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August 27, 2013

News & Views: Hoke talks RBs, OL, Funchess and more

Michigan coach Brady Hoke spoke on the weekly Big Ten teleconference Monday afternoon.

Here are the highlights:

News: Fifth-year senior running back Fitzgerald Toussaint has firmly established himself as the No. 1 running back, but the Wolverines listed six options on their initial depth chart for a reason. Hoke wants to see how the perform.

Hoke: "Any team in any situation, you have to have multiple backs, because of the physicalness of the position. Fred Jackson, our running backs coach, has done a great job throughout fall camp to get some reps to some of the unknown guys and the two true freshmen, Derrick [Green] and De'Veon [Smith]. The older guys, Justice Hayes, Drake Johnson and Thomas Rawls, have done a nice job.

"Fitz is obviously the leader cow in the whole deal. We want to settle on a guy for most the reps, but also do a good job of getting the other guys in the football game."

Views: The Wolverines aren't going to rely on six running backs this season; there just aren't enough carries to go around.

But because Toussaint has separated himself from the pack - several times, coaches have come out and said Toussaint has taken ownership of the position - I would like to see the carries get spread out between as many running backs as possible Saturday.

You know Toussaint is going to be the one you ride into battle, so push the guys behind him, to see which ones can be relied on for a handful of carries a game.

I like the idea of giving a few carries here or there to someone other than Toussaint. Considering his most recent injury and the fact that he's not the biggest guy (5-10, 200), Michigan can't overwork him like Michigan State did with Le'Veon Bell last season.

Although Rawls, Hayes and Johnson have been in the program, none of them have extensive playing experience. And Smith and Green are rookies. Let's see what they can do.

News: Hoke is optimistic about the offensive and defensive lines.

Hoke: "We're young on both sides of it, but it's a good young. They have been willing and physical in practice. We as a staff think we are going to probably make a mistake here or there that we don't want to, because of some youth. We may not play with the technique we need to early, but we like both lines. Offensively, there was a great competition.

"We are going to be a very young football team, in a lot of ways. We have 61 of 85 guys who are going to be first- or second-year players. We are obviously playing with a lot of young guys and a lot of guys who haven't played a lot. We have our work cut out for us."


Views: The Wolverines have finally settled on an offensive line combination, with fifth-year seniors Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield at left and right tackle, respectively, and the interior going to three newbies: redshirt freshman right guard Kyle Kalis, redshirt sophomore center Jack Miller and redshirt sophomore left guard Graham Glasgow.

It was not easy to reach this conclusion - there was several fierce position battles inside - but in the end, the Michigan coaches stuck with the mantra they brought in with them before the 2011 season: the best players are going to play.

This is the group that's going to give Michigan the best chance of moving the chains and winning the game.

That doesn't mean there won't be hiccups, but this group is full of potential. This week will be a solid test for the young guys - and then comes the big one. If Miller, Glasgow and Kalis can hold their own against Louis Nix and the Notre Dame front seven, this could be a special season.

News: Hoke awarded three Wolverines with "Legends" Jerseys Tuesday morning, including sophomore tight end Devin Funchess, who will wear the No. 87 Ron Kramer jersey.

Hoke: "Ron was a tremendous athlete, maybe the best athlete ever to play at Michigan. Because he was a tight end, we wanted to keep it within that position. If you look at the tight end position, we don't have many older guys. Devin, with his growth and what we have seen as a staff, is something that is very special."

Views: I'm not the biggest fan of the Legends jersey program. I understand that it's nice to honor the past, but, in this instance, you're celebrating the past in a way that hinders the present's ability to create new legends.

But the Wolverines are going to dole out the jerseys, and I like that, with Funchess, they went with a young guy. He has three years to wear No. 87 and forge his own identity in the number, unlike, say, Jordan Kovacs, who wore No. 32 for his entire career - until the last four games of his senior season, when he was given a Legends jersey.


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