Michigan great Skrepenak happy to see a return to form for the Wolverines

Times Leader
Times Leader
Former GAR and Michigan star Greg Skrepenak (78) has been pleased to see his alma mater improve on the offensive line heading into tonight’s national semifinals. Bill Kostriun | AP file photo

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Greg Skrepenak knows offensive line play and he knows Michigan. And for years, the area’s most well-known former Wolverine had a tough time watching his alma mater because of the play up front.

All that has changed this season as the Wolverines have used one of the country’s best offensive lines to reach the College Football Playoff, where they will face Georgia in tonight’s Orange Bowl semifinals.

This week, Skrepenak praised coach and fellow maize and blue alum Jim Harbaugh for “bringing back the tradition of Michigan.”

A star offensive lineman at GAR, Skrepenak was an All-American at Michigan, where he played from 1987-91, arriving in Ann Arbor just as Harbaugh was headed to the NFL.

A member of the all-century team for the Wolverines, Skrepenak said it wasn’t easy watching the program struggle to return to the national spotlight in recent years.

“It’s been frustrating the past 15-20 years watching them not perform the way the way they are supposed to,” Skrepenak said. “It always starts up front, and they were not recruiting the right guys.”

No such complaints this year. Michigan won the Joe Moore Award for the country’s top offensive line, as the unit proved its worth in a historic win over archrival Ohio State last month.

“As I matured and got drafted by the Los Angeles Raiders, I had always thought to myself, ‘Only if I knew this in college I’d be way more ahead.’ I did the same thing in college when I came up from high school.

“Harbaugh always thought that if we don’t hit during practice, we won’t hit right on Saturdays, of course this was a lot different than today’s practices. We were taught to overpower and outwork anyone that stepped in front of us. The offensive line is beginning to look like its old self and very few people are getting through.”

Skrepenak also praised the Wolverines defense, especially Aidan Hutchinson who broke the program’s record for sacks in a single season. The previous holder was none other than his father Chris Hutchinson, who played for the Wolverines as an edge rusher.

“Those double teams on (Hutchinson) really open up gaps to allow other players to shine,” Skrepenak said.

Remembering Madden

Skrepenak was drafted by the Raiders in 1992, well after John Madden left the coaching ranks. But the NFL legend, who died Tuesday at 85, was still a fixture with the franchise when Skrepenak played there.

“He was around a lot actually,” Skrepenak said, offering his memories of the late Hall of Fame coach and broadcaster. “The Raiders have one of the best alumni organizations in the whole league. When I think about it now, to be around Raider Royalty was kind of intimidating as a young guy. But there was nothing but nice things that came from him.”

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