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Posted on Fri, Aug 14, 2009 : 11 a.m.

Birk's Eye View: Friday morning University of Michigan football practice thoughts

By Dave Birkett

Freshman Tate Forcier appears to be running No. 1 at quarterback. He went ahead of junior Nick Sheridan during the morning installation period.

Of course, it’s far too early to call this quarterback race over, but as I wrote yesterday, I expect Forcier to start this year. My guess is Sheridan would be the backup early because he gives Michigan the next best chance to win (based on readiness), but Denard Robinson will get playing time and vault ahead of Sheridan before long.

Robinson brings a different skillset, and ultimately is a better fit for the offense than Sheridan. For now, he’s still running with the third team.

Here are some other thoughts from Friday's workout:

• Running back Brandon Minor was back at practice Friday, but wearing a green jersey for limited contact. Minor was held out of practice Wednesday with headaches from a recent car accident. Receiver Greg Mathews also was in green, and freshman cornerback J.T. Turner cannot practice in pads yet.

• Michigan's punt returners are having problems catching (or judging) the ball. During the morning punt period, with no oncoming cover team, return men Carlos Brown, Terrence Robinson and Martavious Odoms dropped three consecutive catchable balls. Mathews finally broke the streak with an easy snag on a line drive punt near the sideline.

• Scouts were on hand from the 49ers, Seahawks, Dolphins and Lions. There may have been others, but those were the ones I saw.

• No surprises on the first-team offensive line: Mark Ortmann at left tackle, Steve Schilling at left guard, David Molk at center, David Moosman at right guard and Mark Huyge at right tackle.

• I spent some time watching the linemen during Friday’s morning M drill, the gauntlet style full-contact period that pits three one-on-one matchups with a running back trying to make it through unscathed. My impressions of watching the linemen battle:

- Brandon Herron and Ryan Van Bergen both got the best of Ortman in the drill, pushing aside the tackle to make stops on the ball carrier near the line of scrimmage. Herron also scored an easy win over Perry Dorrestein on one of the last reps, while Huyge locked up Van Bergen early in the drill.

- True freshman William Campbell had no trouble fending off John Ferrara and Elliott Mealer in his first two reps at the drill. Campbell is big, but not the least bit sloppy at 6-foot-5 and 318 pounds. He will see plenty of playing time this year.

- Ferrara did redeem himself when he locked up tackle Renaldo Sagesse near the end of the period.

- Molk devoured freshman Craig Roh near the end of the drill. Roh could play as a true freshman backup at the hybrid quick end position now that Marell Evans has transferred. Herron is the starter there, and, I think, primed for a big season. I'll have more on him this weekend.

Dave Birkett covers the University of Michigan football team for He can be reached at



Mon, Aug 16, 2010 : 11:19 p.m.

Its great to hear that Ferrara is still hanging tough, and glad that you followed up by telling of his redemption. It was not too long ago that when many players turned their backs and fled on Michigan, Ferrara stepped up and jumped on the grenade (for the team-moving to offense).He may go as the unsung hero when his work ethic and fight for a spot to play makes all those competing, better.


Fri, Aug 14, 2009 : 8:38 p.m.

I agree that Michigan seems to be leaning down and going more speed and finesse rather than the pure overpowering of teams as they did in the past. I always kind of enjoyed Michigan just kind of brute powering their way over teams and liked it when they would beat the speed teams (a la Gators) playing Michigan style football. I've never been a big fan of finesse football, but if Michigan can win with it, I may just convert.


Fri, Aug 14, 2009 : 6:44 p.m.

I don't think UM will have the size to match up in the trenches with OSU or PSU or may be MSU and WI. Thus, speed and quickness at all position will be vital! The play execution better improve as well, and I think it will. In some ways we have become a total finesse team but in the spread system it can work and we will be competitive or even beat the more physical trench teams!


Fri, Aug 14, 2009 : 5:33 p.m.

Vincent Smith seems like he would be a natural for the punt returner position. Good hands, shifty, quick.


Fri, Aug 14, 2009 : 2:34 p.m.

1st punt return will go all the way for a TD this year. WMU should win the coin toss and elect to get back on the bus, if they know what's good for them. Go Blue!!!

Dave Birkett

Fri, Aug 14, 2009 : 2:25 p.m.

One note on the punt returns: Rodriguez said after practice there were no drops during the full team punt period. Media was not allowed to watch that part of practice, so I'll take his word there. He didn't sound too concerned about the drops since they weren't in live situations. "If they drop them a lot in live situations, yeah," he said. "Everybody's going to drop a ball or make a mistake here and there."


Fri, Aug 14, 2009 : 2:21 p.m.

From my observations of the M Drill on it looks like the offense handles the defense quite well. There are at least 4 or 5 times backs break all the way through barely touched - if at all.


Fri, Aug 14, 2009 : 1:33 p.m.

The quaterback situation at Michigan has always been suspect. Players coming in early clearly gives them an unfair advantage. My guess is that the athletic ability of Denard Robinson will ultimately derail him from remaining a quaterback.He'll become a utility player, if history continues to repeat itself.


Fri, Aug 14, 2009 : 1:25 p.m.

Improvement by the O-line is a key for Michigan this year to have a shot at a winning season. With a lot of quality running backs and a new QB, running will be very important. Not good to hear the punt returning problems. Hopefully, they were just having a bad day. Finaly, I hope Turner is as good as they say he is. After our DB's being torched so much over the last few years, we could use a CB who can cover. Donovan Warren also has to step up his game bigtime this season.


Fri, Aug 14, 2009 : 1:14 p.m.

Surely they can find one bleeping person capable of catching the ball on returns. Vincent Smith was decent at it in HS, changing field position with a great kickoff return in his HS championship game. Without that return, they might not have won. I'm sure he will get a chance if the others keep dropping the ball.


Fri, Aug 14, 2009 : 12:38 p.m.

what's the deal with catching the blasted ball??? Maybe they'd just be better off rushing an extra guy and leaving down field empty :O)


Fri, Aug 14, 2009 : 11:03 a.m.

Unless one of the younger kids can consistently catch the ball, Rich is going to have to go with Greg Mathews as the main punt returner. As far as your comments about the d-line getting the better of the o-line, I don't know whether to be optimistic about the d-line or pessimistic about the o-line. I'm thinking the o-line should be pretty solid this year.