Michigan offensive guard Patrick Omameh determined to put his best foot forward
For Patrick Omameh, everything hinges on one step.
Yet to simplify the 299-pound Michigan right guard's responsibilities to a singular movement seems ludicrous. After all, there's so much more that goes into correctly manning his position on the Wolverines' offensive line than just worrying about which direction his feet take him.
There is proper technique and making certain his weight is properly distributed. There's power and movement and making sure he understands what is coming at him. But make one move in the wrong direction and the rest of the process breaks down.
It seems simple, and yet, Omameh says, it's not.
Omameh's first season produced mixed results. He played in 10 games and made six starts. At times, he showed glimpses of the steady trench-dweller that Michigan coaches envisioned. But at other times, Omameh struggled, failing to do his part, leading to other breakdowns up front for the Wolverines.
Although Omameh has shown the ability to finish blocks, Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez said the redshirt sophomore's biggest issue remains putting himself in the right position.
"I think he knows where to go, but sometimes, his first step isn't always the right one, and so that gets him a little bit behind," Rodriguez said. "But after that, he goes full speed."
His season-opening performance against Connecticut wasn't one of his best. But over the past two weeks, Omameh has shown vast improvement - proof that stepping one foot in the right direction can spell the difference between success and the struggles he is working to erase. Saturday, he can take another step toward improving when Bowling Green (1-2) is at Michigan (3-0) for a noon game (ESPN2).
Again, it begins with fundamentals.
"It seems simple, but it's a lot harder than you think," Omameh said this week. "If you're trying to get somewhere fast, but you're not stepping the direction you're trying to go, it's tough. It's 100 percent mental.
"It's not that you aren't capable of taking the step. It's just not something that you concentrate on when you're running the play."
That's where Omameh's work begins. During film study, he focuses on what kind of defensive fronts he will face that week and what he needs to do to be effective. He makes mental notes of a defensive lineman's tendencies, alerting him to where he needs to step first. But he will also devote time to watching other offensive linemen, noticing their footwork more than anything else, pin-pointing any subtleties that could make him better.
Once he processes that information, the rest of the equation becomes simple - almost becoming second nature.
"Then," Omameh said, 'you can just play football."
Omameh said he has depended on teammates David Molk and Stephen Schilling for guidance. He has worked extensively with offensive line coach Greg Frey, who has always stressed the importance of steps in a lineman's development.
Over time, focusing on the small steps has paid off for Omameh. After his early-season struggles, Omameh has used the successes of the past two weeks to not only make him more stable on the line, but to give him confidence.
"I knew where I was supposed to going, but I was just taking the wrong steps to get there," he said. "But once I started working on it, you understand what you need to be doing and I think I have really progressed the way I should be."
Jeff Arnold covers sports for AnnArbor.com and can be reached at (734) 623-2554 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jeffreyparnold.