This UM offensive line clearly should be better than what we’ve witnessed in this three-game losing streak.
So what’s wrong?
“We need to play more nasty as a line,” guard Danny Isidora said Tuesday.
Offensive line coach Stacy Searels has “been on us,” primarily on “technique and toughness,” Isidora said. “It’s cutting, putting guys on their back. We need to play to our standard.”
Searels was in an ornery mood Tuesday, declining to discuss the Virginia Tech game and refusing to say how many of the sacks were attributed to the offensive line and refusing to say if he might make lineup changes.
Asked about his pass protection, Searels said: “Did you see the game?.. Disappointing.. There have been some outstanding offensive lines here. We are not going to lower our standards, keep doing it until we get it right. We’ve got a long way to go. It’s our job to keep the quarterback cleaner.”
Asked if the offensive line is playing beneath its high school pedigree, center Nick Linder said: “We can do better… Sometimes stuff happens. Those guys are on scholarship, too.”
But offensive coordinator Thomas Brown made clear that quarterback Brad Kaaya also shoulders some responsibility here. He likely could have avoided some of the eight sacks against Virginia Tech.
Brown, spreading the blame among everyone (including coaches), spoke of the need to get “the ball out in time. We can’t hold the ball forever.”
Brown also said coaches have “got to do a better job of designing better runs.”
And Richt made this point: “It’s hard to pass pro on every down.. We have to get better on running the ball. If you know your assignment, and run your feet on contact in the run game, good things are going to happen for you. We’ve got guys who play hard. I don’t have any issue with that.
“Everyone has a responsibility to do. It starts with coaches, goes through to players, maybe assignment here, technique there…. Sometimes you get whipped. You are going to win some and lose some. These teams we play give out scholarships too. We see the issues. We coach them. We try to make sure they don’t happen in the future.”
• I asked Richt how long he believes it will take to get UM back to elite level.
“I never try to put a lid on any season or what could happen,” he said. “….Do we have a lot of depth? No. Six true freshmen playing on defense at the same time,… you’ve got some depth issues. We know we need great players to come. If great players want to come and play early in their career, come on. We lost some close games and now sitting in a position to try to stop the losses. We’re a thin team because of numbers.”
• Richt will briefly touch on the Notre Dame rivalry with his players: “It’s important for them to know the history of the series. Two teams that have a national brand that’s pretty impressive.”
• Richt on Notre Dame: Quarterback “DeShone Kizer has done a great job, very strong, very physical, very athletic. Their offensive line is massive guys. The smallest guy is 310 pounds.”
• Chad Thomas, Sheldrick Redwine and Rayshawn Jenkins (who was injured during the Virginia Tech game) returned to practice, and Richt said he expects some players who missed the last game to play in this one, declining to elaborate. Gerald Willis and Demetrius Jackson, who missed the Virginia Tech game, also were spotted; we’ll see on their status for Saturday.
• According to ESPN, UM basketball landed an oral commitment from 6-10 New Jersey based power forward Deng Gak, rated by Rivals as the 91st best player in the 2017 recruiting class. It’s a huge get for UM, with Gak turning down offers from Duke, UF and Kansas, among others.
ESPN.com rates him as the 93rd best player and offers this scouting report:
“Strengths: Gak is loaded with upside and natural talent. He's athletic and agile for his size, quick off his feet and able to cover the court effortlessly. He has excellent size for the four-spot, runs the floor well and has very large hands. His skill set at his age and size is as impressive as his physical tools. He has a very soft shooting touch facing the basket, is already a consistent threat to 18 feet and projects as a guy who will develop into a three-point threat. He can put the ball on the floor a couple of times and also seems to have a passing instinct as well. Gak is a high level student who is said to be hard-working with very high character.
Weaknesses: He only arrived in the United States in the fall of 2015 and so his body is still undeveloped. While his natural build is on the lean side, his frame is sound and should fill out adequately down the road. Like most international players, adjusting to the speed and physicality of the American game is a process that will take Gak some time. He can lose balance vs. contact, isn't always as assertive as he should be, sometimes lays balls in that he should dunk and could be more forceful on the glass, but all of that should change in time.
Bottom Line: He needs to continue to get stronger and more aggressive but his talent level and ceiling are both undeniable with his size, athletic tools and still evolving skill set.”
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