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Posted on Mon, Aug 10, 2009 : 4:35 p.m.
More than a dozen observations from the first University of Michigan football practice
By Michael Rothstein
Here we go, Michigan's first practice of the year and boy, was it hot out there. Didn't help, either, that because of the new Al Glick Field House indoor practice facility, there was next to no cross wind.
That should help kickers. Not so much for players running around and reporters. Anyway, onto the observations. And make sure to follow us on Twitter @mikerothstein for updates during Michigan's practices.
First, a practice jersey note: Michigan, like some other schools I'm familiar with, have new practice jerseys. In fact, the white ones look pretty much identical to the ones a couple hours south at Notre Dame: white with three blue stripes down the side. The away ones are blue with yellow stripes down the side.
More jersey goodness: offense in white, defense in blue/yellow. No quarterbacks in red, but that could be because all Michigan players were in shorts and jerseys. No pads until the end of the week.
A quarterback note ... Denard Robinson is really, really short. Like you wouldn't be able to see him walking in front of you short. But what stood out the most about him was his speed. He appeared to be the fastest player on the field Monday during individual drills. He also has really awesome dreadlocks.
Later in the practice, quarterbacks coach Rod Smith gave instruction to Denard Robinson, telling him to not look down as he was dropping back to pass, instead to look straight ahead at Smith.
Over on the defensive side, the safeties appeared to have a lot of trouble catching balls out of the Juggs machine during an interception drill. Time after time, balls would hit off of their hands and go bouncing down the field. This, too, could be the reason they aren't wide receivers.
That said, one of the most impressive catches of the media session came from safety Thomas Gordon, who deftly grabbed a Juggs gun rocket with one hand.
Among the luminaries at practice: men's basketball coach John Beilein, Tony McGee and Jamie Morris.
A quick look at field goal kicking, since much of the media allotment went to special teams work: Jason Olesnavage made from 28 yards and 38 yards. Bryan Wright connected from 28 and missed right from 38. Brendan Gibbons made from 28 and 44 and missed right from 38.
Freshman Fitzgerald Toussaint made a nice grab off a Nick Sheridan pass, bobbling it a couple of times before corralling it with cheers from his teammates in the background.
Another coach to linebacker J.B. Fitzgerald during a special teams gunner drill: "I want to see you rip."
A COUPLE OTHER THOUGHTS:
Since this was my first non-Notre Dame practice in four years, just a couple things stood out to me as, well, different.
At Notre Dame, the only music I ever remember hearing was on Thursdays, and that was a Charlie Weis-inspired playlist of Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen with a little bit of Crank Me Up worked in last year. At Michigan, music was going throughout a bunch of the practice that the media observed, everything from Soulja Boy to some old school rock. Definitely a variety for both the players and coaches.
Also, Rich Rodriguez met with the team before stretching. Weis used to meet with them after. Just worth noting.
Drills, though, are drills and much of the stuff looked the same. The differences to me are that Michigan uses a Juggs gun with its corners and safeties where Notre Dame used to have assistant coaches throw passes to the defensive backs. And Michigan seemed to use a lot less contraptions compared to Notre Dame. I didn't even see a Gauntlet out there.
Don't forget to also check out Dave Birkett's observations and that this will be here every time the media are allowed to watch a practice. If there's anything specific you want us to look for - or you want to submit questions for a mailbag - e-mail one of us at either firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.