Ben Bredeson didn’t need to see the talk on social media or read any stories about what went wrong with Michigan last football season. He and his teammates on the Wolverines’ offense knew the answer.
“We’re all in the same locker room,” the junior left guard said. “We’re all brothers in there, and when the defense is busting their ass to make plays and we come up short, you’ve let your family down, so that’s what it really came down to for us.
“Offensively, we’ve talked about it, saying we can’t keep letting these guys [down]. These guys are working real hard for us. We’ve got to pull our own weight now.”
There have been coaching staff changes, including Ed Warinner taking over as the offensive line coach following the departures of Tim Drevno and Greg Frey, but the biggest change made this offseason, said Bredeson, has been an internal attitude shift. No more waiting for the defense to bail the offense out of a game.
It couldn’t the last three games of last season. Michigan had leads in the second half against Wisconsin, Ohio State and South Carolina but couldn’t finish those games.
The Wolverines don’t need anyone else to tell them what happened.
“It’s a ‘don’t back down’ attitude from the offense, a chip on the shoulder,” Bredeson said. “We weren’t the strongest point on the team last year and we’re definitely very sick of hearing that. We’re done with that.
“A lot of the guys have been driving at it, some of the older guys on the team have been talking about we’re really sick of being overlooked and we want to put our stamp on games.”
The ink pad on offense was often dry last season.
Michigan ranked 105th nationally in total offense, averaging 348.9 yards per game, and its 25.2 points per game ranked No. 91 in the country. There weren’t many non-option teams less effective throwing the ball than the Wolverines. Their quarterbacks combined for just 9 touchdown passes and they didn’t have 200 yards passing in any game after John O’Korn replaced an injured Wilton Speight and threw for 270 yards at Purdue on Sept. 23. The quarterbacks were sacked 36 times last season.
Bredeson has started 20 games in his first two seasons, more than any other returning player for Michigan. Not just offensive lineman, but the entire team.
Defensive line coach Greg Mattison made mention of Bredeson’s play this spring, as well as sophomore center Cesar Ruiz and redshirt junior Jon Runyan, while pointing out his thoughts on the offensive line.
“I personally think the offense is much more physical. I think that starts with the offensive line,” Mattison said. “I’ve been very impressed with the offensive line. We go against them a lot, probably more than we’ve ever gone against anybody.”
Mattison and Warinner have their position groups going head-to-head more often this spring. No one doubts how good the defensive line has been and is expected to be again this season with ends Chase Winovich and Rashan Gary, and tackles Aubrey Solomon and Michael Dwumfour. The offensive line has a lot to prove.
“The thing was we want to be the best D-line in the country, and you want to be the best offensive line in the country, so why should we go against our own guys? Why don’t we go against each other? That’s how you do it in the NFL,” Mattison said. “We’re trying to help each other out.”
Spring practice is far different than opening the season at Notre Dame in primetime on Sept. 1, but if there is to be change effected that night in South Bend and the rest of the 2018 season, it has to start somewhere.
“Attitude would be the big change for us,” Bredeson said.