After playing nine games in as many weeks, Michigan finally was
rewarded with its bye week. Tight end Tim Massaquoi “slept
all weekend.” On Saturday, linebacker Roy Manning was a
“couch potato.” And cornerback Marlin Jackson admitted
that “it was crazy having that much time to
ourselves.”

Michigan Football
David Baas switched from left guard, where he was an All-American candidate, to center this season. (TONY DING/Daily)

But if there was one group that benefited the most from having
Saturday off, it might have been Michigan’s starting
offensive linemen — five guys who weigh a combined 1,600
pounds.

“We are a little heavier, and there is a little more
weight on our knees, so we definitely appreciate (the bye
week),” senior David Baas said. “But everybody is a
little beat up right now.”

Regardless of how sore Baas and his cohorts have been feeling
following games lately, the defensive linemen they have been
squaring off against lately have likely felt significantly
worse.

That’s because Michigan’s running game has made a
dramatic turnaround. After running for just 171 combined yards in
their first two games, the Wolverines have now run for 200 yards or
more in four consecutive weeks.

While the insertion of freshman Mike Hart at running back is
considered the main reason for the marked improvement, changes to
the offensive line have also had a big effect.

Left tackle Adam Stenavich and right guard Matt Lentz have
started every game this season, but the other three positions have
undergone changes.

After two games, Michigan replaced Mike Kolodziej with redshirt
freshman Jake Long at right tackle.

But the more radical changes came the following week, when
Michigan began its Big Ten schedule. During practice this past
spring, in an effort to find a way to put the five best linemen on
the field, coach Lloyd Carr toyed with the idea of moving Baas from
left guard — where he was a second-team All-American last
year — to center. He came back to the experiment before the
Iowa game, shifting Baas to center, removing Mark Bihl from center
and putting Leo Henige Jr. in at left guard.

“Taking an All-American at one position and moving him to
another position is something you would prefer not to do,”
Carr said. “But we also knew that David had the ability to do
it, and he never hesitated to do it.”

But, just when Carr had the offensive line he wanted, he had to
make another change. In Henige’s second game as starter, he
suffered a season-ending knee injury. Not wanting to move Baas
back, Carr opted to go with Rueben Riley, a former tackle, at left
guard.

Lately, Michigan has become known for its quarterbacks and
receivers lately, but it will always be considered a running
team.

“Early on, we hadn’t established the running game,
and we really needed to do that,” Baas said.
“That’s what Michigan football is supposed to be, and,
even though we’ve improved in that area, we’re trying
to get better every week.”

This season has also been a struggle for the offensive linemen
simply because dealing with change is something new for them. Last
year, Michigan started the same five offensive linemen in all 13
games.

“I think having the ability to adapt to change is
important,” Carr said. “It’s certainly important
in football, and their ability to adapt this fall has had a big
impact on our team.”

Notes: Safety Ernest Shazor is one of 12 semifinalists
for the Thorpe Award, presented annually to the nation’s top
defensive back.

The redshirt junior leads the team in tackles with 65 and
tackles for loss with 10. He also has two interceptions, two forced
fumbles and two fumble recoveries.

Three finalists will be named on Nov. 22, and the winner will be
announced on Dec. 9.

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