|Michigan’s opening practice notebook|
The Wolverines kicked off fall practice Monday for the 2012 season, with players participating in non-padded drills. Head coach Brady Hoke was pleased with his initial look at Team 133 and gave praise to the work of the veteran players.
“I thought there was some excitement, some chippiness, which is always good because there's competition. That's an important part every day," noted Hoke. “We're going to manufacture that as much as we can, put stress on our players, get them out of their comfort zone so Saturdays are easy. That's part of what the plan has always been.
“I thought we had a pretty good day, got some good work. Obviously, when you're going out there with no pads on, only shorts, it can be deceiving. But I like how we practice with only helmets on. The seniors, guys who have played a lot of football at Michigan - some juniors in there - have really taken an accountability. That part of it is exciting. It was a good first day.”
Hoke said that neither junior running back Fitzgerald Toussaint nor sophomore defensive end Frank Clark participated in the first day of practice, but denied that had any meaning regarding whether or not they would play against Alabama. Hoke had previously stated that he would make a decision on the status of the two within the month. He was equally evasive on Monday replying to questions of when he would make that decision.
"When I make it, I guess," Hoke said. "When? I don't know."
Toussaint was suspended following an arrest on July 21 for drunk driving, while Clark was suspended following an arrest for second degree home invasion for allegedly stealing a Macbook Air laptop.
Senior Vincent Smith and sophomore Thomas Rawls are considered the lead candidates to fill in for Toussaint, should the running back’s suspension stretch into the season. Sophomore Brennen Beyer was in competition with Clark for the starting end spot and will continue manning the position in his absence. He will be joined by freshman Mario Ojemudia, and other players could also compete at the position.
“[Beyer’s] a competitive kid,” said Hoke. “He loves to play, has done a tremendous job. Mario Ojemudia is a guy we can play at that position. We can put Jake Ryan there and play him there, move Cam Gordon up, rotate some linebackers around if we had to.
“When you look at it, there are some freshmen who are going to get some looks throughout our football team, depth wise. I'm not really too worried about it.”
Senior quarterback Denard Robinson earned widespread praise for stepping up as more of a leader on the team.
“I think his maturity for the position and at the position has been really good. We're one day in, but I thought he did a nice job of getting the offense where they needed to be from place to place in practice,” Hoke explained. “We're only one day in, but I thought he did a nice job getting the offense where it needed to be from place to place in practice, talking to his receivers, skelly or one on one. I like how he runs the huddle.”
Senior wide receiver Roy Roundtree added that Robinson has taken on a more vocal role as he has matured.
“He's not quiet anymore,” said Roundtree. “He actually talks. Being a quarterback, you're a focal point here at Michigan. Plus, you're Denard Robinson. The younger guys want to know what's on your mind. He's speaking up a lot now.
“He chewed a couple of guys out in the summer. It's just coming in and being Denard. He's a senior and everybody is going to listen to him. He's accomplished so much.”
Senior defensive tackle Will Campbell also earned praise from Hoke for his improved leadership. Campbell himself described his role in helping freshman Ondre Pipkins adjust to the college game and lifestyle.
“We have a big brother program and we looked after someone,” explained Campbell. “[Pipkins] was my brother so I've been talking to him to make sure he doesn't make the mistakes I made. I'm trying to make sure he gets the point long before I did.”
-Campbell said that Pipkins is more impressive physically than he was coming in. “He's stronger than I was coming in,” noted the senior. “He’s quicker off the ball. He's a hard worker.”
-Junior signal caller Devin Gardner saw work at both quarterback and wide receiver, but Hoke remained undecided on how his participation would be distributed moving forward.
-Junior Ricardo Miller is working at both wide receiver and tight end.
-Roundtree praised true freshman wide out Amara Darboh as having the best first day among the team’s new faces. Darboh caught the attention of fans by showing up to camp at a hulking 6-2, 220 pounds, and Roundtree said that his play was equally impressive in his play. “Today, Amara just showed out,” said Roundtree.
-Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Jerald Robinson pleaded guilty this morning to a misdemeanor charge of malicious destruction of personal property for damaging a parking gate. Hoke said that his punishment is complete.
-Senior safety Jordan Kovacs singled out junior Thomas Gordon as a player that he has high expectations for this fall.