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October 9, 2013Michigan linebacker Jake Ryan has been cleared by doctors to play Saturday, but will he? Head coach Brady Hoke knew that would be his first question at Wednesday's press conference.
Hoke started by saying he was pleased with Tuesday's practice.
"We got after it pretty well," he said. "Tuesday is always a heavy work day. Assignment-wise we were pretty good on both sides of the ball. From a fundamental side we've got to keep stretching our limits to become the best we can fundamentally.
"The guys are really working hard at that. I thought we competed well and we've got to have another good work day today, with a focus on Penn State but us also as far as fundamentally getting better."
Our news and views:
News: Jake Ryan [torn ACL in spring] could be a gametime decision or the decision could come sooner whether or not to play him Saturday at Penn State.
Hoke: "We've got another big day today to see where he's at. He didn't do as much yesterday as the other two [practices] rep wise. He seems to [hold up pretty well]. He's traveled every game, so we could make it Saturday, possibly, or I could make it tonight."
Views: We expect Ryan to play at Penn State, and while it takes many a while to get back in the fold, Ryan is different than most. His would be one of the most impressive returns from this injury we've ever seen, and he's not the type to shy away from contact, etc. If he's in, the Michigan defense will be better for it. He should be very good by the time the Wolverines play at Michigan State Nov. 2, when they should be 7-0.
News: Offensive guard Kyle Kalis is being worked back after suffering a leg injury against Minnesota.
Hoke: "He did some yesterday and he'll do everything today. He's okay, a little ginger, but he'll be okay. He's a pretty tough kid."
Views: This isn't surprising. Kalis did jog off the field after limping a bit and was back in the game late against Minnesota. He might not be 100 percent, but he'll be out there Saturday.
News: The interior offensive linemen are getting used to each other after starting with a new lineup Saturday against Minnesota, and the results were mixed.
Hoke: "There were a couple in there we need to be a little stouter on. When we were combo-ing up to a linebacker, once in a while the tackle or the guard would come off a little quicker than you'd want. We've got to make sure we've secured the first block first."
Views: It was better, though, than what they'd been doing with Jack Miller at center. Miller wasn't the only one at fault, either, but it was clear he was having trouble with the physical demands of the position.
This line has its physical limitations, too. Injuries have limited Chris Bryant's mobility, for example, and he'll get better when he's in better shape. Still, this group has a chance to be decent, which is a step up from where it played against Akron and UConn.
News: Matt Wile returned to form with a very nice outing punting against Minnesota.
Hoke: "He did a nice job over the bye week when we went out and kicked and punted. He's a very intelligent kid. He knows better than anybody what he's doing wrong. I thought he had a nice off week, and hopefully we can have the same results this week."
Views: We knew Wile had it in him, but they're going to need him to continue to be at his best with the meat of the schedule coming up. Some of the November games are going to be won or lost by a ball downed inside the 10 or a drive starting at the 25 instead of the 35 on a kickoff. The little things add up.
News: Drew Dileo will continue to return punts in place of Dennis Norfleet.
Hoke: "We'll go with Drew to start, see how it plays out a little bit. I think I'd be more comfortable at home with Dennis, a home game. It's going to be a great environment, and Drew's been in that environment a little more."
Views: See above. Turnovers are killers, and the risk/reward isn't worth it if they think there's a disparity between Dileo and Norfleet in terms of ball security. Dileo's had some decent returns, too, so it's not as though they're sacrificing a ton.