August 10th, 2014, was a day designed to present the 135th edition of the Michigan Wolverines Football team to the media in the morning and to the fans in the handsome confines of Michigan Stadium in the afternoon, where they could obtain autographs and photos. Nice opportunity for kids in that regard. A team picture is taken with the team seated together in the stadium.
The media got its stock in trade sound-bytes, photo-ops, a nice brunch, and this year, an opportunity to interview and question the head football coach, and the offensive and defensive coordinators.
Upper classman football players were available, with freshman unavailable. Hoke said that RB Jabrill Peppers, OL Mason Cole, and DL Bryan Mone, and perhaps another two freshmen, would get playing time.
Personally I missed having all the coaches available for interviews as I wanted information on the progress of the special teams, but Coach Hoke did stress the work special teams is putting in, including mention that Norfleet, and Peppers, among others were fielding punts. Said having Drake Johnson back is a plus.
Mentioned the nice job that Matt Wile is doing, and Will Hagerup, and that Ken Alan is a good punter. I interviewed Hagerup, and it is clear that he is taking his remaining time with the Wolverines seriously and wants very much to contribute as the clock winds down. He handled the questions nicely, and appropriately.
Jabrill Peppers was mentioned by Coach Hoke in his comments as loving to compete and play football. It seems as though he is slotted as the nickel defensive back.
Hoke indicated that the receivers are a group that has improved. I asked DB Jourdan Lewis about Slot Receiver Freddie Canteen’s skills. No football slouch himself, he was impressed with Freddie’s abilities and with Darboh’s skills and toughness. It seems that Darboh is fully recovered and ready to go.
More than one mentioned Darboh’s toughness, including Coach Nussmeier. Coach Hoke mentioned Canteen as ahead of his time. RB DeVeon Smith was pointed out as good and tough as anyone, Hoke saying “that’s his identity”. When I told Smith that in a later interview, he beamed and said, “I am glad he said that.”
Hoke appears happy with the seemingly interchangeable parts in the defensive backfield, feeling it will be more aggressive. There is probably not a fan that wouldn’t buy into that. Jourdan Lewis, stood out in the spring and fall, among others in this very competitive group.
The LBs will benefit from the move of Jake Ryan to Mike. They are responsible for defensive communication and Hoke cited a couple of practice instances where that didn’t happen, but should have. Adequate communication is highly important.
Desmond Morgan is contributing. James Ross III. Bolden. More aggressive, and developing.
The efficacy of whether the division of duties will benefit the team this year seems on its way to positive proof.
Everyone wants to know at this time who the OL starters will be. All will have a better idea at the end of next week. For example at Center, will it be Glasgow or Miller etc.? Replaced after four games last year, Jack has apparently done very well this year, has grown his weight, and according to Hoke has done a “nice job” with good consistency. Glasgow will rest on the bench for Appalachian State, while considering his former shortcomings regarding team rules. He will eventually secure a solid position somewhere along the line. Maybe at center, maybe not. Hoke also mentioned “Mags” positively.
There are a number of interchangeable parts along the defensive front such as Glasgow, Godin, Strobel, Godin, and Wormley. and the competition continues. Ondre Pipkins is returned, Maurice Hurst Jr., and Poggi are standing by.
Coach Hoke said again that there will be the needed running game, and the necessary toughness developed. He indicated the change up regarding coaching duties has been positive. To me the addition of Coach Nussmeier as a game time sideline QBs Coach is an extremely positive change. Last year Devin seemed to be sitting on the sidelines without counsel at his side at critical game times. Devin didn’t think that would happen this year.
It doesn’t appear that Coach Nussmeier is just dedicated to running back by committee, but wants to discover the best backs. Coach Hoke said the “best guy” first. But if it is discovered the Wolverines have many effective horses, and it seems likely they will, you can bet they are going to use them. But they have to be good or they will be out of there.
Coach Hoke indicated that expectations never change for Michigan Football. The bar is never lowered, and the identity of this team should be…..you guessed it: toughness on the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball..
A final note from Hoke regarding injuries: “There are some guys that are beat up a little bit. Delonte Holloway …he’s got a cast on his hand. We have a couple guys we held out — Ondre Pipkins… on two-a-day days we try and not overwork. We’re doing a lot with the GPS tracking that we’re into. I think the first time around doing all that stuff, you’re trying to get some baselines and some data, and I think that’s helping us in how we go out to practice.”
While the college football scene is quickly changing: Rutgers and Maryland now part of the B1G, Legends and Leaders are now (fortunately) defunct Divisions, being replaced by East and West Divisions, and with the NCAA losing an anti-trust lawsuit contesting payments to players for their images, and attempts being made to form unions because players are argued to be employees of the school, who knows what comes next. Changes continue. The litigation continues. Maybe an appropriate modern slogan should be death, taxes and litigation. There will be solid legal answers, but not immediately.
While not the subject of litigation, the new football playoffs will be interesting. Interesting if the Wolverines can become part of them, just don’t expect them to resolve any more controversies than the current system.
Whatever the scene, the goals of the Wolverines remain eternal in spite of those or any other any changes. The need to win the most games they can, as skillfully and honestly as they can, will always be there. I think they will give it their best effort this year.
Right now the most important game of the year will be on August 30th according to Coach Mattison. How would another loss to you know who play in Ann Arbor? It is not going to happen.
Team 135 will be a most interesting team to watch.