Left guard competition heating up
A fifth year senior with limited experience, a redshirt sophomore walk-on from California and a nasty freshman make up the Wolverines competition for the starting left guard position on Michigan’s offensive line.
Offensive coordinator Al Borges has kept a close eye on the trio—Elliott Mealer, Joey Burzynski and Kyle Kalis—throughout camp, splitting time in an attempt to find the right and best guy to make the position their own.
“Well it’s highly competitive,” said Borges. “We’ve got three guys that are in a battle and we’ve been rotating them in with the first group so that everyone gets a chance to work with those guys. This week, after that, we’re not a long way off scout teams, so this week is critical for those guys. There will be a decision made in a reasonable amount of time.”
“We’re just trying to find a guy who fits the best and is consistent,” he continued.
One issue the Wolverines might face, similar to what happened last year with the running back position, is the possibility that one guy doesn’t emerge from the pack prior to the season getting underway. Although Borges prefers knowing who will be starting where ahead of time, this situation might not be resolved on the practice field.
“If you got to get in the game to find out, I mean I’ve had to do that with quarterbacks—didn’t like it but sometimes you’ve got to get in the game to found out who performs under pressure,” said Borges. “It’s not out of the question.”
Borges not concerned with Fitz, Roundtree
Two key offensive playmakers for the Wolverines have missed time throughout fall camp with the most recent news of wide receiver Roy Roundtree’s arthroscopic knee surgery as well as the suspension of running back Fitzgerald Toussaint.
With Fitz back on the practice field over the past couple of days, Borges has seen everything he needs to have very little concern with the week absence.
“He’s looked good,” said Borges. “Fitz is Fitz. There hasn’t really been a great difference. He’s in great shape and doing what he does. He just looks like Fitz to me, no more no less. He’s getting a balanced amount (of work).
“We’re moving him around, but he’s on top of things with our offense and he’s a smart kid and he’s done it enough,” he continued. “From an X and O perspective I think Fitz will be fine.”
Whether or not Fitz will be held out of the Alabama contest on September 1st remains to be seen.
As for senior wide receiver Roy Roundtree who recently underwent successful arthroscopic knee surgery, Borges expects there to initially be some getting used to when the former Trotwood Madison star arrives back on the practice field—but he isn’t losing any sleep over it.
“I guess it’s a little concerning but not him so much,” said Borges. “If it was a guy that hadn’t played much, that would be a lot more dis-concerning. But Roy’s played so much and he’s on top of it, and he’s a hard worker too. He will stay with it, he’ll be in the meetings, demonstrate a leadership role, and he will know the game plan. I have complete faith in that.”
“When a guy hasn’t practiced there is always a certain amount of doubt probably in his mind, particularly the first game back because you’ve got to get your sea legs back,” said Borges. But, he continued, “I’m not concerned about Roy Roundtree, he’s got a good work ethic and he’ll be ready to play when we need him.”
Michigan preparing three quarterbacks
With back up quarterback Devin Gardner splitting time between quarterback and receiver in practice, the plan moving forward isn’t to provide some more rest for the athletic, dual position junior.
“A little here, a little there, run back, breathe real hard, get real tired,” said Borges on Gardner in practice. “It’s kind of a broken record.”
But with game prep right around the corner, the amount of reps and time Gardner spends at one position could change every single week.
“Once you get into game mode and you separate from your defense and move to your scout teams, everything changes,” said Borges. “All the reps change and you start to focus on game plan, and you make sure that you rep the things you’re going to do in the game. If that involves Devin at wide receiver we’ll rep that a little more, and if that involves Devin at quarterback we’ll rep that more.”
As Gardner continues taking more reps away from the quarterback position, extra responsibility falls on the shoulders of sophomore quarterback Russell Bellomy.
“Russ, he’s got a lot. I won’t say he’s mastered every possibility on every pass play or run play but he’s marked some checks off that list that, okay, that’s been executed to a point where you have confidence he can do it in a game,” said Borges. “He’s still a work in progress, don’t get me wrong, but he’s done a nice job.”
Bellomy had an impressive spring and has been able to gain enough of Borges trust to be put on the field if the situation were to arise this fall.
“It’s all one big process now,” said Borges. “That’s the way we worked it. That’s how we did it. There’s a domino effect that goes with Devin playing wide receiver, and one of those dominoes is making sure you have another quarterback. So we’ve had to focus on getting three of them ready—and we usually, at one point, were focused on getting two of them ready.”
To watch video of Borges breaking down the offense, click play below.