Bob Wojnowski, John Niyo and Matt Charboneau look ahead to Saturday's showdown between the Michigan State Spartans and Michigan Wolverines in Ann Arbor. Detroit News


Ann Arbor — While Michigan’s defense is ranked No. 1 nationally, its offense is among the worst in a couple of key categories.

The Wolverines are ranked 119th of 129 teams in tackles for loss allowed (8.00) and 109th in sacks allowed (3.00).

Because they didn’t have a game for which to prepare last week, Michigan used the time to work on improvement. The goals for the offensive line are clear.

“We feel like we’ve been playing pretty well, but we’ve got long way to go,” guard Jon Runyan said last week. “That’s what this whole improvement week is for, getting ourselves better. We’re facing a tough D-line against Michigan State coming up. This week we’re working on improving ourselves and what we’ve got to get better on. Just clean everything up with protection and the run game, too.”

Greg Frey, who coaches the tackles and tight ends, said he and Tim Drevno, who coaches the interior line, always are looking to identify and correct potential issues.

“These are great coaches we face week in and week out,” Frey told reporters Wednesday. “They dissect you. Whether it just be a stance or a leaning here or slow hands, whatever it may be. So what we try to do is identify those things and correct them, focusing on each individual and the role they play, and how they do and see if we can tweak something.”

Michigan has three new starters on the offensive line with Patrick Kugler at center, Michael Onwenu at right guard and Nolan Ulizio at right tackle. But there are other new pieces to the offensive puzzle who also play a role in blocking — the tight ends and receivers are on the less experienced side, but the running backs are not exactly newcomers.

While it’s easy to focus on the offensive line, Frey said, playing good offense is about playing in sync across the board.

“The biggest thing, as you go through this as an offense, a lot of times it gets broken down to statistics and I understand that,” he said. “But the reality is we’re an 11-person offense. In order to avoid a sack, in order to have a big run, score a touchdown, whatever, we have to be working together. If you get off-schedule a little bit, things happen. And that’s what we’re trying to keep everyone working on schedule, doing their job, understanding their role.”