- Todd Needle/Daily
By Ben Estes, Daily Sports Editor
Published October 1, 2012
It almost sounds like the Michigan football team’s bye week was a weekend getaway to the spa.
Senior defensive lineman Craig Roh feels “rejuvenated,” redshirt junior offensive tackle Lewan is suddenly “energized,” and Brady Hoke — well, the ever-workmanlike Hoke said he was pleased with his team’s productivity during the bye week. (Don’t expect the head man to ever say he’s more relaxed, even after some time off.)
Though Hoke said again on Monday that he’s never sure when the best time to have a bye week is, the coach was pleased with the time that he and the staff had to re-examine the Wolverines, and for the work the players themselves got to do in a bit of a lighter atmosphere.
As Roh pointed out, the timing for this year’s off week is unique in that it neatly divides Michigan’s nonconference schedule from its Big Ten slate, making it a feel like a “new season.” In a sense, it is, given that the Wolverines’ stated goal is a Big Ten championship, which, barring any tiebreaking scenarios, won’t be affected by the two losses they’ve already accrued.
Roh said the team feels “ready” to take on its Big Ten schedule, and a big reason why is the rest he and his teammates got to enjoy after a hard-knock first month of the season.
“Just the opportunity to get healthier,” Lewan said. “A week off always helps. Less practice, less hitting. I think that’s always a good opportunity, especially in the middle of the season, for a team to start being more successful.”
The other side of the coin, though, is that the time off opens up the possibility of rustiness in the first game back, something Michigan hopes to avoid when it plays Purdue in West Lafayette this Saturday.
The Wolverines have done a good job of staying sharp coming off bye weeks in recent years, having won eight of their last nine games in such situations. Last season, they also faced the Boilermakers in their initial post-bye game, and that ended as a 36-14 win for Hoke and his team.
To help stave off any potential lethargy, Hoke said the first team offense and defense scrimmaged frequently during the bye week practices.
“A lot of competition, because of the speed of the game we want to play with,” Hoke said. “I think that’s helped over the years.”
“It just sharpens you, because we have a lot of great guys on offense who are great players, so it just keeps you where you need to be at to play at a very high level,” added Roh.
The extra practices last week also should prove beneficial for the young players seeing time for the Wolverines, and there are plenty of those, especially on defense. Five true freshmen and four second-year players have seen significant time so far for defensive coordinator Greg Mattison.
Hoke mentioned that many of his first-year players were able to go home during the weekend since they live within driving distance, and he thinks that should help them out mentally after what’s likely been a head-spinning month for them.
But it’s back to the grind for the team, and Hoke said he’s already waiting to see how his players respond in practice on Tuesday after the rest they received.
Lewan said it was good to have the time off that he and his teammates did — it’s the last opportunity they’ll have until December, after the regular season is over.
By then, Michigan will know whether its season was a success or whether it was the “failure” Hoke has termed last year’s non-Big Ten championship campaign.
“This team is really excited about this,” Lewan said. “Obviously, like we’ve all said before, the goal at Michigan is a Big Ten championship. I think this team is real fired up about it, and hopefully we can be successful on Saturday.
“As far as it being a challenge, it’s the Big Ten. It’s a great conference, and every team in it is always a big challenge.”