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September 28, 2013After four weeks of nonstop football action - including a stressful two-week stretch with lackluster wins over Akron and Connecticut - the Wolverines can stop and breathe this weekend.
With a bye week on the docket before Big Ten season begins next Saturday with a visit from Minnesota, Michigan is taking advantage of the extra time to shore up concerns and have a free weekend.
"Going into Big Ten play, we have time to refocus, reset your thinking, because you're about to play a lot tougher schedule and a lot tougher teams," senior defensive tackle Jibreel Black said. "It's Big Ten football. We know what to expect, and this gives us a chance to get healthy and get our minds right."
"You get a little more off time. Guys get a chance to recover," added junior linebacker Desmond Morgan. "You get an extra week to prepare so you can go back to fundamentals and improve on stuff. But I think the biggest thing is time off and a chance to recover."
The off week also gives local players a chance for some much-needed family time.
"This weekend, Friday, I plan to see my little brother play [quarterback Tre'von Avery] for Grand Blanc so it will be nice to see my family and still be around football," fifth-year senior defensive back Courtney Avery said.
It's not all fun and games for the Wolverines. After two disappointing performances - with eight total turnovers in two wins by a combined seven points over the Zips and Huskies - Michigan is focusing on themselves this week.
"Back to basics, I think that's what most of us do during bye weeks, especially the first couple days," Michigan coach Brady Hoke said. "Fundamentals, being sound with technique, revisiting technique is always important. I think we did that. We had great intensity. The focus was very good."
A lot of the focus will be on the younger members of the team. Guys like fifth-year senior running back Fitzgerald Toussaint will get a little lighter of a load - allowing for some rest to the proven commodities and a chance to stand out for younger players, like freshmen Derrick Green and De'Veon Smith.
"Everybody's participating, some at different levels than others. Taylor [Lewan] doesn't need to be out there 30 plays in a practice -- I'll just use him as an example," Michigan coach Brady Hoke said. "You'll do some of that, but everybody's doing work."
"This is a good time for a break. We're four games in. I think it's a great week for us as a staff to look at personnel, look at special teams personnel, look at the personnel who's played, look at guys who are improving. Guys like Willie Henry, guys like Ondre Pipkins, see where they're at in the mix maybe a little more."
The Wolverines took last Sunday off, because they did not return from Hartford, Conn. until almost four in the morning.
But they were back to work Monday - and have taken the extra week to look inward, as opposed to preparing for an opponent.
"It's more about refining our tools, getting a sense of urgency," Lewan said. "You saw that today. The guys understand that the last two weeks haven't been Michigan quality football. We need to keep going.
"Having this break, it's nice. It's good to rest your body. We're four games in and guys are beat up. That's how it is. It's a tough game. Getting guys rested up and having that sense of urgency moving forward. That's what we need."
"Our schedule, we think as a staff, is a good schedule," Hoke added. "Because we can accomplish a lot. We're going to be physical. We're going to be competitive, which I think we have to continue because your timing and fundamentals of how you want to play. At the same time it's an opportunity to not play guys as many plays as they would in a normal week."