Michigan Wolverines offensive line awaits tough test at Rutgers


The much-maligned Michigan Wolverines offensive line will be severely tested Saturday (Oct. 4) at Rutgers.

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In its first-ever Big Ten game, Rutgers’ defensive front chased Penn State QB Chris Hackenberg all over High Point Solutions Stadium for more than three quarters before the Lions escaped with a 13-10 win.

Michigan must prepare for unorthodox Rutgers defense

Rutgers finished the night with five sacks, and now leads the Big Ten with 21.  In comparison Michigan State has 15 and Michigan 10.

While no one is penciling Rutgers into the Big Ten championship game just yet, expect the Knights to give teams with weak offensive lines fits.

“I think that Rutgers does some things on defense that Big Ten teams don’t see a lot of.” says former Ohio State and NFL star Joey Galloway.

“It’s some of their movements up front with their D-line and then filling the gaps with their linebackers,” said Galloway, who was on the ESPNews telecast team when Rutgers knocked off Tulane last Saturday (Sept. 27).

No. 58 Kemoko Turay the one to watch

“Most Big Ten teams that I’ve watched play more of your traditional style 4-3 or 3-4 defense where the defensive line is more straight up trying to read which direction (the play is going), whereas when I watch Rutgers play the D-line slants one way and the linebackers fill in the gaps that the D-line has vacated.”

Rutgers’ sack leader with five is RS freshman defensive end Kemoko Turay who wears No. 58 and comes in off the bench.  He was one of those lean 6-6, 205 lb. kids who was missed by most of the recruiting gurus. He was so far under the radar that James Madison, Temple and Rutgers were the only schools to offer him.

Now up to 235 lbs, Turay will be coming off the edge against the likes of freshman Mason Cole or sophomore Ben Braden.

Lewan, Schofield missed

Last season Turay would have found the going slightly tougher. Cole, you see, is trying to replace Taylor Lewan and Braden is trying to replace Michael Schofield.

The other three members of the Michigan offensive line are basically the same, so how could the 2014 version be better than the one which had two games with negative rushing yardage?

Sure, Braden,  Erik Magnuson, Joey Burzynski and Kyle Kalis are all a year older, but are they playing a year older?

Hoke admits he’s concerned…

"They (Rutgers) lead the Big Ten in sacks,”  he said at his scheduled Wednesday (Oct. 1) press conference. “They have some guys who really do a great job of chasing the ball. I think their quickness at the line of scrimmage is something that we’ll have to contend with and will present some challenges, but we’re excited about the opportunity. Playing at night is going to be a lot of fun and a great atmosphere.”"

Gardner will start

Hoke also noted that Devin Gardner will start at quarterback with Shane Morris relegated to the backup role.  Morris, who started for Gardner in the Minnesota loss, was chased from the game after taking a cheap shot to the head by Gopher defensive end Theiren Cockran. Earlier Morris sprained he ankle so when he was hit by Cochran, he could hardly stand as he was helped from the field.

The circumstance morphed into a media frenzy when Gardner was forced to exit the game (for one play) for losing his helmet. Russell Bellomy would have replaced Gardner, but he actually struggled getting his helmet on, so Morris hobble back into action.

Hoke explained the situation by claiming he was trying to get a non-charged time-out so another quarterback wouldn’t have to enter the game for one play.

Damage Control

So Michigan was “indicted” by media, fans, ex-players and even a U.S. congressman for “allowing” a player with apparent symptoms of a “concession” back in a game.

Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon and University President Mark Schlissel issued statements in hopes of silencing the critics. Even if they are successful, Hoke was already under fire for a variety of issues, and Brandon, too,  hasn’t exactly be admired either.

For the gamblers out there, Hoke most likely won’t be back next season, but Brandon will probably survive, only because he does a great job filling the athletic department coffers.

For Hoke’s sake, play along the Michigan offensive line must improve considerably by Saturday or the Wolverine fan base will be treated to something worse than a bad Halloween movie.

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