Drevno plans to toughen up Michigan's offensive line

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor — For the better part of the last two seasons, Michigan's offensive line has taken a beating on the field and in the media.

More often than not, it has been referred to as: "Michigan's much-maligned offensive line".

New offensive coordinator Tim Drevno, who is coaching the offensive line, said he knows this group has absorbed an enormous amount of criticism the last few years, but he intends to instill a high level of toughness.

Michigan returns all five starters from last season's line, which did show signs of improvement. But Drevno, like coach Jim Harbaugh and defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin, stressed there is a clean slate in terms of evaluating the players and in terms of players earning starting jobs.

Drevno, who last season coached the offensive line at USC where he started three freshman, discussed his approach to coaching toughness in offensive linemen.

"You demand it," Drevno said Thursday after the second spring practice. "You demand it from them. You love 'em up, you get 'em to trust you, you invite 'em over to your house for a barbeque, you tell them that you love them, you get them to play for you.

"It's pretty cool when it happens. You get that group inside there to believe in one another and the brotherhood about the want-to and how we lead this football team. That's pretty cool."

Drevno said he already can detect there is a level of toughness among the linemen he inherited.

"There's something special in there," Drevno said. "Are we there yet? No. It's Day 2, but there's something special in there, and I'm excited about it."

There was nothing special about the offensive output statistically the last two seasons.

In 2013 with Al Borges as offensive coordinator, the Wolverines averaged 32.2 points but were ranked 115th in total offense, 112th in passing offense and 64th in pass defense. They also were last nationally in tackles for loss allowed.

Last season under offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier, Michigan remained at the bottom of most of the statistical categories. The Wolverines were 109th in scoring, 110th in passing, 112th in total offense and 62nd in rushing.

Drevno, who will call the plays on game day, wants to shape the offensive line, coached by Darrell Funk the last four seasons, into a tough, physical, move-guys-off-the-line line. That pretty much sums up what every offensive line coach wants, but he feels like he has the talent to do that.

"They're going to come off the football, they're going to know where to go, they're going to have a want-to, a brotherhood," Drevno said. "They're going to take control in the room, and they're going to lead us."

Like the rest of the coaches, with the exception of defensive line coach Greg Mattison, who spent the last four seasons as defensive coordinator, Drevno doesn't exactly know what type of personnel he has. He has a feeling, but then again, practicing in pads will show him more with regard to their toughness and physical nature.

He is more than aware of the heat the line has taken the last few years, but he wants them to shake it off and move on.

"We've all been criticized," Drevno said. "It's about what did you do today to be great. I don't worry about the past. I've made mistakes as a coach.

"The great competitors I've been around, they have short-term memory in what they do. They make a mistake, they forget about it, and they push on. That's a true competitor."

But guys who have been beaten up often can become guys who are eagerly interested in sponging ways to become great. That's what he has found through two practices.

"These kids are great kids," he said. "They want to be taught, they want to be coached, they wanted to be demanded on. You couldn't ask for anything better. There's nobody resisting what we're doing."

For some of Michigan's players, this will be their third offensive coordinator in the last three years. Always, they talk about terminology changes and having to adjust.

Drevno's feeling is football is football, and, yeah, maybe he might calling something by a different name, but it more than likely is something with which they know and are familiar.

"But there are different ways with (how) people do and teach fundamentals," Drevno said. "There are a lot of different ways to skin a cat, but the way we teach our fundamentals, we completely believe in them."

He said he runs interactive meetings.

"We're in this thing together," Drevno said.