Miller, Michigan’s starting center during the first month.
Miller, a redshirt sophomore, entered the season as the top contender for the starting job at center and practiced at the position in the spring. Hoke said that during the course of Michigan’s first four games, communication between Miller and quarterback Devin Gardner had been “spot on” but that the changes came on the basis of competition in practice.
“Jack’s done a great job of competing, but Graham would start and then Jack, always, is ready to go,” Hoke said. “If we kicked off now, that’s what we would do. But you never know. There’s still some days left [before Minnesota].”
The remainder of Michigan’s offensive line will likely remain intact with All-American Taylor Lewan at left tackle, Kyle Kalis at right guard, and Mike Schofield at right tackle.
Earlier this week, Hoke said the No. 19 Wolverines needed improved play at center and narrowed the candidates there to Miller and Glasgow.
In a 4-0 start, the offensive line has come under criticism for not adequately protecting quarterback Devin Gardner. Production from the line, Hoke said, will ultimately trump chemistry the unit has created in the first month.
“Trying to put the best five on the field is always the biggest challenge,” Hoke said.
UM has had its share of struggles in the first month, including near-upsets against Akron and Connecticut. Gardner threw for a season-low 97 yards Sept. 21 at Connecticut, and he has eight interceptions so far this season, the highest among the Big Ten’s top 10 quarterbacks ranked in the category of passing average.
While Gardner is fifth in the Big Ten in passing average (200.2 yards), he’s 10th in the conference in passing efficiency (131.1). UM enters its Big Ten opener ninth in total offense (409.2) — ninth in rushing offense (194.2) and seventh in passing offense (215).
Gardner was frank about whatever criticism he has received in the wake of his last two games.
“When you play as bad as I’ve played, you kind of earned that,” Gardner told reporters, with a wry grin. “I just can’t wait to play on Saturday.”
RYAN UPDATE: Hoke said linebacker Jake Ryan is participating in full-contact drills, but did not give a specific date for his return after he underwent ACL surgery earlier this year. Since the start of fall camp, coaches have projected Ryan to return this month.
“He’s doing a lot more every day,” Hoke said of Ryan, who tore his ACL in March during spring practices. “We’re smart with him.”
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