Nineteen practices into fall camp, Michigan football players are beginning to feel some wear and tear as they prepare for the season opener against defending champion Alabama on Sept. 1. Michigan coach Brady Hoke was quick to mention in Tuesday’s press conference that his players are getting tired of “hitting and punching each other.”
But the potential to make highlight reel plays keeps some players motivated.
Redshirt junior safety Thomas Gordon remembers well the dazzling interception he made in the second quarter of the week three matchup with Eastern Michigan last fall. From Michigan’s 40-yard line, Eagles quarterback Tyler Benz threw a prayer for the end zone, only to find Gordon had his receiver beat the whole way and made a jaw-dropping one-handed catch as he fell backward over the goal line.
Gordon has watched the highlight for motivation “about a million times,” he said, and even has it bookmarked on his laptop to cue up at will. It serves as a reminder to never take for granted the opportunity to don the maize and blue in each practice and game.
“From where I come from to where I am now, you know, it’s a long way,” said Gordon, a Detroit native. “And I’m just happy to see myself where I’m at right now. A lot of people are not fortunate enough to be in my position, especially from my city.”
GOING DOME: In order to simulate the playing environment the team will experience at Cowboys Stadium for the season opener, the Wolverines will practice at Ford Field in Detroit — home of the Detroit Lions — on Wednesday night.
“We’re going to go down there (to) change the environment up a little bit,” Hoke said. “I think it’s good for us. And have some distractions that are built in when you do that.
“We’ve been doing some crowd noise or whatever music — like AC/DC was on today when we did some first-down stuff.”
Like Cowboys Stadium, Ford Field is a domed stadium that tends to trap the noise of rabble-rousing fans. But the practice should also help players get accustomed to playing in a different type of stadium — one that plays host to the professional athletes they hope to one day become.
“And especially for me, me being at Ford Field and me being from Detroit, it’s just a fun venue to be at,” Gordon said. “But like I said, it’s all business and it’s still a practice to get ready for Alabama.”
INJURIES, ELIGIBILITY: Fifth-year senior wide receiver Roy Roundtree continues to work his way back from his recent arthroscopic knee surgery. Michigan coaches said they like what they’ve seen, but there’s still not a clear date for his full return to practice action.
“He’s close, he’s way ahead (of schedule),” Hoke said before backing off a bit. “I shouldn’t say that because that sounds like I really know and I’m a doctor — he’s progressing really nicely.
“I don’t want to speculate on (a time table). He’s running, I’ve seen him running. He was in full pads today, just doing stuff with the trainers and those people.”
Still, Hoke said he thinks Roundtree will be able to play in the opener against Alabama.
Additionally, Hoke still has not decided whether redshirt junior running back Fitzgerald Toussaint and sophomore defensive end Frank Clark will be eligible to play against the Crimson Tide following their suspensions for off-the-field misconduct.
“(Toussaint has) got to demonstrate that he’ll do the right things,” Hoke said bluntly.
Since his DUI arrest in July, Toussaint was suspended from all team activity, but he was allowed to practice again early in fall camp. Clark was charged with second degree home invasion in July for allegedly stealing a Macbook Air out of a room in Stockwell Hall.
Both players began practicing with the team just over a week ago, on Aug. 13.
“(Clark and Toussaint are) in the same boat right now,” Hoke said. “They’ve both got an oar. They each got one oar.”