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Former U-M All-Big Ten offensive lineman Doug Skene and former defensive lineman Ryan Van Bergen both spoke to TheWolverine following Michigan’s bowl loss to Florida, and each of them gave their take on what went wrong against the Gators and what needs to happen from here.
U-M’s scheme and lack of adjustments: “Michigan’s protection was breaking down. It felt like Florida came to the line comfortable and adjusted well to what U-M was giving them. We saw that when the quarterback [redshirt sophomore Feleipe Franks] ran right up the middle and into the end zone.
“There were easy adjustments to what the defense was showing, and yet Michigan would run right into the teeth of a full box. It was stubborn, and they kept doing it over and over. Hopefully change happens, because this old school ball against OSU and Florida just didn’t work.”
Offensive line play: “The holidays and bowl trips include food everywhere, and bad weight happens. I didn’t notice a physical difference, but technique wasn’t consistent enough to get movement.
“Heads weren’t back far enough in pass pro, and Michigan was out of position when Florida would blitz. It all comes down to technique for those guys.”
Mental toughness: “The weapons are there with that trio of wide receivers. [Redshirt freshman receiver Tarik] Black looked like he was about to cry after his dropped touchdown, and he didn’t block on a play after that.
“You can’t afford weak mental toughness like that, and guys can’t be on the field if their heads aren’t in the game. Maybe we’re not seeing the personnel groups we want to see if guys aren’t mentally tough.”
Players sitting out: “It doesn’t sit well with me. I’ve tried to be objective, but I hate it, hate it, hate it. If captains are checked out, then maybe the rest of the team isn’t that focused either. When your captains — who were chosen by their teammates — sit out, it has an effect on the locker room.
“What are the guys thinking who are sitting on a couch watching it somewhere? Do they have regrets? I looked at [fifth-year senior defensive end Chase] Winovich — who was playing with a medical issue — and he was playing his butt off, and others with NFL futures didn’t sit out at other programs.
“I’m with Winovich — hats off to him, who put it all out there for his team.”
Ryan Van Bergen:
Not involving the wideouts enough: “I’ve been supportive of the conservative style of play on offense, but I also think they’re ultimately conservative in the pass game. When you watch the wideouts, they’re hungry and ready to make plays, but Michigan doesn’t get them the ball a lot.
“These guys are big and physical and they make plays when they go to them, but when you wait to get them the ball, what do you expect to happen? It’s tough to watch.”
When things fell apart: “U-M was competitive in the first half, and I figured they’d make some good halftime adjustments, but they came back out with ‘run, run and then pass when needed’ mindset.
“The expectation was for Michigan to improve in the third quarter, but that’s when they looked like they were out of gas and hadn’t done anything on a white board at halftime. They kept running what they do, and if it didn’t work, then oh well.”
Having a chip on the shoulder: “Personally, I don’t put stock into where Michigan will be ranked next year. It doesn’t seem like they do well when they’re viewed as one of the best teams — they’ve played better when people doubt them and they have a chip on their shoulder.
“The drop off comes when people start saying they’re pretty good. I’m hoping there’s a way to motivate them again like the way they were motivated after the Notre Dame game. Hopefully what happened here will be used as fuel.”
Heading into next year: “I’ve seen the statistics of [head coach Jim] Harbaugh against rivals and in bowl games, but this team still had a 10-win season and had opportunities to be in the Big Ten Playoff. I don’t see anyone out there saying anyone other than Harbaugh would be a better fit at Michigan.
“He needs to do some shuffling of personnel to keep people happy and to keep the fan base happy — it’s also necessary. There will be a ton of emphasis on what happens next year in November against MSU and Ohio State. There will be even more consequences if expectations aren’t met next year.”
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