Michigan coach Brady Hoke has eight scholarship offensive linemen — he’d like 16.

He has six he comfortably rotates in games — two are banged up.

“Our depth at our offensive line is probably as low as I’ve ever seen at the University,” Hoke said Monday.

After offensive coordinator Al Borges made a concerted effort to get back to the power running game and pro-style passing game after the bye week, Michigan will now have to rely on those six linemen more than ever.

The offensive line proved its worth by demolishing Purdue at the point of attack, leading redshirt sophomore running back Fitz Toussaint to a career day and giving junior quarterback Denard Robinson plenty of time to throw.

“That’s really what we’ve wanted to do all year,” Borges said. “The offensive line moved some people, not only on the line of scrimmage but also on the perimeter.”

For that to continue against Iowa — the latest team Hoke has labeled “the toughest” team Michigan will face all season — Michigan may have to hope it stays healthy up front.

Redshirt sophomore left tackle Taylor Lewan has been dealing with ankle and knee injuries and left last Saturday’s game for a few plays. Redshirt junior left guard Ricky Barnum has injured both his ankles this season — the second of which forced him to miss the majority of the Purdue game.

Hoke didn’t sound too optimistic about the chances of Barnum playing against Iowa, and his assessment of Lewan wasn’t much better.

“Barnum’s probably a guy who’s the furthest away (between the two),” Hoke said, before adding that Barnum is one of the tougher players he’s coached as far as pushing through pain.

“Taylor, I would hope he will play too.”

Hoke said he would be careful how much Lewan practiced during the week.

All season, redshirt sophomore Michael Schofield has been the primary backup at both guard and tackle. But if a situation arises like it did briefly against the Boilermakers, when both Lewan and Barnum are out, the inexperienced and unproven redshirt junior Elliott Mealer could see playing time.

And redshirt junior Rocko Khoury is the last lineman Hoke could call on, but he has primarily backed up fifth-year senior David Molk at center.

Hoke said he would give Khoury and Mealer more snaps this week, or at least the amount they “need” to be prepared if called upon.

Last Saturday, the unit answered the bell after Robinson and sophomore quarterback Devin Gardner threw interceptions early in the second quarter. Borges placed the game in the hands of the running attack, specifically the offensive line.

Fourteen of the Wolverines’ next 19 plays were runs, including three Toussaint carries — which went for 16, 16 and 17 yards, respectively.

In the second half, Borges fed the ball to the running backs, sprinkling in a few designed runs for Robinson, too. Once Michigan got the ball back after the two interceptions, leading 9-7, the Wolverines ran the ball 39 times and passed it just seven the rest of the game, building a commanding 36-7 lead.

Toussaint ran for 170 and two touchdowns. Senior running back Mike Shaw had a 37-yard touchdown scamper. And all this success came while Robinson enjoyed his new less-intensive role in the shadow of the offense — Borges could pick his spots to run the quarterback.

With Toussaint, when Borges called the power play to the left, Molk and Schoefield, who was playing left guard, would pull and get out in front to block for the running back. Meanwhile, the two lineman on the other side of the play sealed off the backside in case Toussaint needed to cut back.

No matter the combination, no matter who was running the ball, Michigan’s offensive line created enough space that the ball carrier usually had a sizable chunk of yards before he had to deal with any would-be tacklers.

But in order to effectively execute a blocking scheme where multiple linemen are pulling, or any of Michigan’s man or zone schemes for that matter, communication is “critical,” Borges said.

Molk, Lewan, Omameh and fifth-year senior right tackle Mark Hugye started on the line last season, and Borges noted their communication was great already.

Yet the questions remain: Who knows how Mealer or Khoury would react to facing a physical Iowa front four, running an offense that suddenly seems dedicated to the power run game? And how could one weak link affect the other four lineman?

Already, Borges conceded that the lack of depth has affected what they can do offensively.

“Yes, we’re not very deep,” Borges said. “But we have some good players, and we have to play with what we have, and I like them.

“There may not be a lot of them, but I like them.”

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