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July 27, 2014

Top questions to ask Brady Hoke at Big Ten Media Days

Big Ten Media Days will kick off tomorrow in Chicago, giving us our first chance for a long interview session with head coach Brady Hoke since May. Here are a few of the top-priority questions he'll be asked.

What is tailback Ty Isaac's status?

When the former five-star running back made the decision to transfer to Michigan in early June, he did so hoping the NCAA would grant a hardship waiver request that would allow him to play this season instead of having to sit out like all transfers are required.

While the Isaac family is hopeful the NCAA will allow the 6-3, 225-pounder to play, sources at Michigan are bullish on the prospect, believing the NCAA will ultimately deny the request.

Isaac made the decision to transfer so that he could be within driving distance of his Shorewood, Ill., home, as his mother suffers from an ear condition that proves incredibly symptomatic when she flies.

The NCAA has generally used a college radius of 100 miles from an athlete's hometown to grant hardship waivers but the standard is not set in stone.

If Isaac is cleared to play, he would enter a crowded but unproven backfield that includes redshirt junior Justice Hayes, redshirt sophomore Drake Johnson, sophomores Derrick Green and De'Veon Smith, and redshirt freshman Ross Douglas.

How is receiver Drake Harris' health and are there any players expected to be limited when camp opens Aug. 4?

An early enrollee, Harris spent the first few weeks of spring ball practicing like any other athlete, but he and the medical staff decided to shut him down the final week to rest a strained hamstring that had already sidelined him for his entire senior season at Grand Rapids Christian High School.

The 6-4, 176-pound Harris was, reportedly, a spring practice standout, making tough catches down the sideline and across the middle, while showing the elite speed to be big-play target down field.

But the focus is on Harris' long-term health and making sure he is not at risk of tearing the hamstring up if he competes this fall. By now, the medical staff, and strength and conditioning coaches will have diagnosed Harris fully and will understand whether he needs to redshirt in 2014 or whether he's cleared to go full bore.

There are others, including potential starters redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Erik Magnuson (shoulder), redshirt sophomore receiver Amara Darboh (foot), junior defensive tackle Ondre Pipkins (ACL), sophomore tight end Jake Butt (ACL) and redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Chris Wormley (foot) that also missed some or all of spring practice with injuries, and they will either be ready to go or still facing recovery.

What position will Jabrill Peppers begin fall practice at?

In a video interview June 19, Hoke said that the five-star freshman defensive back would play nickel, but there has been plenty of talk, from Peppers himself, that the nation's No. 3 prospect in the 2014 class will have the chance to compete at the open strong safety position.

With highlights surfacing earlier this month of Peppers matching up one-on-one with receivers at a summer camp, and excelling, he could even receive a look at cornerback.

The Michigan coaches have been adamant that for Peppers' sake, they will not try him at three positions, but will give him the opportunity to learn one and impact at one. Safety still makes the most sense because it's the biggest need, but it's also the hardest to learn.

The cornerback position is deep and features four experienced performers, including returning starters senior Ray Taylor and redshirt junior Blake Countess, and nickel back is a spot where one of Taylor, Countess or sophomore Jourdan Lewis are already supposed to be competing at.

Peppers will have spent the summer working with his teammates in 7-on-7s, and going through conditioning drills, and the coaches will rely heavily on the veterans to share their opinion on where Peppers could fit.

Is punter Will Hagerup 100 percent reinstated?

The fifth-year senior practiced in the spring and even met with the media in late March, following a 2013 season in which he sat out after being suspended by Hoke for a violation of team rules.

In 2012, Hagerup was named the Big Ten Punter of the Year after setting a Michigan single-season record with a 45.0-yard average. However, he was suspended on Dec. 16, before the Outback Bowl against South Carolina, and hasn't appeared in a game since the 2012 Ohio State contest.

In his stead, senior Matt Wile filled in admirably, but with Wile poised to be U-M's full-time field-goal kicker, the Maize and Blue need Hagerup to return to form as the league's top punter.

First, though, he had to make it through the summer without erring again, and that is no small feat for a man that has already been suspended three times in his career, missing 19 contests.

If he kept his nose clean this summer, Hagerup could be a considerable asset to the Wolverines while giving the young man a chance to graduate with a Michigan degree and turn his life into a positive story.

What would be the first question you ask Brady Hoke if you attended Big Ten Media Days? Tell us on #TheFort.

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