Devin Gardner leads Michigan in rushing this season with 439 yards. (John T. Greilick / Detroit News)
Ann Arbor -- Michigan coach Brady Hoke knows his unranked Wolverines have plenty of work to do in all phases of the game.
Hoke, speaking on the Big Ten coaches call Tuesday, said work has begun to fix a myriad of problem areas that were on display in last Saturday's overtime loss at Penn State. Michigan (5-1, 1-1 Big Ten) plays Indiana on Saturday at Michigan Stadium.
"We have issues we need to shore up on both sides of the ball and in the kicking game," Hoke said on the call. "I think maybe the mental effort needs to be better. We need to execute better."
As he said Monday during his weekly news conference, the first priority is the offensive line. Michigan mustered only 28 yards rushing on 30 carries by the tailbacks. Lead back Fitz Toussaint had 27 yards on 27 carries.
He has not ruled out making changes on the line.
"We've got to address the issues with not being able to run the ball from the tailback position," Hoke said. "That starts up front. We're not letting Fitz get started, and that means we've got to look at some personnel. If guys aren't getting the job done, there are other guys who want to get out there and want to get it done. That's part of it.
"We may tweak a thing here or there, but for the most part we can't ask (quarterback) Devin (Gardner) to run the ball 27 times. You're going to get him beat up and you won't have him for the heart of the Big Ten schedule.”
Offensive coordinator Al Borges reiterated Tuesday after practice what he has said since the beginning of the season -- the offensive line depth chart is in pencil.
But six games into the season, the expectation is for it to be in pen.
Borges pointed out that in his first season at Michigan in 2011, a No. 1 tailback (Toussaint) didn't emerge until midway through the season.
"We obviously have to make it more competitive," Borges told reporters Tuesday. "This week we're auditioning more players, we're going to see how they turn out. We're going to iron out these mistakes out one way or the other when we find five guys we think we can do it."
That doesn't mean there will be any changes, but the option is there.
Graham Glasgow moved from left guard to center, where he has started the last two games. Chris Bryant moved into the lineup at left guard. But Joey Burzynski came in for Bryant during last Saturday's loss at Penn State.
Regardless, the final product has demonstrated a lack of consistency with little production from the running backs.
Hoke has said he doesn't want Gardner running as much as he did against Penn State (24 carries, 121 yards) because of the obvious physical toll. Borges does not like that option, either, but if Gardner is the only effective ground-gainer, then that might be the route the Wolverines take.
"I don't like it, but you do what you have to do to win the game, end of discussion," Borges said. "If nobody's getting any yards, you've got a problem. I would prefer the tailback, but if the quarterback is the guy who beats you -- I don't particularly like it -- but we'll do what we have to do."
Hoke has made it clear he fully supports Gardner as his No. 1 quarterback. Gardner has had issues turning over the ball -- he has 10 interceptions to 11 touchdowns -- but he also has done plenty of positive things running the offense.
"(His) decision-making once in a while hasn't been exactly where we'd like it," Hoke said. "There's a whole lot I like more about Devin than I dislike. The improvement he's made in the last two weeks -- you look at his fundamentals and technique, he's stepping up in the pocket, he's doing a nice job of the mechanics it takes and he possesses throwing the football."
Borges heaped praise on Gardner, saying since Michigan's off-week before the last two games, the junior quarterback has made improvements.
"Devin has jumped a quantum leap in two weeks," Borges said. "After getting a couple balls intercepted (in the first half against Penn State), he recovered and showed composure and poise. At no time was there ever any doubt that he would bring us back, and he proved me right."
Defensively, Hoke wants to see some changes, too.
"We want to play a little tighter with our coverage, and we've got to be able to do that," he said on the Big Ten call.
Meanwhile, Greg Mattison, Michigan's defensive coordinator, said he thinks the pass rush is improving and that stats can't be relied on for evaluating that part of the game. Mattison said Tuesday that pressure was there, it just didn't always result in a sack against Penn State.
Indiana's offense will present a different type of challenge on Saturday. The Hoosiers are high-tempo and will test the Michigan defense.
"Getting ready for Indiana and the rest of our season, it's about playing fast," Mattison said.