ANN ARBOR, Mich. — The Michigan football team is in the midst of its second week of preseason camp, and while practices remain closed, we’ll fill you in on what we continue to learn.
Several Michigan players met with the media Tuesday to discuss how they’ve seen the team progress and where improvement needs to be made before Michigan’s season opener Sept. 2 against Florida in Arlington, Texas.
Here are five takeaways from Michigan’s players.
Fostering camaraderie is key
One of the keys to a successful team is cohesiveness, and it changes from year to year on each team with graduations, departures to the NFL and class attrition such as transfers. Because of that, a team’s general personality and chemistry changes.
Michigan’s players have taken a certain role in fostering that camaraderie. As defensive lineman Maurice Hurst explains it, it’s almost like taking on the role of an older brother.
“There’s a lot of young guys, and a lot of young guys need guidance, a lot of the time,” Hurst said. “Even if it’s not with football, it’s with school, or it’s with life in general. Just being able to be someone who’s there for them, when they’re going through something. During camp can be a tough time, when you’re here all the time, and you’re away from home for the first time, it’s really tough for the younger guys. It’s just trying to be there for them and trying to be that sort of voice of reason for them.”
Be a leader
Michigan’s offense returns four starters, and its defense returns only one starter in fifth-year senior Mike McCray. This means Michigan’s juniors —and even its sophomores — have to take on certain leadership roles, whether it’s within a position group, within meetings or within a class.
“If you see somebody struggling, you show them the way,” said Michigan defensive end Rashan Gary, who has made it a point to develop himself into a better leader. “You lead by example. Also, when they’re down, and they don’t know what to do, you’ve got to be their big brother, pick them up and tell them ‘Let’s go.’ ”
One freshman stands out
One player already has impressed Gary, and that’s freshman defensive tackle Aubrey Solomon. Fans got a glimpse of Solomon manhandling an opposing lineman over the weekend. Aaron Bills, Michigan’s creative director for football, tweeted a video of Solomon during a drill.
— Aaron Bills (@AaronBDesigns) August 6, 2017
The clip clearly showed Solomon’s physical abilities. Gary spoke Tuesday about Solomon’s desire to develop as a college football player.
“He’s a beast,” Gary said. “He’s a young, humble guy. That’s my roommate, actually, in camp. He’s in the playbook every night. If he doesn’t know a play, he’ll chat me and wake me up. ‘What’s up?’ He’s up studying. That’s a young, hungry guy.”
The offensive line is still taking shape
Michigan’s offensive line returns two starters — left tackle/center Mason Cole and right guard Ben Bredeson — and Cole told reporters Tuesday that he’s taken the majority of his reps during Michigan’s first days of preseason practices at left tackle. Three spots on the offensive line are still being contested for, including center. Freshman Cesar Ruiz and Patrick Kugler are the top candidates at the spot Cole held last year, though Ruiz is also working at tackle in preseason camp.
“Everyone right now is really practicing all over,” Cole said. “We’re just trying to find the best five, whatever fit that might be. Right now, there’s a lot of moving pieces to it, and we’re trying to see where it fits.”
Nobody wants to talk quarterbacks
Assistant head coach/passing game coordinator Pep Hamilton discussed the quarterbacks on Wednesday, without giving away too much regarding the competition for the starting job between Wilton Speight, Brandon Peters and John O’Korn.
Michigan’s players, however, didn’t give away the same sort of insight. Especially not Hurst — for the sake of accuracy.
Maurice Hurst, on Michigan's quarterbacks competition: I honestly have no idea what's going on … if I said something I'd probably be wrong
— Rachel Lenzi (@RLenziCMG) August 9, 2017
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