Warinner's Assessment of the OL Through Two Games

Warinner's Assessment of the OL Through Two Games

Football

Warinner's Assessment of the OL Through Two Games

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — It’s no secret that last season, Michigan’s biggest weakness — along with quarterback play — was the offensive line’s inability to pass protect. Fans were optimistic heading into 2018, but that optimism at-large faded quickly with the first few drives the Wolverines had against Notre Dame and its ferocious front seven.

But then the OL rebounded significantly, and the response was assuredly a sigh of relief that this unit had caught on to what new line coach Ed Warinner has been preaching, right?

Not so much.

The panic at the disco rages on, with many of the comments consisting of, ‘Well, it was against Western Michigan.’ Fair, but last year, Michigan looked abhorrent in protection no matter the level of opponent. So, some modicum of improvement should be celebrated.

That’s certainly how Warinner sees it, especially looking at his two offensive tackles.

Right tackle Juwann Bushell-Beatty has had plenty of experience up to this point, but left tackle Jon Runyan Jr. — who perhaps unfairly has drawn the ire of a rabid, hungry fanbase out for blood at the first sign of trouble — has played a little in spot duty before this year. And his last two games have just been his first two starts.

Despite the cries outside of Schembechler Hall, Warinner — who knows a little something about OL talent, considering his pedigree — likes where his tackles are as of current. But he still wants to see them to continue along an upward trajectory.

“Much better Week Two than Week One, but a work in progress still,” Warinner said. “Jon Runyan’s first two starts as an offensive tackle and he’s played solid. Continues to grow there. I think we’ve improved Juwann. Bushell-Beatty is improved. I think he played better as well. Still want them to push and to grow and develop and we’re pushing them hard. Yesterday, had a good practice. I thought we got a lot better yesterday. They’re very coachable guys.”

Better Week Two than Week One is precisely where Warinner wanted to see his unit be, he says.

Much like head coach Jim Harbaugh always says about how players make their biggest improvements from year one to two, Warinner says that from the first week to the next is where you see the biggest in-season jump.

So dismiss the improvement against Western Michigan at your own peril, because — though the level of competition is taken into account — there’s a method to Warinner’s evaluative process, he explains.

“The most growth on the football team, in my 34 years of experience, is between Week One and Week Two,” Warinner said. “When they finally play somebody other than their own team, when they finally have to learn to adjust in a game. When they finally have to go out and play and the coaches aren’t around them anymore, then you learn a lot about, ‘Ooh! All those things Coach talks about, they are really important. Boy, they do matter! I’d better really pay attention.’

“And then they see themselves on film against someone else. That’s when they grow the most. And I thought our growth was great from Week One to Week Two as a unit and I think we were much more consistent and productive.

“And then I hope to see that again, because I think we still have room to make that bump again.”

So, how has the line improved? How can he tell, given the level of opponent, going from Notre Dame to WMU?

“There’s just certain things that you watch and you see if things that a guy didn’t do well the week before, did he do it better in this game?” Warinner said. “His footwork, his pad level, his hand position, his communication, his second effort, his finish. You just watch for those things. And every guy has things that are different.

“What Jon Runyan needs to work on is not what Mike Onwenu needs to work on is not what Cesar needs to work on is not what Juwan Beatty needs to work on. So they all have something different.”

Of course, playing Western Michigan compared to Notre Dame is a different endeavor entirely.

Warinner says that it isn’t ideal when you open up the schedule against a top tier opponent, but “it is what it is.” Still, the OL is on schedule for where Warinner wants it to be at this juncture.

But that doesn’t mean it’s a finished product.

“Absolutely pleased with where we’re at right now – and then we just have to keep going,” Warinner said. “If we don’t grow any more from here, then I’d be disappointed moving forward. But I think they all see where we can.

“When you watch practice and you’re out there and you feel what’s going on and you listen, there’s a lot of things where other position coaches are saying, ‘Man, that’s pretty good. Listen to them up there talking. They’re really working together.’

“The physicality of how they practice, because we’re really pushing for that, too. Practice hard on Tuesday, practice hard on Wednesday. Then recover on Thursday and Friday and go get it Saturday. So we’re really trying to develop that culture. Because the only way you really get good up front is practice at a high tempo. You don’t get better as an O-lineman doing walkthroughs or going in shorts and t-shirts. All of us can do that in shorts and t-shirts. They have to put shoulder pads and helmets on. They have to put knee braces on, they have to tape their hands up and they have to go to work, and they have to do that three times a week. Once on Saturday and twice during the week for them to really become a machine. They’re learning to do that.”

Aside from pass protection woes being on the forefront of Michigan fans, there’s a lot to like about what we’ve seen from the O-line.

Of course, Michigan ran the ball 308 yards in Week Two, but there are a lot of other things that Warinner points to as being big positives. Though he made himself knock on wood multiple times, given the lack of penalties that OL has had thus far, the first-year Michigan coach is pleased with how disciplined the offensive line has been through two games.

“The things I’m pleased about with the offensive line: we don’t have a holding call in two games,” “I know I just jinxed us! We have one illegal procedure penalty in two games. Alright. We have four sacks, but two of them really aren’t on the O-line, they would be considered other issues. So, I mean, in general, are those things improvement? I would say, to me, those things are pretty good. You played the number of plays you played.

“If you look at the number of certain things that we’re doing – pretty good.”

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