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September 13, 2013

Backups should get plenty of run against the Zips

On paper, Michigan vs. Akron is a game in which several of the second- and third-team Wolverines should play, even if head coach Brady Hoke won't admit it. U-M seemed to take that approach in 2006 when Hoke brought his Ball State team to Ann Arbor late in the year for what should have been a laugher.

Michigan was sloppy and played several players on defense, but still managed to take a 31-12 lead in the fourth quarter. Ball State moved for two scores against a defense with a number of reserves, cutting it to 34-26 and driving to the two-yard line before the Wolverines were forced to put their first stringers back in to preserve not only a win, but a perfect season to date.

Hoke was on the other sideline that day, but he doesn't need a reminder to help his team prepare for overmatched Akron.

"We're going to need all men on hand for Saturday," he said in assessing Michigan's injury situation for the Zips.

Chances are they really won't. Several of the 'twos' and 'threes' should play, while some of the first stringers could get more involved, as well. Among them:

  • Jehu Chesson: The redshirt freshman receiver doesn't have a catch yet, but offensive coordinator Al Borges said earlier this week he'd like to get Chesson and the other receivers not names Jeremy Gallon (Joe Reynolds, for example), more looks. The tight ends have become more of a focal point, as well, and should get a healthy number of passes thrown their way. There are mismatches all over the field.

    With Reynolds, coming off a knee injury suffered against Central, they'll have to weight the benefit of added rest vs. the importance of getting him more looks prior to the Big Ten season.

  • Back-up middle linebacker Joe Bolden played plenty in the Notre Dame game, and this might be another one in which he sees more time. Junior Desmond Morgan has been banged up a bit, and Bolden will benefit from more experience. Freshman Ben Gedeon, too, has played on special teams and could see the field more Saturday.

  • Running back Fitz Toussaint carried the load against the Irish, with the coaches relying on his experience to help lead the rushing attack. Freshman Derrick Green, now No. 2 on the depth chart, should get plenty of run this weekend behind Toussaint, and he won't be the only one. Freshman De'Veon Smith and junior Thomas Rawls should also see some carries if the starters take care of business as hoped.

  • Shane Morris: Starter Devin Gardner is moving up mock NFL Draft boards. Morris could feasibly be the starter at this time next year, and it's imperative he get as many snaps as possible in preparation. There are few opportunities on the schedule better than this one.

  • Chris Bryant: The interior line continues to be challenged, and while developing chemistry is huge, so is preparing capable back-ups. Bryant might be Michigan's best run blocking lineman when he's healthy, but he was slowed by injuries in camp. He should get an opportunity to show what he can do in that capacity, while back-ups like Erik Magunson, Blake Bars and others could also see some run.

  • Delonte Hollowell: The diminutive cornerback held his own last week in limited action against the Irish, tackling well. The Zips will air it out, so chances are he'd be on the field more anyway, but he's been solid and continues to earn more playing time.

    "When you look at Akron I see a team with 22 transfers and one that's coached really well," he said. "Thirteen of those transfers are playing significant snaps, including two offensive linemen, one who transferred from Florida State and one from Pittsburgh - those are pretty good programs.

    "They have a couple of guys who transferred from Ohio. They've got really good skill, they are rotating eight receivers through and both backs are hard runners. At quarterback, [Nick] Hirschman, we recruited him at San Diego State and then looked at him coming here as a transfer from Colorado. They've got plenty of players and I think [head coach] Terry [Bowden]'s done a nice job with that program."

    Good enough to give Michigan a game?

    Don't bet on it.


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