Ready or not, the Michigan football team’s season opener is less than a week away. But If you listen to Michigan coach Brady Hoke, the Wolverines are more ‘not’ than ‘ready.’
“We’re not near ready to play,” Hoke said. “I’ll probably say that on Friday. We’re not near ready to play but we get to play, and that’s a good thing. We get to see that first test, where we’re at as a team and as a program.”
But the coaching staff isn’t trying to delay the game. Hoke has posted “game week” signs throughout Schembechler Hall to remind the players that this weekend’s game is for real.
“When you’re in that building, everywhere you go, you’re thinking about game week,” senior defensive tackle Mike Martin said. “Whether it’s when you go home, getting your playbook, going over your plays, taking mental reps, and when you’re at Schembechler getting better on the field. You have to think about game day every day.”
While a depth-chart was released for the first time on Monday, it’s not complete. Both the offense and defense have one spot up for grabs.
The starting running back is listed as senior Michael Shaw “or” redshirt sophomore Fitzgerald Toussaint. The cornerback position opposite fifth-year senior Troy Woolfolk will be redshirt junior J.T. Floyd “or” sophomore Courtney Avery — Hoke said he expects Floyd to start the game.
In addition, punter and punt returners also haven’t been decided yet.
KICK THE SWEET SPOT: Ann Arbor has become the land of sixth chances.
After going 1-for-5 last season, redshirt sophomore Brendan Gibbons will be the team’s starting kicker against Western Michigan. Gibbons’s only field goal last season was from 24 yards out against Connecticut in the season opener.
Hoke mentioned a couple of caveats, though. Freshman Matt Wile will handle the kickoffs. And on field goals longer than about 43 yards, Wile or redshirt sophomore Kris Pauloski will likely take the kicks. Pauloski did not see game action last season. Wile appears to be the first option for the long field goals.
“Matt’s just got a little, I don’t know if it’s a bigger leg, a better leg,” Hoke said. “He’s got the opportunity to hit the ball more cleanly … It’s kind of that sweet spot that he hits it with.”
DOWN THE LINE: Hoke made sure the defensive line was the focal point of his team. Throughout fall camp, it also became the focal point for the rumors. Early on it appeared the slimmed down junior defensive tackle Will Campbell was ready to make an impact this season.
Then walk-on redshirt sophomore Nathan Brink became a name to know. But both those players have been relegated to backup duty. Taking the final spot on the line, alongside junior Craig Roh, senior Mike Martin and fifth-year senior Ryan Van Bergen, is unheralded fifth-year senior defensive end Will Heininger.
After missing the first 10 games of last season due to injury, Heininger recorded three tackles in the Michigan’s final three games as a backup defensive end. For Heininger, it was his veteran status that pushed him into the starting lineup.
“I think it is (his experience) more than anything else,” Hoke said. “We like what Nathan has done and he’s practiced very well, played well, been productive. But Will (Heininger) at the same time has done a good job.
“But the other guy that has come on a little bit is Will Campbell. I think that will be fluid up front anyway, because we’re going to play six guys during the course of a game so we can keep guys fresh and keep them healthy.”
NOTES: Martin, senior tight end Kevin Koger and fifth-year senior center David Molk were named captains through a vote by their teammates yesterday … Hoke said he will not continue the Victors Walk, changing his mind from what he said at Big Ten Media Days.