Michigan has to get Fitz Toussaint started on the ground, and that begins up front
ANN ARBOR -- Upon further review, Taylor Lewan's criticism of Michigan's offensive line play Saturday was a bit harsh.
After beating Air Force 31-25 on Saturday, the junior left tackle described Michigan's play up front as "awful," just days after declaring it had been "embarrassing" to this point in the season.
On Monday, Lewan backed off that stance slightly, but still isn't exactly pleased with he and his partners up front so far.
"I think it was better than I first described it," Lewan said. "At first I was upset because (our) running back had seven yards, but people don't get that we also block for Denard (Robinson), too. And he had 200-some yards.
"But, we've got to get the running backs going."
Robinson did just fine Saturday, racking up 218 yards on the ground -- thanks in large part to touchdown runs of 79 and 58 yards.
But running back Fitz Toussaint? He never got out of the starting blocks, running eight times for a whopping total of seven yards. Robinson seemed to find a few creases on his zone reads, but Michigan got nothing on any Toussaint gives or designed running back runs.
And that is still very concerning for the Wolverines.
"We couldn't get Fitz started," Michigan coach Brady Hoke said. "They ran, 30 times, fire zone run (defenses), which they never (ran that much on film). It was a little different.
"But we never could get him started, and some of it we've got to block better."
Through two games this season, Michigan's running backs (Toussaint, Thomas Rawls and Vincent Smith) have rushed 27 times for 49 yards.
That number's bad on its own, but considering 22 of those 49 yards came on one spurt from Smith against Alabama, things get really rough.
Hoke didn't answer the question when asked whether or not he's considered changing things up along the offensive line this week, but he did say he's not going to save redshirts on his true freshmen offensive linemen just for the sake of doing so.
"I don't care if (they play or don't), I want the best players on the field," Hoke said. "I think they're all making progress. But it's probably as hard a position in Division 1 football to play as a freshman, because of the schemes and protections.
"(But) if they progress, and we feel they're better, then they'll play."
While the consistency up front is a cause for concern to Hoke, the offensive line's willingness to own up to their struggles cannot be.
Both Lewan and fifth-year senior center Elliott Mealer continue to insist that their production up front isn't good enough. Not good enough for this team, and not good enough for anyone that's ever played offensive line at Michigan.
"We've got to get a lot better," Mealer said. "We've got to start playing Michigan football, and playing like a Michigan offensive line should."
Hoke's not hitting the panic button up front just yet. He's given credit to Alabama's defense for being one of the best, if not the best, units in America. And he also tipped his cap to Air Force for their decision to take away Michigan's traditional run game Saturday.
He's not completely worried just yet.
The key word there, of course, being "yet."
"I don't know if I'm real concerned at this time," Hoke said. "I give (Air Force) a lot of credit for what their plan was. As a group, they're coming together, but I think we've got to become more consistent and better at the point of attack.
"I'm not concerned, yet."