Why Michigan's OL is a Strength Now and How Much Better it Can Become

Why Michigan's OL is a Strength Now and How Much Better it Can Become

Football

Why Michigan's OL is a Strength Now and How Much Better it Can Become

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Not being someone in the room with the Michigan offensive line every day in practice, it was hard to qualify just how good this unit could become this year.

But, back in September, when Michigan fans, through just two weeks, had all but given up on this team after a loss to Notre Dame, where it seem it like the OL hadn’t progressed from 2017’s moribund outing, new line coach Ed Warinner was happy with where his unit was going from when he took over in the offseason to then.

“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.”

What about today? It’d be odd if he wasn’t pleased, given how the OL has become something of a strength of this football team through ten games.

So are they on track from where Warinner hoped they’d be? Absolutely, he says.

“I’m really pleased at where they’re at,” Warinner said. “So we’re headed in the right direction. We keep getting better and better. I think we’ve grown a lot. I still think there’s some room to squeeze a little bit more juice out of it, and we’re gonna try to do that. But the way to do that is not press them, it’s just consistency. How they come to meetings. How they go through walkthroughs. How they come to practice. And never letting them change that routine of high-level expectation for all those – and they get used to that, and they get used to the level of practice.

“Now there’s no pushing people to practice hard – they practice hard. There’s no pushing people to be focused at practice – they focus at practice. And if there’s anybody that isn’t doing that, the other guys sniff it out and address it before I do, because they know I’m gonna address it in about five seconds if it happens. So it’s real clear that there’s a certain expectation and if (it’s) anything less than that, get out, because we’re not dealing with that.

“Because we have a mission, we have a goal. We have things we want to do and nobody’s going to get in our way of that. That just comes from demanding that, it’s a routine we have, and I like our routine – and our kids love it, too, because they’re getting better and they’re excited to come to practice when they know they’re going to get better and they know that they’re going to be doing things they’re good at doing.”

In order to field a good offensive line, there’s multiple requirements that you have to work with in the first place.

If you don’t have talent, you’re probably at something of a disadvantage. If you think you’re already God’s gift, you might also be at a disadvantage.

Luckily for Warinner, he came to Ann Arbor where the talent was there, but the execution was off. Given how recent years had gone, and how much the offensive line had lost its confidence that it could perform to the level that was required at Michigan, they were also willing to listen — especially to a coach with a proven track record of developing NFL talent.

“They have to have some level of talent – that these guys possess here,” Warinner said. “And they have to have a level of being coachable. Are they willing to be coached? And then, how do you get them to do that? They have to trust me. They have to trust that what I tell them will make them a better player.

“’Well, I started last year, and I didn’t do that!’ Well, I know, but we’re going to ask you to do things, and you have to have a track record of that, so we have a track record of developing guys that have started in the NFL as rookies. I think six guys I’ve coached started as rookies in the NFL. The track record of this is what you want to do if you want to be an all-conference player and you want to do this and this and this – follow the plan, and these guys are great about it.

“They have to be willing to be coached and they have to be talented, and those two things we have. Then, you know, just take it step-by-step. Because the progress of Jon Runyan is not the same as the progress of Mike Onwenu is not the same as Cesar, it’s not the same as Juwann. They all progress at different levels, they all need different things. So we’re pretty consistent about addressing what each guy needs individually within a team, group concept.”

Still, it’s easier said than done to be coachable, to be able to take teaching and criticism, alike.

You have to remember — we’re talking about 18-22 year olds, that were told they were the greatest thing ever before they arrived in Ann Arbor. By every school that wanted them, including Michigan, by the scouting and recruiting services, by the fanbases of every school, et cetera.

But, as Warinner notes, they came to Michigan for a reason — to win, and win big.

The expectations have remained lofty in Ann Arbor, despite the record not following the same path this past decade. But depending how things go these next couple games, this team has a chance to change all of that.

Up next might be a 5-5 Indiana team, but after that: Ohio State, who Michigan hasn’t beaten since 2011. Beat them, and the division is yours. Win the next game against Northwestern in Indianapolis, and the Wolverines would have their first conference championship since 2004.

And there would be more on the line, still, beyond that.

Warinner first came to Michigan this offseason as an offensive analyst, but after the departures of Greg Frey and Tim Drevno, he quickly got called back up to his natural coaching position.

It took all of mere moments for his unit to buy into what he was selling, because what he’s done at every other stop before Ann Arbor was precisely what these players are yearning for here.

“Yes, absolutely – yeah from the day that I had the reins of the offensive line they were,” Warinner said. “Because that’s why they came here. They came here to be in the situation were in. They came here to be playing at this level of football. They came here for those reasons – that’s why you come to Michigan, because you want to play at the highest level and these games in November have significance, and they all wanted that.

“It’s been hard, but it’s been fun hard, because when you work hard – you have to work hard at anything you do in this business and you have to work hard to get a bunch of guys to become what they are, but it’s been fun because they’ve been very receptive and they work hard and they see themselves getting better. And it just makes it a great environment.”

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