LARRY LAGE, AP Sports Writer
ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Michigan seemed shaky in its spring finale.
The Wolverines, coming off a 7-6 season, struggled to open holes for their running backs and couldn’t keep Devin Gardner comfortable in the pocket. When Gardner did have time to throw, he simply wasn’t sharp.
It looked a lot like last year.
Here are five observations from Saturday’s scrimmage which was witnessed by an estimated crowd of 15,000 at the Big House.
O-LINE WOES: Michigan has to block better than it did last year to have success. Even if new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier is the best in the business, his schemes will be rendered moot if the team can’t find five people to protect Gardner and create running lanes. Coach Brady Hoke said the offensive line was “inconsistent,” in the scrimmage, but was relatively pleased with the group during the spring. “Through the course of 15 practices, there have been some improvements made,” he said.
GARDNER GROUNDED: Gardner, entering his fifth season, started the scrimmage by throwing an interception to Jourdan Lewis and finished it with more incompletions than completions. Gardner took the first snap into his end zone and floated a pass short of his intended target, freshman Freddy Canteen, who had gotten behind Lewis. “It was a miscommunication,” Gardner said. “I thought he would flatten out and he thought he would go over the top. I wasn’t mad at him because I knew he would come back and make a play, which he did.” Gardner connected with Canteen for what appeared to be a 40-yard pass later during a scrimmage in which statistics were not provided.
BALL-HAWKING DB: Lewis was a reserve last year as a freshman, but might be tough to keep off the field if he follows up a good spring with a solid summer of strength and conditioning workouts. Lewis picked off Gardner’s first pass by cutting in front of Canteen and seemed to be around the ball quite a bit during the scrimmage. “He has been like that all spring,” receiver Devin Funchess said.
SCHEMBECHLER STATUE: Michigan unveiled a statue Bo Schembechler at its football headquarters named after the late, great coach. “If you’re not impressed with that statue, you’re not a human being or you know nothing about Michigan and Bo Schembechler,” Hoke said. The statue is part of recently completed Schembechler Hall renovations, which include a museum that has a football representing each of the program’s 910 wins and an area that honors Michigan Football Legends such as Desmond Howard and Tom Harmon. “Recruiting is the life blood of your program, so I think the impression will be impactful,” Hoke said.
STARS ON THE SIDELINE: Howard and Charles Woodson, both of whom won Heisman Trophies at Michigan, watched the spring game from the field. When one of Gardner’s errant passes went to the sideline, Woodson caught it, ran into the end zone and struck a Heisman Trophy pose just as Howard did on the same side of the field against Ohio State in 1991. Woodson, who played both ways and on special teams with the Wolverines, joked that he was playing offense when he caught Gardner’s pass.
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