ANN ARBOR—The season is four days from kicking off and Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges plans on utilizing every last rep leading up to Saturday afternoons’ opener against Central Michigan at the big house.
“We’re getting there,” Borges said Tuesday. “Now that we’ve kind of shaved it down to the guys that we think are going to participate in the game, that’s always kind of when you start making a little bit more progress.
“You’re not working with your third team guys all the time, you’re working with the guys that are actually going to play in the game. You can really start to get a little chemistry and it just starts going better.”
Listed as the first string left guard on the Wolverines’ depth chart released Monday, redshirt sophomore Graham Glasgow’s consistency in camp puts him in position to help solidify a young, inexperienced interior of the offensive line alongside center Jack Miller and right guard Kyle Kalis.
The key to the final decisions was eerily similar to the situation that took place between Ricky Barnum and Elliott Mealer in 2012.
“It goes back to the same thing I’ve been saying since I got here is you want to play the best five offensive linemen,” said Borges. “And somehow, some way find a way to fit them into the right positions.
“That kind of worked out here. Jack (Miller) has come to the forefront and Graham, who’s a good player and has proven he is one of the top five at this point, you’ve got to make sure he plays somewhere too. So, we moved him to guard and that’s kind of how it shook out.”
Running back rotation
Listing six running backs on the first official depth chart release, Michigan heads into Saturday unsure of, at least publicly, how the football will be divvied up or exactly how many ball carriers will tote the rock against the Chippewas.
“Who knows?” Borges said. “I don’t know. Fitz is going to be our starting running back and we’re going to play it by year and kind of go from there.
“I don’t have an answer to that question because Fitz is going to be the running back and then we’re going to just see how things go.”
In 21 career starts, Fitzgerald Toussaint enters Saturday with 1,642 yards rushing for his career, including 15 touchdowns on the ground. Fresh off a broken leg suffered near the end of 2012, Borges isn’t lacking any confidence in the senior.
“He just looks like the old Fitz,” he said. “Fitz is a hard worker and he goes hard every single down and he’s got great feel for our system and the run game in particular, but everything, the pick-up in our passing game and he looks comfortable.
“He doesn’t look like he’s really missed a beat to me.”
At the bottom of the depth chart sit two true freshmen, Derrick Green and DeVeon Smith. Still picking up the offense and adjusting to the speed of the defense in practice, Borges expanded on the difficulty young players can have picking up pass protection schemes quickly.
“That’s the hardest thing,” Borges said. “That’s it. If you had to pinpoint one issue with a young back, it’s trying to figure out all of the pick-up and that, and the protections.
“Whether it’s six man protection, whether it’s play action, that’s not always easy to do. Some guys get it faster than other guys but I think most of the pro teams will tell you that the young backs, you got to be very careful because you’ll get your quarterback killed.”
Wide receivers stepping up
After losing sophomore Amara Darboh for the season, senior Jeremy Jackson and redshirt freshman Jehu Chesson are looking to expand their roles on the outside.
“They’ve done a pretty good job,” Borges said. “But most of them, guys like Jeremy Jackson, who’s kind of been a jack of all trades since he’s been here and has had an outstanding camp, has kind of just taken over. He’s done a really nice job of supplementing that with Chesson.
“Jehu played X the whole spring and then we moved him to Z and there’s been some adjustment there but he’s worked out very nicely. Between the two of them, as I said before, are capable replacements.”
Jackson has yet to reach the end zone in his Michigan career, appearing in 35 games, including one start.
To watch video of Borges from Tuesday, press play below.