A few individual player notes from Hoke:
- Ondre Pipkins – The junior defensive lineman is fully cleared for the fall. “He’s done a nice job … made a lot of progress… he has passed the conditioning tests,” said Hoke. “We’ll be smart with him in two-a-days though.”
- The obligatory Dymonte Thomas update. He reiterated the message from Mallory… the former Army All American I fine and in the thick of the safety race. Said Hoke, “I think Dymonte had a very good spring and had a really good summer.”
- Hoke also reiterated Fred Jackson’s take on the running back race… DeVeon Smith was ahead coming out of the spring mostly because of superiority in protection, “but it’s tight.”
- On if Jabrill Peppers will play offense this season… “Probably not, but we’ll see.”
Devin Gardner’s Maturation
Cultivating leadership and chemistry on the roster has seemingly been the theme of the offseason, and the thought that Gardner as the catalyst for such growth has been hard to miss. Hoke made nurturing leadership in his fifth-year signal caller a priority, and Gardner has responded.
“I think Devin has done a really phenomenal job of evaluating himself every day on where he can help his teammates more,” said Hoke.
And a big key, obviously, has been the addition of Doug Nussmeier.
“I think (Gardner) is more confident,” said Hoke. “I think him and Doug have had a great relationship. It hasn’t always been a fun relationship."
So when Gardner had a “hiccup” in the spring, “Doug did a great job of being his coach,” Hoke said with a sheepish grin.
“I think with Doug’s pedigree and what he’s done who he has coached and you can go back to how he played… I think there is a lot that he has done in building that relationship that is really positive.”
“…from a coaching standpoint I think we have the best quarterbacks coach in the country and coordinator in this country after watching him and how he goes about his business.”
Can the offensive line really be better?
Michigan’s headman had to respond to this question in the affirmative, but he sounded less like a guy trying convince himself of that answer and more like a guy that truly believed it. The external skepticism will obviously continue, and rightfully so. Still, Hoke contends that improvement is on the horizon will thanks to the continued maturation of the returning guys and more continuity up front… even if that means living through some growing pains (but not devastating breakdowns) early on.
“The one thing you’ve got to look at is the guys inside and how many reps they’ve had and playing together a little more,” said Hoke. “There will be two new tackles… (but) Ben Braden made progress, Erick Magnuson… Mason Cole had a really good spring and you wouldn’t see him as a freshman… I look at him as a guy being a back-up left tackle.”
What about right tackle?
Ben Braden is the favorite, but if not him then who?
“Since Magnuson does have game experience and is athletic, you can move him over,” said Hoke. “Blake Bars is really starting emerge, and Glasgow (could play there) depending on how center shakes out. "
“Jack (Miller) and (Patrick) Kugler are going to be two guys that compete like heck (at center). We’ll see how that transition goes. With all the reps that Graham has played he will be in the mix for that job.”
Center is the wild card
Glasgow will be the clear-cut favorite, but if the struggles at the center positon are anywhere near what they were before he moved into the position last year. But if either Miller or Kugler plays well in the first game, one of them could take hold of the position from that point on. Michigan O-line coach Darrell Funk told us in our preview magazine back that Miller was the leader coming out of the spring, but Hoke made it clear that both centers made significant strides and that it is an intense battle.
“(Miller) learned a lot,” Hoke said. “(He) matured in how you prepare every day. Jack is smart… an intelligent football player… from a physical standpoint he is stronger.”
“(Kugler) is bigger and that is one thing that he had to do. He is physically maturing and had (significant) strength gains.”
Stay tuned for MUCH more from Hoke's roundtable session at B1G Media Day in the hours and days to come.