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August 31, 2013
U-M plays 27 true and redshirt freshmen in win
Since the beginning of fall camp, Michigan coach Brady Hoke has stressed that his team will be young. After the Wolverines' 59-9 win over Central Michigan in the season opener, he noted that 36 of the 68 players who dressed for the game are in their first or second year with the program.
Michigan may be young - but those youngsters are talented.
Freshman running back Derrick Green was the game's leading rusher, finishing with 58 yards and a score on 11 carries, including a 30-yard burst off the left side in the third quarter.
Freshman safety Dymonte Thomas made the game's first big play, blocking Central Michigan's first punt, which fifth-year senior wide receiver Joe Reynolds scooped up and took to the end zone.
Freshman cornerback Channing Stribling finished second on the team with five tackles and forced a fumble. All over the field, young, untested players were making plays for the Wolverines.
Eleven true freshmen saw the field for the Wolverines: Green, Thomas, Stribling tight end Jake Butt, defensive end Taco Charlton, linebacker Ben Gedeon, defensive back Delano Hill, defensive back Jourdan Lewis, quarterback Shane Morris, running back De'Veon Smith and wide receiver Csont'e York.
Michigan also played 16 redshirt freshmen in the game, bringing the total of players with freshman eligibility who saw the field against the Chippewas to 27.
These are the redshirt freshmen that played: Wide receiver Bo Dever, wide receiver Jehu Chesson, tight end Michael Jocz, offensive tackle Erik Magnuson, offensive guard Kyle Kalis, offensive guard Ben Pliska, offensive lineman Ben Braden, quarterback Bryan Cleary, running back Drake Johnson, defensive end Matt Godin, defensive end Tom Strobel, defensive tackle Willie Henry, defensive tackle Ryan Glasgow, defensive end Chris Wormley, safety Jeremy Clark and punter Kenny Allen.
"We think obviously it's a talented group," Hoke said. "At the same time there is discipline, things like that you need to play with. That's something they'll learn. They'll learn a lot of this game.
"There's a lot of babysitting and teaching going on. I don't think there's any doubt that's important, and something we are fortunate enough the game went the way it did so we could do that."
The Wolverines knew their freshmen would have to grow up quickly, with 25 true and redshirt freshmen on the depth chart.
Dealing with the butterflies of playing in front of a sellout Big House crowd was a focus throughout fall camp.
"We talked about pressure, how you can't touch it, you can't feel it, you can't smell it," redshirt junior quarterback Devin Gardner said. "It's not tangible, so it really doesn't exist. I felt like the freshmen took that on their backs and they ran with it. They were really confident. They ran well, and the DBs, I love watching them play, because they were giving me headaches all during camp. They were ready as well.
"It was just amazing to see guys, just like your little brother, getting an opportunity early to contribute and do it the way they do it."
Green and Smith drew the most excitement from fans. Both backs made their collegiate debut on the same drive, a 10-play, 55-yard powerhouse drive midway through the third quarter.
On the drive, Green and Smith accounted for every yard, with Smith rushing four times for 13 yards and Green rushing six times for 42 yards, including a one-yard plunge for a touchdown.
"I was talking to those running backs, saying, 'Get in the end zone, get in the end zone. Who's going to get in there first?'" fifth-year senior tackle Michael Schofield said. "Making a competition of the two. They both looked really, really good.
"You could tell they were excited. You could see it in their eyes. They were nervous at first, but they were psyched to play."
Morris, who was named the No. 2 quarterback during camp, completed 4-of-6 passes for 59 yards and an interception.
"You guys watch quarterbacks, and you don't see all the inside things, like the different checks you've got to make, getting us into the right play and things like that," Gardner said. "I think he did really well. Obviously, you've got to watch the film to see the small things he might have missed, or that he did and might have gotten plusses."
The Wolverines have a primetime matchup with Notre Dame on the docket, and getting the rookies acclimated to the speed of the game - and playing in front of an electric crowd - will pay big dividends.
"Everyone has one game under their belt, and that helps, moving forward," junior cornerback Raymon Taylor said. "It's a good thing we got a lot of young guys in, so they know how it feels when you're actually in the game."
True Freshmen Playing In Season Opener, Last Five Years
Season - No. Of True Freshmen - Opponent, Score
2013 - 11 - Central Michigan, W 59-9
2012 - 12 - Alabama, L 41-14
2011 - 4 - Western Michigan, W 34-10
2010 - 11 - Connecticut, W 30-10
2009 - 9 - Western Michigan, W 31-7