Forget rushing totals or sacks allowed. Those stats aren’t what will tell if Michigan’s offensive line is better in 2018 than it was in 2017, 2016 or 2015.
Improvement, says offensive lineman Grant Newsome, will be measured in another way.
“ I think there were some really good moments, some positive moments. We’re still building a young offensive line. I think there are still some things we need to improve. I think one thing we need to do is close games,” Newsome said Sunday night after receiving the Pete Schmidt Courage award from the National Football Foundation Michigan Chapter. “I think it’s been a problem for us for three years, [being] able to close games we should’ve closed and won.”
Newsome was given the award at the NFF Michigan Chapter’s annual banquet at the Dearborn Inn, which also honored the Detroit Free Press’ 2017 Dream Team all-state high school selections. Michigan 2018 commits Jalen Mayfield, Ryan Hayes and Aidan Hutchinson are on that team.
Newsome sat out this season while rehabbing and recovering from a 2016 right knee dislocation that nearly caused him to lose the leg to amputation. He has gone through six operations but has resumed running. He told Land of 10 and the Detroit Free Press Sunday that his mindset is to be ready to play before preseason camp begins next summer. Newsome hasn’t just been rehabbing. He has acted as a coach, helping break down game video of future opponents as well as mentoring younger players.
So, what did Newsome see from the offensive line in 2017?
“ I think there were some really good moments, some positive moments,” Newsome said. “We’re still building a young offensive line. I think there are still some things we need to improve.”
That’s when he mentioned the need to close out games on offense. Michigan had a lead in the third quarter against Wisconsin and Ohio State ― the Big Ten championship game participants ― but was outscored 17-0 in both games after taking those leads. The Wolverines had the ball six times against Michigan State after scoring a touchdown and pulling to within 14-10 of the Spartans with 8:09 left to play in the third quarter on Oct. 7. They lost by that same score.
It was a similar story for losses in 2016 against Iowa and Ohio State in which one or two extra first downs to sustain drives in the fourth quarter could have prevented losses. Newsome did not play in either of those games.
“ It’s always really frustrating,” Newsome said. “The Ohio State game two years ago was probably the most frustrating game of my life. To just sit there and not be able to help the guys and not be able to do anything was really tough.”
Looking ahead to 2018
Newsome played in five games as a freshman in 2015, starting once as an extra tackle. He won the left tackle job in 2016, allowing Mason Cole to move to center. Cole had started at left tackle in 2014 and 15, his freshman and sophomore seasons, but is projected as an interior player at the professional level. He moved back to left tackle this season, and fifth-year senior Patrick Kugler started all 12 games at center.
Michigan will not have Cole or Kugler next season.
— Coach Harbaugh (@CoachJim4UM) August 22, 2017
Just how well Newsome is capable of playing remains to be seen. The video above was from an August workout. He is confident of returning but the final OK to put the pads and uniform back on must come from the doctors. The Wolverines return starting left guard Ben Bredeson, as well as Cesar Ruiz, Michael Onwenu, Jon Runyan, Nolan Ulizio and Juwann Bushell-Beatty, players who all started games or saw significant action.
Whoever ends up earning starting jobs and playing time in 2018 will have a primary focus.
“ I think that’s something we need to take personally,” Newsome said. “We did better this year in taking it more personally but I think it’s still something we’re building on for the future. We need to take it personally to close games and not make our defense go out and win it for us.
“As an offense we have to go out and finish games.”
The post Finish the job: Michigan offensive line has focus for 2018, Grant Newsome says appeared first on Land of 10.
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