Notebook: Offseason transformations, the kicker situation and injury updates

Tuesday, September 3, 2019 - 9:20pm

Senior guard Michael Onwenu committed to slimming down in the offseason to prepare for the no-huddle tempo.

Senior guard Michael Onwenu committed to slimming down in the offseason to prepare for the no-huddle tempo. Buy this photo
Alexandria Pompei/Daily

Last season, Michigan’s offense huddled before every play, taking its good sweet time to get in formation. But under new offensive coordinator Josh Gattis, that’s changed.

And with a new no-huddle system designed to push the tempo, senior guard Michael Onwenu knew he needed to get into better shape. So he changed his daily habits in the offseason to become healthier while still maintaining the bulk that gives him push on the offensive line.

Now, as he put it, he’s able to “hold up and stay alive” at the game’s new speed.

“Just eating and sleeping,” Onwenu said. “Sleeping is the most, as a college student it’s like, take sleep for granted and you just want to stay up and play the game instead of take that more serious.”

Because of practice schedules and media obligations, Onwenu is required to schedule most of his classes in the morning, sometimes as early as 8 a.m. Last year, he might have gone to bed around midnight. Now, he tries to be asleep by 10 p.m., getting 9-10 hours many nights where before he may have only gotten six or seven.

“You have to be mature about it,” Onwenu said. “You know you have stuff to do tomorrow.”

Hayes on converting from tight end

While Onwenu was slimming down, redshirt freshman tackle Ryan Hayes was bulking up.

A tight end in high school, Hayes came in around 245 pounds. But he knew he’d have a tall task in front of him. He was recruited as a tackle/tight end, essentially told that it was likely he would convert when he joined the Wolverines — though he had never played the position until he got on campus. He expected a challenge, but bulking up wasn’t as hard as he’d thought at first.

Though Hayes still gets ribbed by some of the other linemen as “the skinniest lineman,” Hayes is now up to 295, around 20 pounds below his target weight. And clearly, the conversion from tight end has been somewhat smooth, given that Hayes was nails all game in his first ever start at left tackle Saturday, even earning offensive player of the week honors from Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh. Harbaugh went so far as to mention that Hayes could be in the mix to start at right tackle in the future.

“The tough part was physically because I was still weighing about — once we got to the season I was about 260,” Hayes said. “So playing tackle here against some of the best D-linemen was hard. … And just getting the new footwork down because playing tight end has nothing to do with pass-setting and just nothing to do with that, so I had to get bigger, stronger, get the footwork down.”

Offensive line coach Ed Warinner has pushed Hayes, letting him know that the fact he hadn’t played the position before isn’t an excuse to mess up. It was a lesson Hayes said he needed to learn, and now it’s paying off.

The kicker question has an answer — or not

Harbaugh and the other coaches stayed mum about the results of the kicker competition between redshirt junior Quinn Nordin and sophomore Jake Moody all throughout spring and fall camps, but there was a sense that whoever trotted out for the Wolverines’ first kick of the game Saturday would announce himself as the winner.

Not so fast.

When Michigan kicked a field goal early in the first quarter, it was Moody that came out. But when it scored a touchdown not long after and needed an extra point, Nordin came on.

In the end, Moody went 2-for-2 on field goals — one from 27 and one from 34 — and handled seven of the team’s eight kickoffs. Nordin was 4-for-4 on extra points.

Instead of clarity about the battle, there was more confusion. But on Monday, Harbaugh explained himself.

The two kickers, he explained, had been “one kick apart” throughout camp. Moody was one kick ahead, so he was assigned the first field goal. From then on, one would be assigned the next field goal and the other the next point attempt. But three extra points in a row equaled a field goal, giving the other kicker a go. That’s exactly what happened when Nordin hit three extra points before the Wolverines attempted another field goal, which Moody took.

Harbaugh believes the plan will remain the same going forward as long as nothing goes awry in practice.

“I know that sounds kind of confusing but it actually cleared it up,” Harbaugh said. “So we actually, we knew exactly what kicker would be kicking on each drive so we wouldn’t have two kickers running out there and two kickers warming up on the net.”

Injury updates

On Saturday, junior wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones did not dress and wore a walking boot. Junior defensive lineman Donovan Jeter also wasn’t dressed. Fifth-year senior tackle Jon Runyan dressed, but did not play, and senior defensive lineman Michael Dwumfour wore a club on his hand and left the game after two drives with an injury.

The injuries — none of which were disclosed beforehand — caused Michigan to have to scramble for players ahead of the Middle Tennessee game. By the sound of things, this week will be a lot of wait and see.

In his press conference Monday, Harbaugh said Peoples-Jones, Runyan and Jeter all had a chance to play, and “we’ll see” on Dwumfour.

It was Runyan’s injury that gave Hayes his chance to step into the spotlight against the Blue Raiders, so naturally, when Hayes addressed the media Tuesday, he was asked if he was preparing to start again against Army. The implication: Will Runyan be back?

“Time will tell,” Hayes said. “I’m not going to prepare as a starter. We’ll see what happens.”