ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Though several inches of snow remain strewn across the ground the Michigan football team took to the practice field for the first time this spring.
Not even two months removed from a loss to Kansas State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl and coming off an underwhelming 7-6 2013 season, the Wolverines felt it necessary not to wait until March to strap the helmets back on.
“It’s good to be back on the field,” Hoke said Tuesday. “A lot of energy, it’s fun to practice again, be out and work with some new faces obviously and just keep working as a team.
“I thought the kids did a nice job.”
Previously announcing the move of senior linebacker Jake Ryan from strong side linebacker inside to the middle in order to take advantage of his “playmaking” ability, Hoke also confirmed several other changes starting with the move of junior James Ross to the SAM to compete with Royce Jenkins-Stone and Allen Gant.
Also making moves is defensive back Ross Douglas who goes from defense to offense to add another option at running back.
“We thought we could get a little more depth,” Hoke said. “He was a 2,000 yard rusher in high school and so he showed us some things in the fall and thought we’d do that.”
Redshirt freshman running back Wyatt Shallman will split duties in the backfield, also taking reps and sliding over at times to the h-back position.
Following the news of sophomore Jake Butt’s torn ACL, scheduled to have surgery this week Hoke confirmed Tuesday, the Wolverines moved junior defensive end Keith Heitzman over to the position for added size and depth.
“Keith was a tight end in high school as well as a defensive lineman,” Hoke said. “He was all for it. I think just what we’ve seen today, I think he’ll have really a good role for us. He’s a pretty physical, tough guy so it’s good to have him there.
On all of the position moves Hoke added, “I think all those moves are a plus for the kids and for us as a team.”
Perhaps the biggest news of the day is the return of senior quarterback Devin Gardner. After breaking his foot against Ohio State in November, missing the Wolverines’ bowl game in December, Gardner participated fully in Michigan’s first spring practice.
“The one thing I told him is to make sure he’s not trying too hard and going too fast with the recovery,” Hoke said.
Hoke adding, “Believe me I was more surprised as much as he went as anybody.”
Hoke noted the competition will be open between Gardner, Shane Morris who received his first start in the loss to Kansas State, Russell Bellomy, coming off a knee injury, and true freshman Wilton Speight.
Very early and without the services of Erik Magnuson and Logan Tuley-Tillman due to injury, Hoke elaborated on the depth at the position noting which players are currently receiving the first team reps.
“Right now it would be (Graham) Glasgow, (Kyle) Bosch and (Kyle) Kalis,” Hoke said. “David Dawson and (Ben) Braden.”
Hoke said Dawson is taking first team reps at left tackle, Braden at right.
Overall, Hoke added, “I think the competition that’s there is really healthy for us.”
Hoke also noted Tuley-Tillman could return in time to see some action this spring.
“They’re talking the last two weeks maybe which would be great, which means he’s going to get some things from a footwork standpoint and all that that he’ll be able to do.”
Michigan’ spring game is slated for Saturday, April 5.