Michigan had some of its best practices following the bye week in preparation for the Big Ten season, and the Wolverines continue to get after it, head coach Brady Hoke said Wednesday. It's Michigan State week, meaning the intensity should be at a high.
"It's been a continuation [of how we've practiced], but I also would agree that when you're playing rivalry games, there's always a little more intensity to it," Hoke said.
"We had a good practice yesterday on both sides of the ball. I liked how we competed with each other. When you put in a plan, sometimes Tuesdays are a little more thinking, but I thought we reacted well, had a good tempo and we're playing fast."
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Probably a little furious, too, given that the Spartans have won the last four meetings.
The scout team has brought a good look with freshman Drake Johnson playing the role of MSU back LeVeon Bell. They're practicing hard, even if they're a bit shorthanded.
"It probably would have been a little better if we hadn't had some of those guys get dinged up early, Chris Wormley, Chris Bryant," Hoke said. "Whether they'd be up or down - your ability with depth and those things. I think they've worked hard.
"We give an award out every week to guys on each side of the ball, who in the kicking game does a good job giving looks. They're doing a good job; they're motivated. Our G.A.s do a good job prepping them each week watching film, mechanics, that stuff."
Michigan is third in the country in pass defense, but Hoke isn't impressed just yet.
"I don't know if we've been tested," he said. "We haven't had balls thrown down the field vertically in the vertical pass game since early in the year - really Alabama, to be honest. We're playing a lot of spread teams that want to use the bubbles and those things. That's a fair assessment that we haven't been tested yet."
There's more to prove, he added, noting he "likes the bubble screens and stuff like that." The safeties, though, led by Thomas Gordon and Jordan Kovacs, have played well recently.
"That's a big deal that's made all the time - we want to be inside and in front," he said. "It's a big part of whether you're playing two-deep or single high, you've got to do a good job if you're the guy, keep your depth and be the last one to the party so you limit those things. I think those two guys have been catalysts, and I think J.T. Floyd has improved every week."
Michigan State's defensive line remains strong, Hoke said, despite losses.
"They've filled in pretty well," Hoke said. "They are very aggressive. Ted Gill, their defensive line coach, was one of my d-line coaches at Ball State. He has done a nice of developing that group. The style of defense is such that it's an aggressive defense."