Michigan Players Impressed With Offensive Line Improvement

Michigan Players Impressed With Offensive Line Improvement

Football

Michigan Players Impressed With Offensive Line Improvement

ANN ARBOR, Mich — It’s one thing when you’re toeing the party line, parroting talking points that everyone wants to hear. It’s another thing when those points are reality.

In reality, we won’t know until Sept. 1 how improved the Michigan offensive line truly is, but there has yet to be a Wolverine who’s come out and thrown up a shrug-dot-emoji.

The change, with Ed Warinner coming in and taking over the coaching duties at the position, has been pivotal and positive for those along the O-line. Those who work with him directly, as has second-year center Cesar Ruiz, have raved about how much different things are from a year ago.

“Came a long way, we really have,” Ruiz said. “Coach Warinner brings a different attitude to the O-line. We really getting how things going this year. Practice – you feel the energy. You feel everything. We’ve come a long way.”

That’s high praise, but it’s self praise.

It’s another thing when it’s the players in fall camp who are trying to stop the offensive line from doing their thing, such as the Michigan defensive line.

As Ruiz notes, that unit doesn’t like to give credit if and when the OL does win a battle in practice. But still, third-year defensive tackle Michael Dwumfour feels like the competition has brought out the best in both units.

“When we started winter workouts, our strength coaches made us compete,” Dwumfour said. “That’s just how it is. They’re very competitive, so it’s like they bring the best out of you. And I feel like, as teammates, that’s what you’re supposed to do. Bring the best out of each other.”

Second-year fullback Ben Mason isn’t on the offensive line, but he knows what it takes to block somebody coming at you. It’s kind of his forte, and even he says that he’s seen vast improvements from the unit that had moments of being quite moribund in spots a year ago.

The most notable thing, in his mind is that they’re winning battles up front. But that’s not all. It’s everything that’s happened off the field this offseason that’s put the OL in a position to succeed.

“The offensive line as a whole looks tremendous,” Mason said. “One of the biggest things with the O-line this year, is the ability to push people off the ball. I think they’ve definitely benefitted from the new people around the building – Abigail and Coach Herb and his staff. They just look so much stronger and more physical compared to last year.”

Now, Dwumfour is expected to step into the giant shoes left behind by All-American Maurice Hurst, and the early reviews have been incredibly positive, if not flat-out glowing.

If the expectations for Dwumfour are that he can jump right in and be a dominant force in the defensive interior, then who on the offensive line is the player who gives him the most fits?

“I would say me and (left guard Ben) Bredeson always have good battles ever since we first stepped on campus,” Dwumfour said. “We’ve had great battles.

“He has so much experience. He’s played since his freshman year. He’s so technical everything. He definitely, when I’m lined up against him, I know I’ve got to bring my A game. And that goes for the rest of the O-line.”

Buy the improvement or not, but internally, the expectations are there that the offensive line will be an asset and not a detriment. Players all across the team have bought in, but perhaps no one more than those players getting the negative press last season and all offseason.

If nothing else, there’s a supreme confidence in the unit’s emergence, as exemplified by a bold statement made on Thursday by the team’s starting center.

“(The offensive line) is a strength of our offense,” Ruiz said. “The offensive line will be the strength of our offense this year.”

In just eight short days, when Michigan takes on Notre Dame in South Bend, the verdict as such will be in.

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