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Posted on Thu, Aug 25, 2011 : 10:22 p.m.

Michigan football team paying a price for physical practices and more notes

By Kyle Meinke

Michigan football coach Brady Hoke and his staff have preached the importance of playing with physicality and toughness at fall camp.

After 22 practices, that physicality has started to take its toll on the Wolverines.

Several players have dealt or are dealing with injuries during camp, defensive coordinator Greg Mattison and offensive coordinator Al Borges said after Thursday’s practice.

“Guys get injured usually when they get tired, unless it’s a freak injury,” Borges said. “We work them hard, we do, and they’ll be the first ones to tell you that. But, Brady has a great feel for when to back off.

“We’ll taper back, but to this point, our practices aren’t for the faint of heart. We get after it pretty good. That’s our head coach’s philosophy and that’s our whole staff’s philosophy.”

Borges said he thinks the team is nearing a point where it would start backing off leading up to the Sept. 3 opener against Western Michigan.


Michigan freshman tight end Nate Allspach wears a cast during practice outside of Schembechler Hall on Tuesday. Offensive coordinator Al Borges says "our practices aren’t for the faint of heart. We get after it pretty good."

Melanie Maxwell I

Among those who are known to be dealing with, or have dealt with, injuries:

Thomas Rawls
The freshman running back missed “a couple weeks” with an undisclosed injury, Borges said, but now is back at practice.

Jake Ryan
The redshirt freshman linebacker returned to practice Wednesday after missing almost a week with some minor injuries.

“And right away, he had a big hit,” Mattison said. “The one thing I’m pleased with in Jake that I wasn’t pleased with before is that he concentrated and knew what to do when new defenses went in. When he came back, he didn’t miss a beat.”

Mattison said Ryan has practiced at strong-side linebacker and also is a member of the nickel package.

Desmond Morgan
The freshman linebacker has impressed the staff this fall, but missed some time because of a nagging hamstring injury.

“He hasn’t been able to do what he’s wanted to do over the last two or three days,” Mattison said.

Hoke mentioned on Tuesday that Morgan, who starred at West Ottawa High School in Holland, Mich., could see time at middle linebacker behind starter Kenny Demens.

Brandin Hawthorne
The junior linebacker was one of the defensive stars of Saturday’s intrasquad scrimmage, but has missed time since twisting his ankle during the tilt.

“He’ll be back, he’ll be fine,” Mattison said.

Martavious Odoms
The senior slot receiver wore a cast on his left forearm during the first two weeks of fall camp after suffering an undisclosed injury in the summer. He was seen practicing without the cast Tuesday, but did have a padded wrap on it.


Shaw still tailback favorite, one freshman RB could redshirt

Borges said senior Michael Shaw would win the tailback job if the season were to start now, affirming what Hoke said Tuesday.


Michael Shaw

“(He’s shown) some of the things I’ve mentioned that were a criteria for the position -- open-field running, the ability to make people miss,” Borges said. “Michael has improved from spring football. He really has. He’s always had some skills, but because he hurt his hand, he wasn’t a big part of the spring.”

Borges said sophomore Fitz Toussaint, junior Vincent Shaw and sophomore Stephen Hopkins are the leading candidates to back up Shaw.

Rawls and fellow freshman tailback Justice Hayes were considered a part of the tailback competition, but neither seems to have made a case to make the two-deep.

Borges was asked if one of them could redshirt.

“We’ll see how that goes,” he said. “Probably somebody will redshirt, but it’s still too early to tell for sure.”

Roh at rush end

Mattison said senior Craig Roh has been practicing at rush outside linebacker and is battling sophomore Jibreel Black and freshman Frank Clark for snaps there.

Mattison said the competition is “definitely open” between Black and Roh at that spot, and that he’s looking for consistency from them.

“Some guys are much more talented than others, but I’ll take a guy with great effort every day (rather) than a guy with talent that doesn’t play up to his ability,” Mattison said.

Defensive notes

Safety Marvin Robinson was sick earlier in camp, but is back and has been extremely impressive. … Mattison said he hopes to play about 22 players on defense this year. … Friday’s scrimmage will be a key determiner of how the initial two-deep roster shakes out, Mattison said. … Demens has run with the first team at middle linebacker for all of camp, and the staff has been impressed with his hitting ability. … Two days after Hoke said he was disappointed with his team’s effort after about the 65th play of Saturday’s scrimmage, Mattison echoed those thoughts. “That’s what bothered me,” he said. “But early, I was excited.”

Offensive notes

Borges declined to comment on three offensive players leaving the team this week: Freshman tight end Chris Barnett, junior receiver Je’Ron Stokes and freshman offensive lineman Tony Posada. … Borges said redshirt senior Mark Huyge is the leader to start at right tackle, and sophomore Michael Schofield could be a backup at any offensive line position. … Borges said the receivers who have impressed the most, besides starters Roy Roundtree and Junior Hemingway, have been senior Kelvin Grady and sophomores Jeremy Gallon, Jeremy Jackson and Drew Dileo.

--'s Nick Baumgardner contributed to this report.

Kyle Meinke covers Michigan football for He can be reached at 734-623-2588, by email at and followed on Twitter @kmeinke.



Sun, Aug 28, 2011 : 5:29 p.m.

Hailmary Yes indeed, the excitment ramps up week to week. When fall comes there is a nostalgia that takes over, the smell in the air, cider mills open up, football is king. Wish it lasted a tad longer. By the way, been seeing your posts for some time now and I like what you write. Go Blue!


Sun, Aug 28, 2011 : 12:41 p.m.

Jarhead, You said you were now an armchair QB, well I'm playing in the same backfield. Yes indeed, this is a great time of year and this week I'll be like a kid again waiting for that first game, first kickoff. Yesterday I flew my Mich. flag. Go Bllue!


Sun, Aug 28, 2011 : 11:23 a.m.

Hailmary "Those were the days" weren't they? We had a lot of good athletes back then. I didn't play any sports, I worked, and that was before we had rules about how many hours a kid was allowed to work in a week. No regrets though. Life has been good. So now i'm an armchair QB. Got hooked listening to Bob Ufer call the '69 game. Miss old UF. This is a great time of year isn't it?


Sat, Aug 27, 2011 : 9:54 p.m.

Jarhead, yes it was Richard. I also ran track with him.


Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 8:48 p.m.

Take it from a Michigan track play or run in a big time program, you practice hard and you occasionally get injured. I got news for some folks, athletes even in non contact sports sustain injuries. Anybody remember how many of Bo's players got injured in practice? The list was long. Coach Hoke warned us that his attitude about Michigan football is that it is not for the faint of heart. Besides, these players have access to the best sports injury therapists in the country, as long as the injuries are not serious and season ending. As we used to say on the track team, Get Tough or Die! I have admiration for Coach Hoke and his players who are more than willing to gut it out day after day in practice or in a game day situation. I like the point made previously, so what else is there to write about? This isn't flag football.


Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 7:37 p.m.

What's with all these young players quitting? At first I listened to all the Michigan homers who quickly dismissed this player or that player as being home sick, not very good, or a hold over from the RichRod era. But now this Barnett kid is one of Hoke's own. A freshman who was highly touted and heir apparent to Koger, a senior. You know it's very catchy to say "those who stay, will be champions". but if no one stays there won't be any champions. So what exactly is going on? Are the practices too hard? What gives?


Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 3:46 p.m.

Just to take a moment to brag about myself, I wrestled in hign school at 145lbs. For those of you that think that would be an easy class to wrestle at let me tell you this, I never puked so much in my life. I had a close friend that played the running back position at our school and he went on to run 110 hurdles for MSU. As a defensive end I had to tackle Dick during a scrimmage and I don't think I walked right for about 1-2 years after that. Brady Hoke is one tough Hombre and "those that stay, will be champions". I have one opinion that I would offer Brady if I meant him and that would be, coach Hoke, don't forget speed along with brute strenghth and size.


Sat, Aug 27, 2011 : 9:10 a.m.

Hailmary That wouldn't have been Richard Elsasser was it?


Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 3:12 p.m.

Yes, no doubt about it, football is a rough and brutal sport. Can you imagine if you had to come into a game and play a series of downs at either running back or linebacker? I can almost guarantee that Nebraska or ohio are traiing just as hard if not harder. Ask old Dan Dierdorff what practice were like with Bo back in 1969 Bo's first year as head coach. Dan will tell you those practices were absolutely brutal. I can well imagine that Luke is getting ohio ready and in a brutal training camp and that coach at Nebraska, well I'll leave that up to your imagination.


Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 2:54 p.m.

Who is Senior RB Vincent Shaw? Never heard of him before or seen him in past rosters... Are you referring to #15 Michael Cox or #2 Vincent Smith?


Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 2:19 p.m.

"Our practices are not for the faint of heart. We get after them pretty good. It has been a real real grueling training camp. We want to see what they're made of when they're tired." - Al Borges Even though Borges declined to directly comment about the 3 offensive players who have left UM this week, I would say that the statement above says alot about why some have left. Coach Hoke and staff are forging a foundation of players who are strong, mentally & physically tough, of high quality character, and who will give maximum effort ... they will build on this foundation and will lead our program back to prominence in the BT and nationally.


Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 12:32 p.m.

Coaching will definitely help the defense *unless the players just don't take to it, which it doesn't sound like by their comments. One of the big criticisms in last few years was being out of position. That's totally a coaching thing. Teaching these guys to get into position, keep in your lanes, swarm to the ball, etc. If it was all talent, then wouldn't the top 20 recruiting classes always dominate (at least based on paper)? The coaching will be much better and I think we will be pleasantly surprised, barring injuries. The talent appears to be there.


Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 12:10 p.m.

Uhhh, so this does not happen anywhere else? I am confused at the title of this article. It makes it sound as though Michigan is the only program in the country having hard full contact practices and guys are getting dinged up. The price these guys are paying is, They are getting bigger, stronger and more intense when playing football. Not that there are 5 guys on a roster of 110 guys that have to sit out a couple of practices for minor injuries! This team should win 8-9 games. There schedule is very favorable this year. I also think there losses are going to be by 7 or 3 maybe 10 at the most and very competitive vs. getting blown out like the last 3 years. I dont think the defense is going to be a top 10 defense, but it should be drastically improved. Especially when it comes to defending the power run in the big ten! They should be much more prepared physically and mentally this year. Burton...WMU will be a pushover, so will Eastern, SDS, Minn., Purdue, and Illinois, five of these six games should be 30 point wins or more! (that does not mean they will be wins, it means on paper michigan should handle these teams easily). Northwestern, ND, and Iowa will be tough games but should be wins (ND should be ranked number 1 in the nation after beating South Florida). MSU, Neb., and OSU will be difficult to win. The defense will be a top 50 defense, there will be some attrition but other guys will fill in and because of the scheme of the 4-3 individuals wont be left out to dry like the 3-3-5. If the D line stays fairly healthy I think this defense will really suprise people.


Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 3:29 p.m.

You are making a lot of bold predictions. I sure hope you're right. The last three years were painful for any true UM fan. I would respectfully disagree with you that SDSU, WMU and Illinois are "pushovers". Do some research and you'll see that all three of these teams have decent talent and something going for them. Besides, I would think that lessons learned from Toledo and App. State would prevent us from overlooking ANY opponent. I've been predicting 6-6 all along...I think we'll lose a couple we should have won, and have at least one big, signature win (OSU, ND, MSU, NEB) Let's hope I'm wrong and we do go 9-3. Nobody would be happier than me if that happens!


Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 10:55 a.m.

Roh's a junior.


Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 10:41 a.m.

I agree with DonAZ We won 7 last year with the worst defense in the country. The 4-3 is way more solid for the big ten than the 3-3-5. Even if we can field a defense rated in the top 40's, that should help win some close ones. I know we now have Nebraska in the mix. But I have high hopes for "Al Baby" Borges to blend power football with speed, and give us the dynamic offense we've been thirsting for all through the 2000's.


Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 10:40 a.m.

The other day on this site it said Rawls has been impressive. Today it says he has been out for two weeks. Must have been really impressive rehab effort.


Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 10 a.m.

Michigan will win more than six even with this defense. I think predictions of 10 or 11 wins is unrealistic. Key this season is HOW they play -- a game lost can be played with good execution and high intensity, or played like freshman year at clown college. 2011 is very definitely a year in which we see which way the trend line is going. I predict all signs will be up.


Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 6:26 a.m.

These tidbits get the juices flowing boy! I'm excited and the season is about a week away, let's get it started! I love that they want to play 22 players on the D, that will help with stamina and morale as guys know if they put in the effort, they'll have a real good chance of playing. Let's Go Blue!!!


Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 6:21 p.m.

I also like the idea of using 22 players on the D. But, I doubt the refs will allow it; I think we'll have to limit ourselves to 11 at a time like everyone else! (Sorry, I'm going crazy waiting for the season to start and couldn't resist.)

1st Down

Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 4:30 a.m.

Looks like Nate Allspach is practicing his Gus Frerotte Goal Post head-butt technique there in that photo above.


Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 4:21 a.m.

Do you guys have ANY idea how much this team is going to struggle defensively? I mean.....they are paper thin and these injuries won't help any. (don't want to hear about's the jimmy's and the joe's that win in college ball....coaching matters alot more in the pros than college) I think points will come prettY easily but this defense and the kicking game....yikes. Anyone that thinks this team wins more than 6 games is DELUSIONAL. Hoke is solid, he knows what he's doing but..........the old saying of not being able to make chicken salad out of chicken S@!T will certainly appy. RR's scrawny, quick smurfs won't hold up this year any better than they have the last 3. Thanks RR....for nothing.


Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 12:05 p.m.

You must not watch much college football... coaching wins more in college than in pros (how else do you explain a boise state team being able to beat a more talented oklahoma team, or any upset for that matter) Unlike the pros each year in CFB its a new opportunity for the light to come on for a player that previously didnt step up. and the same can be said for every player on the roster. the mattison effect will pay dividends because of the fact that defense wont be double minded. what killed them the past three years was having coordinators trying to run a system they didnt have faith in thus in turn the players didnt as well... it was never a matter of lack of talent it was always a player out of position or slow because they had to think. PLaying the 4-3 which is ran by 90% of high school teams goes back to terminology they understand first and a coach that subscribes to it... as far as size there wasnt a question of that on the D (offensively yea) the linebackers were a good size the DL werent terribly undersized and the DBs had some good collegiate size so tell me where they were undersized? If they can get to top 70 defense (which shouldnt be hard) we will see an immense change.


Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 4 a.m.

Great news about Marvin! I would like to see him on the field!


Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 3:49 a.m.

Great info. Thanks Kyle. Still sounds like the coaching staff is less than enthusiastic about the status / progress of the defense. I've seen some comments from fans that say this is just the staff downplaying the D as a decoy tactic. I'm not sold on that theory. At all. It will probably take a while for the offense to find it's rhythm and to get comfortable in the new schemes, meaning the play of the defense may determine our fate in the first few games. I feel good about our DB's, but not as confident about the LB's and lack of depth on the DLine. Hopefully the emphasis on fundamentals will pay dividends and the D will be improved enough to hang with the better teams. Cannot wait for Sept 3rd. WMU will not be a pushover...but Hoke will have these guys on fire for his first game. "This is Michigan for God's sake!!!" GO BLUE!!!