Michigan breaks camp on Saturday following a final practice at Michigan Stadium before starting game-week preparations for its season opener versus Appalachian State.
“If [you're] good enough, [you’re] old enough,” said Brady Hoke during his weekly press conference acknowledging the impact of true freshmen Mason Cole, Freddy Canteen, Jabrill Peppers and Bryan Mone.
The defense appears to be set with no major surprises, the main question being when and where top defensive recruit Jabrill Peppers will make his appearance when the season starts. The defense held the upper hand during the team’s public scrimmage, smothering the offense for most of the evening.
“Our defense is going to be great,” said running back Drake Johnson.
After the team’s practice under the lights last Saturday, Hoke had voiced his hope that the running back and offensive-line positions would be settled this week, but the competition is ongoing.
Devin Gardner will start at quarterback, but key questions remain on offense.
Running Back Battle
For most of camp, De'Veon Smith, Derrick Green, and Drake Johnson have been vying to be top back in Doug Nussmeier's new offense. This week, they all avoided declaring why they should start over their teammates.
For all the attention given to the competition, they all seem confident that however the depth chart shakes out, each will receive an opportunity to carry the ball.
This coincides with previous statements from Nussmeier, who has said that he expects to utilize multiple backs. If this holds, it will be a major change from last season’s offense that featured one primary back for most of the season.
Hoke specifically cited Drake Johnson and Justice Hayes as skilled third-down backs, which leave Smith and Green in the battle to start.
“Derrick and De’Veon...both of them need to keep improving,” said Hoke.
Green has transformed his physique—dropping twenty pounds from last season—and put in his best effort to this camp. Last season he struggled with conditioning, suffered a minor injury during fall camp and didn’t compete for reps until later in the campaign.
Smith has run hard according to Hoke and has been in a daily battle with Green for the starting position.
After an inconsistent performance during its public scrimmage last Saturday, the offensive line is almost set.
Hoke gave his criteria for how he evaluated his offensive line.
“You got to play with good leverage, you need to be positive with your footwork, your hips need to get downfield and you need to finish your blocks.”
Hoke announced that Ben Braden and Mason Cole will start at tackle with Jack Miller anchoring the line at center. At guard, the situation is still murky. Erik Magnuson has locked down the left-guard position, but right guard is still up for grabs with Joey Burzynski, Kyle Bosch and Kyle Kalis working to fill the final guard position.
Graham Glasgow (suspended for the first game) will be in the mix at center or right guard when he returns.
Jabrill Peppers Watch
Hoke continues to hedge on whether Jabrill Peppers will start at cornerback versus Appalachian State next week.
“Decisions will be based on film [and] based on production,” said Hoke. “He’s playing very well...we’re competing and he’s doing a nice job.”
In a battle of true freshman, Peppers lined up several times versus slot receiver Freddy Canteen during Saturday’s scrimmage.
“He’s playing some corner, but we’re going to focus on nickel when he’s in there,” said Hoke.
Wide Receiver Dismissed
Brady Hoke has dismissed wide receiver Csont'e York after a video emerged of the player assaulting another man and breaking his jaw.
Last week, Hoke had insisted that despite the incident York was "...still part of the program,” but he apparently had a change of heart. The Michigan athletic department released the following statement from Hoke:
Csont’e York has been dismissed from the Michigan football program. Representing the University of Michigan is a privilege and, while second chances are certainly deserved, sometimes it's better for everyone if that happens somewhere else. Overall, I have been proud of how responsible our team has been this offseason and how hard they’ve worked to prepare for the season.
No Word on Captains
Hoke said that while the team has great senior leadership, no formal captains have yet been selected.
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.
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