Michigan fans aching for a sneak peek at the Wolverines can get one the night of Aug. 16, at a brightly lit Michigan Stadium. Brady Hoke announced that unprecedented move among other news Wednesday night. Hoke indicated that redshirt sophomore running back Drake Johnson is full go for workouts, and so is junior defensive tackle Ondre Pipkins. He could not say the same for sophomore tight end Jake Butt, who tore an anterior cruciate ligament in a knee in the spring.
Hoke met briefly with the media, unveiling plans for an open scrimmage at The Big House, beginning at 8 p.m. one week from Saturday. The gates are being thrown open free of charge.
"It will be part practice, but a lot of scrimmage," Hoke said. "It will be 8 o'clock at night. Getting ready for a night game is good and healthy for our guys, getting ready for people. We're excited about that.
"They want to play in front of people, so let's have them play in front of people. With the mindset they can have, for night game purposes, they'll at least be in the stadium a little bit before then."
One player not likely on display that evening will be sophomore safety Delano Hill, about whom injury rumors had been buzzing. Hoke confirmed that he sustained a broken jaw in the last two weeks of summer workouts, noting Hill "bumped into another guy."
"He could be ready for Appalachian State," Hoke said. "He's doing some alternate conditioning right now. It's too early to determine where he'll be.
"He's running, he's lifting. He's doing all of that. We're just not going to put him in there where he's got a chance of having contact or a collision."
The injury opens the door a bit at strong safety, and Hoke mentioned a number of players who are competing there.
"Brandon Watson has more opportunity now," Hoke said. "Dymonte [Thomas], Jeremy Clark, Jarrod Wilson, and Brandon are taking most of the reps right now. A.J. Pearson, a guy who walked on from Atlanta, is a pretty good football player. He's getting some looks in there."
Most anticipate Wilson to be the starting free safety. Hoke indicated Wilson, a junior, and Thomas, a sophomore, are two performers who can play at either safety spot. Watson is a true freshman, Clark and Pearson redshirt sophomores.
The opening, of course, begs the question of whether true freshman Jabrill Peppers might get a look there, but Hoke noted he's concentrating on learning the nickel back spot for now.
"Right now, it's strictly keeping him at nickel," Hoke said. "That's a unique position. The positive thing is, he's a pretty good athlete. He's got good recovery skills, so he may take a step the wrong way, but he's got makeup speed. He's physical, and he's instinctive.
"There's enough there that's on his plate. You've got to remember, those guys are finishing a semester. That's a lot."
Meanwhile, the head coach noted, preparations are going well, with a smooth transition from spring to summer to fall.
"The last three days have been very productive," Hoke said. "The goal we had as a team was to come back from summer camp and make it practice 16. Our guys did a nice job, and we did that.
"You could tell. You could obviously tell what they did during the summer."
He also noted the Wolverines are doing a little work on Appalachian State already, after spending time on the entire schedule's worth of foes over the summer.
"We've broken every opponent down through the summer," he said. "We will start game planning, and there's some game planning going in daily. It's refreshing, because both sides of the ball, there are little tidbits that Appalachian State does that our offense does, or our defense does, whether it be an odd front in a situation defense or some of the gun stuff, with four wide receivers, empty backfield set.
"There are some things we've already started working on, but it will be about eight days from now where we really focus in and start trading scout teams and all those kinds of things."
Michigan practiced in shoulder pads and helmets today and will again tomorrow. Fully padded practice begins on Friday.
"Jake Butt would like for us to say he's full, but he's coming along really well," Hoke quipped.
Hoke likes how his offensive linemen, and his entire team, have worked to improve themselves physically. He noted being very pleased with how they came into camp.
"The good thing is, I've seen a lot of them," Hoke said. "Those guys like to post a before and after. Mine is a before and before. They really have done a nice job.
"You look at the weights. We're real excited about where the weights were, and excited about how they finished all of the conditioning before the week off, before we started camp. You can definitely tell the physicalness they all have."
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