Michigan left guard Ben Bredeson talks about what staff changes have done for the offense Tuesday. Angelique S. Chengelis, Detroit News
Ann Arbor — Michigan’s offensive players knew that the entirety of a disappointing 8-5 season last year didn’t completely rest on them, but they could not help but feel their share of the blame was enormous.
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh made several offseason offensive staff changes, adding Ed Warinner as offensive line coach — he was hired as senior analyst — along with Jim McElwain as receivers coach and Sherrone Moore coaching tight ends.
While there’s been plenty of finger-pointing at the offensive line, considering the Wolverines ranked 91st in tackles for loss allowed and 110th in sacks allowed, there were issues across the board. Michigan finished with nine touchdown passes last year. Meanwhile, the defense ranked No. 3 nationally.
Guard Ben Bredeson said there has been an attitude adjustment among the offensive players.
“We’ve just kind of, as an offense, gotten a little bit of a swagger this spring, I would say,” Bredeson said Tuesday night after practice. “Everybody has a little bit of an attitude, and I think we’ve been playing a lot better than I’ve seen in the past. We’re making a lot of improvements on offense in general.”
So what exactly constitutes this change of approach?
“Just a don’t-back-down attitude, I would say now from the offense,” Bredeson said. “Just a chip on our shoulder. We weren’t the strongest point on the team last year, and we’re definitely very sick of hearing that. So we’re done with that.”
Michigan left guard Ben Bredeson talks about new line coach Ed Warinner on Tuesday. Angelique S. Chengelis, Detroit News
They didn’t hear it from their teammates, though.
“We’re in the same locker room,” Bredeson said. “We’re all brothers in there. When the defense is busting their ass to make plays and we come up short, you’re letting your family down. That’s what it really came down to for us.
“We talked about it and said we can’t keep letting these guys, these guys are working real hard for us. We’ve got to pull our whole weight.”
The offensive line typically sets the tone for an offense, and defensive line coach Greg Mattison has seen it rapidly improve during spring practice. The line must replace starters Mason Cole and Patrick Kugler, who played left tackle and center, respectively.
“I personally feel like the offense is much more physical,” Mattison said. “It starts with the offensive line. I’ve been very impressed with the offensive line. We go against them a lot, probably more than we’ve ever gone against anybody, and I’m impressed with how aggressive they are. Ben Bredeson, he’s a real man in there and (center) Cesar Ruiz has really done well and (tackle Jon) Runyan, I see some really good things out of him. I see a lot of them doing really well.”
Mattison said he and Warinner decided the way to improve both lines is to face each other in drills in practices.
“We decided we’re going to do more key drill against them,” Mattison said. “It’s different ways of doing things and it’s good. (Warinner) likes doing it and I like doing it. It wasn’t anything drastically different.
“What it was, we want to become the best D-line in the country, and you want to be the best offensive line in the country, why should we go against our own guys. Why don’t we go against each other. That’s how you do it in the NFL. Rather than beating our head against the wall, we practice against each other. The kids are smart enough now and old enough now you don’t get in fights, you don’t take it past where you should, you’re just practicing the blocks and everybody’s good. We’re trying to help each other.”
As far as the offensive line goes, Bredeson said it is time they make noise.
“Some of the older guys on the team, we’ve just been talking and really we’re sick of being overlooked and we want to put our stamp on games,” he said.
The staff moves have given Michigan, not entirely a clean slate, but a fresher one. Bredeson said it has invigorated the offense.
“You walk into the building and there’s a lot of new faces. I love it,” he said. “I think it’s a good kind of refreshment for everybody. We’re sad to see some people go, but there are some new people in here that definitely know what they’re doing and have had some great coaching success. Personally, I’m excited to have them, and I know all the rest of the guys are too.
“I don’t know if we needed it, but it’s definitely helped this spring. It’s definitely sparked some new life into some guys. Some guys reacting to different coach in different ways than before. It’s been very beneficial for us so far.”
Michigan spring game
Kickoff: 7 p.m., April 14, Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor
Notable: Gates open at 5 p.m. and at 5:20, an episode of the Amazon Prime video series “All or Nothing: The Michigan Wolverines,” will be shown on the video boards.