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Posted on Thu, Aug 27, 2009 : 2:29 p.m.

Birk's Eye View: Six position battles to watch as Michigan breaks football camp

By Dave Birkett

Michigan breaks camp with two practices today, and Rich Rodriguez said he'll take his team to Michigan Stadium for a non-contact scrimmage Friday before beginning preparation for the season opener against Western Michigan in earnest next week.

"We have several position battles that'll probably go all the way up until next Thursday," Rodriguez said. "I think we've finally identified most of the guys that will be traveling, at least for the first game. But (the rest of this week) will determine who we think is definitely going to be the first guys out there, unless injuries or something occur."

Most of Michigan's starting spots appear locked up, but here’s six position battles to watch over the next week:

• Quarterback: The most important and up-for-grabs spot on the team. Nick Sheridan and true freshmen Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson are all taking reps with the first team, though - judging by Wednesday's practice, at least - Forcier and Sheridan are in the running to start while Robinson plays Week 1 off the bench. Best guess remains that Forcier wins the job and ends up splitting time in some fashion with Robinson by the end of the year.

"I'll talk to them all eventually and say all three of you got to get ready as if you’re going to be the guy because at some point in the game you may be the guy and you all are going to have your opportunity," Rodriguez said.

• Kicker: Fifth-year senior Jason Olesnavage is "the first one out of the gate right now," Rodriguez said. Olesnavage has never played in a college game, but he's been consistent throughout camp. True freshman Brendan Gibbons is second up and should get a shot at some point this year.

• Right tackle: Mark Huyge appears to have locked up the starting spot, with Patrick Omameh a promising but inexperienced No. 2. Huyge has taken the bulk of the No. 1 reps this fall. "He's had a good camp and been pretty solid so far," Rodriguez said. Perry Dorrestein also has worked at the position and could be the backup early if Omameh isn't ready.

• Strong-side linebacker: Stevie Brown is locked in as one of only two senior starters on Michigan’s defense (Brandon Graham is the other). True freshmen Brandin Hawthorne and Mike Jones have worked as Brown's backup, but neither has taken hold of the position. "Stevie's a guy we feel very good with, but he's going to play a lot of plays on defense and special teams so we need another guy or two to emerge there," Rodriguez said.

• Quick end: With his speed and athletic ability, Brandon Herron seems built for the hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker position. He had a strong start to camp, was named Defensive Player of the Day in the third practice, but has been pushed by true freshman Craig Roh, one of the fall's most pleasant surprises. Rodriguez said the starter may not be determined until next week. Best guess: Herron wins the job and Roh plays plenty early as a situational rusher.

• Running back: Brandon Minor is the starter, but Minor has missed time in camp with an assortment of injuries. Carlos Brown is No. 2 and is a nice complement for two-back situations, but Vincent Smith continues to impress coaches with his speed, physicality and pass-catching ability. He may be a third-down back early whose playing time increases as the season goes on.


local boy

Sat, Aug 29, 2009 : 10:13 a.m.

Good running or poor tackles?

Dave Birkett

Fri, Aug 28, 2009 : 5:13 p.m.

No problem with the videos. They add to the story in a way that wasn't possible when I worked for a newspaper. And if anyone has any other good ones, feel free to email them to me at As for the RSS feeds, they should be coming. I imagine we'll have one strictly for football, but I don't know that for sure.


Fri, Aug 28, 2009 : 1:52 p.m.

Vincent Smith runs a lot like Jamie Morris did. Let's hope he can stay healthy all year.


Fri, Aug 28, 2009 : 12:25 p.m.

Is there an RSS feed for only Michigan football? Enjoy your work.


Fri, Aug 28, 2009 : 12:56 a.m.

I like the coverage you guys are giving the Wolverines so far. Geez, just eight days until we see the first game. I hope you all at are excited about it - this will be another debut for you. No pressure, you understand?;-)


Thu, Aug 27, 2009 : 8:21 p.m.

Now, that's impressive


Thu, Aug 27, 2009 : 7:09 p.m.

Smith runs with more intellect than most backs I have seen in college or the pros. He probably won't break off any 80-yarders, but I'll bet he gets a few over forty.


Thu, Aug 27, 2009 : 2:42 p.m.

BTW, thanks for the videos. They are greatly appreciated.