ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Danny Lewis is confident Ed Warinner will make an impact on Michigan’s offensive line.
Warinner did it when Lewis was an offensive lineman at Kansas, and Warinner did it at schools such as Air Force, Army, Illinois, Notre Dame and Ohio State.
Warinner staked his career on being a top offensive line coach. Now Warinner needs to revamp a Michigan offensive line that struggled in 2017. He is expected to take over as Michigan’s offensive line coach, following the reported resignation of offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Tim Drevno.
“He’s a really, really smart man who understands football,” said Lewis, who played for Warinner at Kansas in 2003. “Coming from his Air Force [coaching] background, he knew how to run an offensive line that, when you don’t have the size and the 5-star kids you have, like what you have at Ohio State, it still functioned.
“He brought a lunch-pail mentality and a smart approach to coaching the offensive line. You never had to worry about him being unprepared. If you brought something to him, you never worried about things not being fixed.”
Once Warinner’s title is finalized and he is officially on board, he will bring a cerebral mindset. He evaluates all aspects of playing the offensive line, from what to expect from an opposing defense and how to counter it, to fundamental tasks such as gaining leverage and physical positioning.
There is a lot to fix on Michigan’s offensive line. The unit was out of sync in 2017, and pass-protection issues constantly plagued the Wolverines. Michigan allowed 36 sacks in 2017 and lost starting quarterbacks Wilton Speight (broken vertebrae) and Brandon Peters (concussion) to injuries.
Warinner will have a base to work with at Michigan, which begins spring practices March 23. The offensive line returns three starters, and a potential fourth if doctors clear Grant Newsome to resume playing. Newsome hasn’t played since sustaining a right knee injury in October 2016, but he could be the leading candidate to start at tackle.
Warinner is known for creating stout offensive lines.
Warinner’s tutelage at Ohio State produced several NFL offensive linemen, including Jack Mewhort and Taylor Decker. Most notably, Warinner coached Pat Elflein, a 3-star recruit from suburban Columbus, into an All-American, a Rimington Trophy winner and one of the Big Ten’s most formidable offensive linemen. The Minnesota Vikings drafted Elflein in the third round in 2017.
Additionally, Ohio State posted top-15 rushing offenses in each of Warinner’s five seasons as an offensive coach or coordinator (No. 10 in 2012, No. 5 in 2013, No. 9 in 2014, No. 11 in 2015, No. 11 in 2016).
As Minnesota’s offensive line coach and run game coordinator in 2017, Warinner helped the Gophers to the third-best rushing offense in the Big Ten (182.42). Minnesota also allowed 22 sacks, tying Ohio State for the fourth-lowest total in the Big Ten.
“You name the offensive line out there, and he’s worked with that offensive line,” Lewis said. “He knows what he’s talking about, and whatever role he’s in at Michigan, he’ll bring such a rich knowledge.”