Amid a disappointing 8-5 2017 campaign, Michigan?s offensive line found itself on the receiving end of constant criticism. But yet, throughout the offseason, the Wolverines exuded confidence in the unit, with both players and coaches assuring fans that its struggles were a thing of the past.
To most, Saturday appeared to tell a different story. Shea Patterson was sacked three times in his debut, hurried six times, and flushed out of the pocket countless more.
At Monday?s media availability, though, the team maintained its offseason confidence, insisting they see a strength where most see a weakness.
?I thought (the pass protection) looked good,? said junior tight end Sean McKeon.
Despite the loss, coach Harbaugh echoed his tight end?s sentiment, expressing his content with nearly every position on both sides of the ball.
?I thought (Shea) managed the game extremely well, no penalties,? Harbaugh said. ?Offensively, we had the one delay of game at the start of the second half but no other pre-snap penalties so I thought that was a real positive.
?I thought (the offensive line) was improved. We looked at it and there were quite a few boxes that you can check and say ?hey, this is improved? ? and I think that?s one of the areas that we?re improving in.?
As a result, while many have called for changes to the front five just one week into the season, Harbaugh anticipates no changes either in personnel or strategy.
Sophomore wide receiver Nico Collins, meanwhile ? who was the beneficiary of good pass protection on a 52 yard reception early in the second quarter ? retained his preseason confidence.
?I feel like our o-line is pretty great. I feel like they?re a good o-line, they work hard. ? I feel like the criticism (is unfair) cause I know how hard they work.?
On the other side of the ball, junior defensive end Rashan Gary issued the same refrain.
?It?s good to go against them in practice. It?s a good, mature group. They?re a good group. if people don?t believe it out there in the world now, they will believe it soon.
?(The offensive line) has leadership, Ben Bredeson, Cesar Ruiz, I really can?t single anybody out cause everybody carries each other, everybody feeds off each other on the offensive line.?
But while his overall synopsis was positive, McKeon was the only one who offered some areas for improvement.
?Obviously they gotta work together to build some chemistry,? McKeon said. ?Even more than they tried to build in camp. Just gotta build more chemistry up front, can?t make any mental errors and just gotta execute technique.?
Whether those changes manifest themselves on Saturday remains to be seen but if you ask the Wolverines, they aren?t concerned.