Brady Hoke summed up the current state of his football team during his weekly press conference.
“We’re not any good yet, we have a long way to go.”
Last season’s 7-6 finish and the subsequent hiring of new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier have brought an increased level of attention to spring practice.
A common refrain from players is how the pace of practice has changed from past years. The tempo of practice has been ramped up to increase plays per practice session to help players adapt to the new offense.
“We need to get reps,“ said Hoke. “There are lots of young guys in our two deep and it’s important for them to learn.”
One position group that definitely needs the additional reps is the offensive line. With Erik Magnuson and Joey Burzynski (both out with injuries) and replacements needed for Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield (lost to graduation), the competition is wide open.
Hoke revealed that center Graham Glasgow has returned to practice after a brief suspension "for a violation of team expectations.”
“He’s back,” said Hoke. “There’s internal discipline that he’s subject to and life lessons that he’s learning.”
He also acknowledged that the team “would investigate” the possibility of transfer Chad Lindsay joining the team to compete at center.
According to The Anniston Star Lindsay has graduated from Alabama and under NCAA rules would be immediately eligible to play for another school. He started four games for the Crimson Tide last season and would bring needed experience to the mix at offensive line for Michigan. His relationship with offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier makes his potential transfer an intriguing possibility.
Hoke also praised early enrollee Mason Cole, who has made quite an impression on his teammates so far.
“Physically, he’s probably ahead of a lot of freshman,” said Hoke. “Coming in January obviously helps.”
The injured players, the short suspension of Glasgow and the glowing evaluations of a true freshman add up to an offensive line competition that won’t be settled until well into fall camp. With Glasgow slated to miss the season opener as a result of his suspension, the offensive line may continue to churn past the beginning of the season for Michigan—bad news considering the way the offensive line struggled last year.
At the beginning of spring practice, there were indications that Devin Gardner was facing fierce competition from Shane Morris and Wilton Speight.
Hoke confirmed that if the season started today Gardner would be his starter with Morris as the backup, but he’s clearly pleased with the depth at quarterback compared to previous years.
“We have more competition, and we have more guys with experience in the system,” said Hoke. “We have more options.”
Early Enrollee Update
Hoke is also pleased with the progress of his early enrollees. He praised wide receiver Freddy Canteen, offensive lineman Mason Cole and offensive lineman Bryan Mone as competing well.
But not all the news is good. Wide receiver Drake Harris will miss some practice because of a hamstring injury. While Harris missed his entire high school senior season because of hamstring problems, Hoke expects him to be back practicing soon.
The streamlining of the offense has helped the running backs and offensive line get in a groove, but Hoke believes that the wide receivers are having the most difficulty adjusting to the changes. Freshman Freddy Canteen has seized the opportunity so far, but Hoke said that Jehu Chesson, Devin Funchess and Dennis Norfleet are also playing well.
Michigan is hosting 600 area football coaches over the next few days for a coaching clinic. The clinic gives the coaching staff an opportunity to network and create relationships to help with future recruiting.
Hoke also announced that Michigan’s spring game on April 5 would be a public practice—not a split-squad competition.
Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations in this article were obtained via press conferences or in person.