Simplicity leading to success for young offensive line

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By Alejandro Zúñiga, Daily Sports Editor
Published March 25, 2014


Kyle Bosch’s first career start at Michigan is one he’s not likely to forget. On Nov. 2, 2013, the guard was part of an offensive line that was systematically embarrassed by Michigan State to the tune of seven sacks and nearly half a football field of negative yardage.

Months later, the sophomore still hasn’t forgotten the surprise of being at the top of the depth chart for that game, or the speed with which the Spartans played. But some of the Wolverines’ shortcomings weren’t just physical, and they should be fixed this fall, he said.

According to Bosch, one of the offensive line’s biggest issues last year was schematic. The transition from former offensive coordinator Al Borges to Doug Nussmeier has been welcomed because of an increase in simplicity, leading to players actually knowing where to go.

As a result, Michigan has managed more long-yardage running plays than last year so far in its spring practices.

“Coach Nussmeier’s system is much easier to apprehend than Coach Borges’ because some of the names of plays — they’re names of animals, it’s common terminology,” Bosch said. “It’s not a numbered system, so it’s easier to pick up.

“We’ve definitely dumbed it down. One call is one call. In the last offensive system, one call could mean you’re going right, or it could mean you’re going left — you had to distinguish that call with another call. So three offensive linemen would be going right, two would be going left. That’s why we would get negative 15 yards. Now, we’re all on the same page when we’re running the play.”

The new schemes have been especially useful for acclimating younger players, particularly early enrollee Mason Cole, who has impressed many with his high motor. Bosch is mentoring the Tarpon Springs, Fla. native, who is “learning way faster” than he did.

The offensive line lost two NFL-bound tackles in Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield from last year’s unit, but that hasn’t all been detrimental. In 2013, the group didn’t bond very well — both because of the playbook difficulties and incompatibilities off the field. So far this spring, that hasn’t been an issue, and the line spends much of its free time together.

“I think the five of us all being young is really allowing us to mesh and come together the way we didn’t last year,” said redshirt sophomore guard Kyle Kalis. “I think we’re going to be pretty good this year.

“Having (Lewan and Schofield) was crucial for helping us grow and stuff, but it’s a totally different experience now.”

The revamped offense will be scrutinized heavily this fall, especially during the Wolverines’ Oct. 25 meeting with what should be another ferocious Michigan State defense. But no matter who’s taking snaps, receiving handoffs or catching passes, Bosch knows he has one primary responsibility.

“Don’t let anyone touch your damn quarterback,” he said. “Your biggest focus when you get in a three-point stance is that the guy in front of you can’t touch your quarterback.”