When asked to diagnose the root of Michigan’s offensive woes, Giles Jackson pointed to the Thursday workouts.
On Thursdays, the Wolverines practice without pads, making for a bit more laid-back environment. According to the sophomore wide receiver, that’s led to some slacking off.
“I think we just have to be more consistent,” Jackson said. “Like in practice we practice good usually Monday through Wednesday but the last couple Thursdays haven’t been so well. Think we’ve just gotta pick it up and be more consistent in games instead of just lying on one, two drives and doing good the next drive, taking it off, I think we just have to keep our foot on the gas the whole time.”
That wasn’t the only issue Jackson pointed to during his press conference Tuesday afternoon. Altogether, Jackson painted the picture of a young wide receiver unit that is inexperienced and at times lacks discipline.
“We’re not as focused as we should be,” Jackson said. “In the meeting rooms we should be taking notes. We don’t take as much notes as we should be. It’s just the little things for us.”
Michigan had at least 300 passing yards in its two losses, but the passing attack has been inconsistent. Junior quarterback Joe Milton had two interceptions Saturday and drives often stall before reaching the end zone.
Beyond improving focus and consistency, Jackson provided a laundry list of specific things he felt the wide receivers could improve: following through on blocks, finishing routes, waiting for the full route signal, creating more separation, improving on contested catches. Most of those speak to an imminent need for more attention to detail.
Freshman wide receiver Roman Wilson, too, took his share of the blame for his lack of chemistry with junior quarterback Joe Milton when he spoke with the media on Monday. Wilson pointed to times against Minnesota and Indiana where he ran the wrong route and said “most of them, maybe all of them” were his fault.
The run game has largely failed to get off the ground — the Wolverines just 13 yards against Indiana — and its struggles are something that senior offensive lineman Andrew Stueber has said his unit takes personally.
On Monday, Stueber first mentioned how injuries to both starting tackles have forced the line to shuffle around, but that he was nevertheless confident that the unit could develop better chemistry.
“I can’t foresee how long it would definitely be to match the run game where we want to be,” Stueber said. “Obviously we’re gonna be hurt injury-wise too, but that can’t be an excuse. I’m confident in everyone that’s played and everyone that is going to play, and I think it definitely starts with buy-in to the … scheme and the calls but I think the players have to take it upon themselves to get the run game where it wants to be.”
After the loss to Michigan State, junior running back Hassan Haskins said the team lacked focus. That’s been a familiar theme the past two weeks. But a fix isn’t as easy as just flipping a switch. This could be a coaching issue, or it could lie in the team’s collective mentality — which seems to waffle between having too much confidence and a lack of it.
“We have all the potential in the world,” Jackson said. “If you watch our film, if you really analyze it, it’s just the little things we need to do to go from an OK offense to a great offense. … We watched the film from Saturday, we watched it yesterday. It was just the little things, they hurt us, and if we do those we’ll be good.”
Michigan’s offense isn’t lacking in talent — the preseason hype it received is a testament to that. With a big-armed quarterback and several speedy receivers, the Wolverines could still realize their potential. But without resolving some of their issues in the mental game, that might be easier said than done.
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