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ESPN analyst David Pollack watched Michigan last season and could not help but notice an offensive line that was lacking.

Pollack and Jesse Palmer, who will both work ESPN’s Thursday prime-time games this season, shared their opinions of Michigan during a conference call Thursday.

“I’m curious to see what they are (this season),” Pollack said. “I couldn’t believe how bad they were in the trenches last year in the offensive line. That’s not Michigan. When I think of Michigan, maybe they don’t have the greatest athletes in the world on the perimeter, but those dudes (on the offensive line) are grown men that get their hands on you, and they’re dirty and nasty.

“Obviously, you had that at left tackle (in Taylor Lewan), but the interior of that line, center and guards, got pushed around. I felt bad for (quarterback) Devin Gardner at times. They need to find an identity. I couldn’t really put my finger on anything Michigan did great last year. The quarterback spot does get better when the offensive line protects better, because obviously Devin had some good moments during the season, and he has tools to be successful. He showed serious toughness down the stretch. That game against Ohio State, he had a jacked-up foot. If you’re looking for a guy people will follow, a leader, that (toughness) shows you more than anything. But you want to see them from a standpoint of consistency, especially in the trenches.”

Palmer said the key this fall will be Gardner, who will start for the second straight year. Gardner will play behind a line that is replacing two veteran tackles.

“Devin Gardner just has to stop turning the football over,” Palmer said. “It’s frustrating for you if you’re a Michigan fan, because when you watch them play Notre Dame, you watch them play Ohio State, he’s making plays. When he’s on, even with a shaky offensive line, there were a lot of good things, and he gave that team a chance to win.

“There’s no doubt about it, they have to be way better running the ball and every quarterback’s best friend is having balance on offense. For a guy like Brady Hoke, as the head coach, he must have been pulling his hair out a season ago, because that’s just not the brand he wants to play. So enter Doug Nussmeier, the new offensive coordinator, a guy who’s going to try to bring back balance and physicality. It’s a mentality — they need to be tougher and be smarter and a lot of that obviously falls on the shoulders of Devin Gardner.”

angelique.chengelis@detnews.com

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