Around 7:30 p.m. on Saturday night, Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh addressed students at Michigan Stadium during his team’s practice.
Harbaugh was focused on his team for most of the night. But just before the Wolverines began a live scrimmage, he urged the students to make noise, simulating a game environment. They were more than happy to oblige, and music blared over the loudspeaker to provide extra buildup.
The scrimmage took up most of the practice, giving students their first glimpse of Harbaugh’s first team. Michigan has not made coaches or players available to the media since the team’s media day on Aug. 6, a day before fall camp began.
The first teams opened the scrimmage, with fifth-year senior Jake Rudock taking all of the first-string reps at quarterback. The offensive line appeared more cohesive than in the spring game with the benefit of fall camp. Mason Cole, Ben Braden, Graham Glasgow, Kyle Kalis and Erik Magnuson took most of the reps with the first team. Junior running back De’Veon Smith received the bulk of carries behind them, though junior Ty Isaac relieved him late in the first series.
The scrimmage lasted just over an hour, and while that’s hardly an indication of what Michigan’s Sept. 3 opener at Utah will look like, there were some signs of what to expect out of the team. Rudock looked more comfortable at quarterback than junior Shane Morris, who played with the second team. In his first four series, Rudock threw two touchdown passes — a 15-yard slant to redshirt freshman wide receiver Drake Harris, and a six-yard out route to junior tight end Jake Butt. Those were the only two touchdowns of the night.
After Smith and Isaac, junior Derrick Green took running-back reps with the second team. The fourth player competing for time at the position, senior Drake Johnson, did not see action as he continues to recover from a torn ACL he suffered last year.
On the other side of the ball, there were far fewer surprises on a unit that returns more of its core from a talented unit last season. The defensive line, coached by Greg Mattison, rotated players frequently, with as many as seven seeing time with the first team. With junior cornerback Jourdan Lewis on the sideline with an injury, junior Channing Stribling and senior Jeremy Clark started at cornerback. Redshirt freshman Jabrill Peppers played both safety and nickelback.
The Wolverines did not go full-contact for any part of the scrimmage, so the running game’s outlook wasn’t as clear as that of the passing attack. The defense looked solid, though, as it did in the spring game.
The offense opened up the playbook more as the scrimmage moved along, with Rudock playing four series and Morris three before giving way to redshirt freshman Wilton Speight. Both Rudock and Morris later re-entered.
The competitions will continue until Sept. 3, when actual crowd noise will replace the simulated sound and some 45,000 fans will pack Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City. Until then, Michigan will return to its “submarine.”
NOTES: Redshirt junior Amara Darboh sat out with a splint on his left pinky. … Sophomore wide receiver Freddy Canteen sat out with a sling on his right arm. … Freshman tight end Tyrone Wheatley Jr. stood on the sideline with a boot on his right foot, while junior center Patrick Kugler was on crutches. … Sophomore Kyle Seychel and senior Kenny Allen split the kicking duties. … Between 350 and 400 students attended the practice, with the first 200 allowed to watch from the field.