Michigan head coach Brady Hoke met with the media briefly after practice today in Tampa, giving a few updates on personnel a week prior to the Outback Bowl.
Hoke noted that sophomore cornerback Raymon Taylor is warming up to the role as Michigan's lead cornerback, in the absence of suspended fifth-year senior J.T. Floyd.
"He's done a great job," Hoke said. "Ray has improved every game, from the knowledge of playing the game to what we're asking him to do."
The head coach stopped short, though, of saying Taylor had stepped into a leadership role, acknowledging that he leads "in his own way."
"He's a young guy still," Hoke said. "That's not an excuse for him, but he's just young."
Meanwhile, newly minted cornerback Dennis Norfleet could see some action in the secondary against South Carolina, Hoke said. The true freshman has a ways to go before he's ready to take on major responsibilities yet, the head coach hinted.
"He's doing okay," Hoke said. "He's doing all right. I'd like for him, now and then, to keep his eyes on his receiver instead of the backfield, but I can say that about a bunch of corners. But he's doing a good job."
Michigan doesn't really have a single lead tailback in the absence of injured redshirt junior Fitzgerald Toussaint, Hoke acknowledged. The Wolverines' use of tailbacks in the Outback Bowl will likely remain situational.
"We'd like to [have one], but I can't tell you that will be what happens," Hoke said. "A lot of it is personnel groups. A lot of it is down and distance. It will just depend. We'll go in and see.
"Some guys do things better than others. You look at pass protection - Vince [Smith] is clearly the better one at that. Screens, and that type of game, he's pretty good. Thomas [Rawls] is more of a downhill guy, and Justice Hayes we've been giving snaps to."
Hoke had little to say about any adverse affects of having senior Denard Robinson at tailback when he is not well versed in Michigan's pass-protection schemes.
"It could [cause problems], but I think there is enough that we do with him back there that it won't," Hoke said.
Overall, Hoke likes the practices Michigan has conducted thus far in bowl preparation, even though a driving rainstorm moved the workout inside yesterday. Today, players heard from former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy, and while Hoke declined to give details about the talk, he described it as "powerful."
"When you have a resource who understands about the game and preparing men for life, it's to an advantage for us to have him come in," Hoke assured.
• Hoke indicated he'll be meeting with suspended junior punter Will Hagerup after returning to Ann Arbor from the bowl game. When pressed about his status, Hoke said only: "He's not with the team."
• Sophomore kicker/punter Matt Wile will take up the slack for Hagerup, Hoke noted, but that presents another issue. It's important, Hoke noted, for Michigan to not wear out any legs.
"It's one thing we've got to be careful of, or conscious about - not over-kicking him, or over-punting him," Hoke said. "With Gibby [redshirt junior placekicker Brendan Gibbons] handling field goals for the most part, we can do that. But this time of year, you worry about getting too many kicks for those guys.
"You've got two different fields, and they go over there and kick on their own, which you'd like to see, but sat the same time, you've got to be conscious of how much they're kicking."
• Senior defensive end Craig Roh is about to set a new Michigan record for starts. Hoke indicated that speaks to how well he's prepared for the challenge each week.
"It's being able every week to keep yourself healthy, taking care of yourself," Hoke said. "That's part of it. Craig is very much into his body, and making sure he's doing the right things to keep himself healthy. It's a heck of a tribute to him."
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