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Demetrius Dew
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Rodriguez's QBs this fall might be better fit for U-M

Sheridan is most experienced of bunch; Cone looks like backup, with 2 freshmen in mix.

Angelique S. Chengelis / The Detroit News

ANN ARBOR -- A year later, a year wiser?

Maybe. Probably.

But mostly, Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez is more familiar with his program entering his second season as head coach of the Wolverines. The team begins its 15-day spring practice on Saturday, and will attempt to start sorting out the issues it faces for the upcoming season.

"I wasn't really uncomfortable last year, but it was new," Rodriguez said Tuesday during a news conference. "There's a certain sense of familiarity

"Offensively, because it's the second year, we hope we can play faster and be better. Defensively, there's a bit of an unknown because there's going to be some new terminology (with a new coordinator). We know the players better, they know what's expected even more."

While the situation at quarterback looks similar to last year's, Rodriguez said that's not so.

Like last spring, however, Michigan went into drills not knowing who would emerge as the starter in the fall. This year former quarterback Steven Threet, who started eight games last season, will not be participating. Threet announced last month he would transfer.

That leaves the Wolverines with one quarterback -- Nick Sheridan -- who has game experience, and backup David Cone, a junior. Very much in the mix are freshmen Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson, both dual-threat quarterbacks who better fit Rodriguez's system. Forcier enrolled in January and will participate in spring practice.

Rodriguez has not spoken about Threet's departure and, apparently, won't.

"Again, we just talk about the guys who are here," Rodriguez said, repeating a familiar refrain about players no longer with the program. "Nick has some experience and David Cone has been in the program and worked hard, and obviously with Tate being here Tate's kind of a gym-rat type of guy that I think loves learning about the game. He's put the time in.

"I'm anxious to see how they perform in the spring."

So while the situation at quarterback might feel similar to last year's, with little experience entering spring practice, Rodriguez said there's a huge difference because the offensive supporting cast has a year of experience in the spread.

"It was a little bit tougher on the quarterbacks because they were surrounded by a bunch of guys that hadn't played in this system, as well," Rodriguez said. "Tate, David and Nick will at least have spring, Nick a whole year, and Denard is a smart enough guy over the course of summer and camp that he can learn it and be surrounded by guys that should know what they're doing.

"It's a team game and quarterback is obviously a focal point, which it should be with its importance in any offense. We'll be all right."

Sheridan, Cone and Forcier will share reps during spring drills, Rodriguez said. Clearly, Sheridan, a former walk-on, is the most experienced of the three.

"But Tate's a quick learner," Rodriguez said. "We didn't bring him here and didn't sign (him) and Denard to stand in the background. They're going to get every opportunity to win the job, but so will the other guys at every position."

Injury update

Linebacker Jonas Mouton had shoulder surgery, and tailback Mike Shaw is recovering from sports hernia surgery, and both, Rodriguez said, would miss spring practice. He anticipates they will return for summer workouts.

Offensive lineman Ricky Barnum has a "painful wrist", Rodriguez said, but intends to practice this spring.

Kicker Bryan Wright has a back injury that has limited his workouts, but Rodriguez said he's been told Wright is still able to kick and punt.

Receiver Junior Hemingway has received a medical redshirt for last season from the NCAA, Rodriguez confirmed. Hemingway (shoulder) has three years of eligibility remaining.

Extra points

Michigan's spring game is April 11 at noon at Michigan Stadium. Rodriguez said he hopes the weather will cooperate and the Wolverines will be able to hold at least 10 of the practices outside.

... Rodriguez spoke about the addition of Delaware State to the upcoming schedule: "It's getting harder and harder to find a team to come without a game in return," he said. "We were, like a lot of people, trying to get a one-for-none, not a home-and-home series, and it's hard to find them."

... John Ferarra , who moved to offensive line from defensive line before last season, remains on offense. Steve Watson has moved from tight end to defensive end.

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Defensive coaches to address fundamentals

Besides cementing the type of schemes his defensive will play this fall, new Michigan coordinator Greg Robinson will need to address the basics.

Starting this spring, Robinson and his defensive staff will focus intently on fundamentals with the Wolverines. Poor tackling among other essentials undid Michigan during a 3-9 season in which the team gave up the most points in school history.

"Greg's been around long enough to know it's not just about the schemes," Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez said. "This spring as much as anything else is about teaching tackling and fundamentals and breaking on the ball and doing all those things we've got to get better at."

Robinson, who came to Michigan after a stint as head coach at Syracuse, will have to replace six starters this season, including both defensive tackles.

To add depth along the line, former tight end Steve Watson has shifted to defensive end. Watson will be a redshirt sophomore. Another player who has changed positions is former fullback Vince Helmuth, who began experimenting at defensive tackle in practice last fall.

Since the move was made permanent, Rodriguez said that Helmuth has, well, eaten a bit too much. The 6-foot-1-inch Helmuth recently weighed in at 299 pounds.

"He's just gotta get in shape and understand that just because you play on the line doesn't mean you have to get too big," Rodriguez said.

Injury update

The coach added that the only players expected to miss the spring because of injury are tailback Mike Shaw, who underwent surgery for a sports hernia, and linebacker Jonas Mouton, who had shoulder surgery. Redshirt freshman offensive lineman Ricky Barnum may need minor wrist surgery after the spring session ends, Rodriguez said.

Freshman safety Vladimir Emilien, who missed his high school season last fall because of a knee injury, will be able to participate in spring practices. Emilien

enrolled at Michigan in January.

Spring game future

Michigan's spring games have historically drawn relatively small crowds, attracting fewer than 25,000 people to the 100,000-plus capacity Michigan Stadium. Though he revealed no details of a plan, Rodriguez said the school will try to do much, much better beginning next spring or the year after.

"I'd like to set a world record for attendance at the spring game," he said. "Somebody said it was 90-some thousand. We can get more than that in the Big House. It should be fun."

This and that

Wide receiver Junior Hemingway, who played sparingly last season because of mononucleosis, received a medical redshirt for the year. ... Former Michigan player Andre Criswell will work as a student assistant with the defensive line. Criswell, who suffered from shoulder problems, is on a medical scholarship.

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After initially failing to show up in court, Stonum sentenced for alcohol-related charge

By Trevor Calero

After Michigan freshman wide receiver Darryl Stonum showed up late for his court date today, 15th District Judge Julie Creal sentenced him for a charge of operating a vehicle while visibly impaired following his arrest in late September.

Director of Student Legal Services Doug Lewis, who represents Stonum, would not discuss the specifics of the judge's sentence, but Stonum could potentially face up to 93 days in jail, $300 in fines and 360 hours of community services.

A clerk at the 15th District Court said the information would be available on the court website either later today or tomorrow morning.

When he failed to show up for the court date, Stonum was initially issued a bench warrant for his arrest and $1,000 bond. The warrant was dropped after Stonum appeared, Lewis said.

When reached by telephone today, Stonum said that he was at the sentencing but declined to comment further.

Stonum pleaded guilty to the charge of operating a vehicle while visibly impaired in February.

When contacted today, Lewis disagreed with the premise of reporting on the case.

"It’s no more newsworthy than the whole alcohol problem of all your peers," he said of Stonum's offense.

He said that just because Stonum is a well-known University athlete, he shouldn't be held to a different standard.

"It bothers me when you make an issue out of one person," he said. "Just because he’s a football player doesn't mean he’s different than anybody else."

Following the incident in September, Michigan head football coach Rich Rodriguez suspended Stonum from the team's game against Illinois on Oct. 4 for a “violation of team rules” but didn't offer any further reasoning for the punishment.

On Nov. 4, the day of Stonum’s arraignment, Rodriguez said during his weekly Big Ten teleconference that Stonum would not be disciplined further by the team following the one-game suspension.

In the team's next game against Toledo the next week, Stonum did play but didn’t start.

Stonum started at wide receiver in the rest of the Wolverines’ 12 games last season. He ended his first season with the team the season with 14 catches for 176 yards and one touchdown.

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Commentary: Rodriguez has the foundation to start building his team

A player who has never taken a college snap is again expected to start at quarterback.

An offensive line accustomed to frequent changes is again expected to undergo an extensive overhaul. A jumbled group of wide receivers again lacks a proven deep threat.

One season removed from a 3-9 record, has anything really changed for the Michigan football team?

Yeah, actually.

The new quarterback may be just out of high school, but he's more athletic than last year's greenhorns and better suited for Rich Rodriguez's spread offense.

The offensive line will receive an infusion of six redshirted players who all can potentially add experience and athleticism up front.

And the receivers? Six of Michigan's top seven last year - if you count tight end Kevin Koger, a favorite target -- were freshmen or sophomores who should develop into more reliable play-makers.

That's at least the glass-half-full approach Rodriguez took in describing his offense Tuesday when he shared his outlook on the upcoming slate of spring practices that begin Saturday.

Optimism in April, of course, isn't hard to muster.

But there was something different about Rodriguez on Tuesday. Last year, he chose his compliments so cautiously, it was almost as if they had been pre-screened and scrubbed clean by a team of lawyers.

On Tuesday, he let loose. When he talked about the offensive line, in particular, he gushed.

"They've all worked hard, but on the O-line, you can see the difference in them from a year ago," Rodriguez said. "They've gotten bigger and stronger. ... That's one of the things I'm pretty excited about."

In describing his quarterbacks, Rodriguez wasn't bashful, either.

Rodriguez parsed his words more carefully, but true freshman Tate Forcier, who enrolled at Michigan in January, seems the probable starter. Assuming that's the case, Nick Sheridan, now likely a backup, brings a year's worth of experience that he lacked last year when thrust into the starting job.

Add in true freshman Denard Robinson, who arrives on campus this summer, and Rodriguez now feels better about his quarterbacks.

"I do, simply because of what we have back around them," he said.

That cuts to the crux of the difference between last year's team and this one.

It's hard to say whether the receivers ever got a fair evaluation last year when the guys throwing them the ball never found a rhythm.

It's hard to say, for that matter, that Sheridan and the departed Steven Threet ever truly got a chance to showcase themselves with an offensive line in disarray.

Were they the long-term answers? No. Could they have been better with experienced blockers? Almost certainly.

Either way, U-M never developed cohesiveness on offense. The Wolverines triaged each situation as best as possible and moved along down the schedule.

Now?

"Some of the guys have come up to us," Rodriguez said. "They've been throwing on their own. They've been commenting, not just on Tate, but on how the timing has seemed to be pretty good. There's a recollection on some of the fundamentals and the routes."

Now, there's time to teach those fundamentals. Now, Rodriguez has two recruiting classes in uniform. Now, he has his quarterback.

It's only March. The hope-springs-eternal statements can be shelved for another day. But, it's fair to think there's now a foundation in place, and come Saturday morning, Rodriguez can finally start building in earnest.

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Inkster QB Devin Gardner picks Michigan

Michigan received a verbal commitment from Inkster junior quarterback Devin Gardner late Wednesday. Gardner is 6-foot-3 and weighs 185 pounds. He was named to The Detroit News all-state first team after leading Inkster to the Division 3 final.

"I was surprised," Inkster coach Greg Carter said. "I thought it would be a last-minute thing. He told me he wanted his mom (Marlene McClellan) to be a part of his football experience. He knows what a Michigan education can do for him in this area when he's done playing. That's the type of conversation I had with Cam (Cameron Gordon)."

Gordon is a senior receiver/defensive back at Inkster who signed with Michigan last month.

Gardner also received offers from Michigan State, LSU, Baylor, Purdue, Iowa and Kansas.

Gardner's strength is his ability to run the ball. Last season he completed 98 of 170 passes for 1,886 yards, 26 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He had 115 carries for 1,401 yards and 22 touchdowns.

"We know he can run the ball," Carter said. "We have to work with him in his delivery throwing the ball.

"I'm excited for him as long as he made the decision himself. His mom is his biggest fan. She goes to all of his basketball games."

Gardner also starts on the basketball team, which will play Dearborn Heights Robichaud in a Class B district final Friday at 7 p.m. at Dearborn Divine Child.

Should be at least a 4* Dual Threat QB, IMO.

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There's one more QB to consider

ANN ARBOR — Michigan had three quarterbacks taking reps during the first spring practice, but a fourth player will be added to the competition this summer. Dual-threat quarterback commitment Denard Robinson didn’t enroll early, but Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez expects him to be in the mix this fall.

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“I’m sure he’ll dive right in with the other quarterbacks and learn the system,” Rodriguez said. “He’ll be a little behind the other guys because he didn’t go through spring ball. But at the same time, he’s a pretty sharp guy. I think he’ll learn pretty quickly and be right there in the mix.”

David Cone, Tate Forcier and Nick Sheridan are the only three quarterbacks listed on the spring roster. Junior James Rogers, who is listed as a wide receiver, also worked with the quarterbacks during today’s practice.

Much expected from shifting O-Line

Rodriguez expects the offensive line to take a big step forward this season, with all five starters returning. But based on how the first unit lined up to start spring practice, they might not all be in the same position.

Stephen Schilling, who played right tackle last year, lined up at left guard. Perry Dorrestein was the right tackle and Mark Ortmann the left tackle. Center David Molk and right guard David Moosman retained their positions from last season.

Rodriguez said redshirt junior John Ferrara will continue to work on the offensive line. He was the second unit left guard during today’s practice.

Ferrara moved from defensive line to offensive line last fall when injuries necessitated the move. The offensive line is far deeper this year, while the defensive line is lacking in depth.

Cory Zirbel, who suffered a career-ending injury last season, helped coach the offensive line during the practice. He will be a student assistant coach this year.

Shaw held out, Mathews limited

Running back Michael Shaw wore a red jersey and did not participate in practice as he recovers from a sports hernia. Rodriguez said earlier this week that Shaw and linebacker Jonas Mouton (shoulder) would miss all of spring practice because of injuries.

Senior wide receiver Greg Mathews was one of a few players who wore green jerseys during practice. Green jerseys typically denote a player who is limited in practice.

The Night of Champions

Michigan held its second annual Night of Champions on Friday to wrap up winter conditioning. Defensive line coach Bruce Tall’s squad won the team title, which also included points accrued over the course of conditioning.

Redshirt junior offensive lineman Bryant Nowicki defended his title as egg eating champion.

“We had a dozen eggs this year, we increased it over 10, and he knocked them out pretty good,” Rodriguez said. “I wouldn’t want to be his roommate right now.”

The Night of Champions was also a chance for players to showcase their improvement in weight training. Rodriguez said over 250 personal records were set over the course of winter conditioning.

Quick hits

Redshirt sophomore Jared Van Slyke, the son of Tigers first-base coach Andy Van Slyke, has switched positions and will practice at safety this spring. Van Slyke, a walk-on, was originally working on the offense.

The seven early enrollees received their jersey numbers. Forcier and safety Vladimir Emilien will both wear No. 5, defensive tackle William Campbell No. 73, linebacker Brandin Hawthorne No. 7, safety Mike Jones 27, defensive end Anthony LaLota No. 90 and running back Vincent Smith No. 2.

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New faces, new season for U-M

QBs get reps in spring practice

Rich Rodriguez is positive his Michigan football team is ready to take a step forward this year, even if many of last year's questions remain.

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The Wolverines took the field Saturday for the first of 15 spring practices with uncertainty at quarterback and a new defensive coordinator -- just as they did in 2008.

With Steven Threet's decision to transfer, the competition to be the starting quarterback is wide open.

Redshirt junior Nick Sheridan, who started three games last season, took the first snap of the spring. True freshman Tate Forcier, an early enrollee, took about the same number of reps as Sheridan, primarily with the second team.

"We try to get everybody in spring a lot of reps, to evaluate and to teach," Rodriguez said. "I think at quarterback, we'll probably keep things pretty even with Tate and Nick and also David Cone, giving him a fair amount of reps as well."

Forcier looked comfortable during walkthroughs at the beginning of practice, though quarterbacks coach Rod Smith chided him at one point for not being loud enough calling out adjustments at the line.

Forcier is one of seven players who graduated high school a semester early to enroll at Michigan in January. Former Cass Tech standout defensive tackle Will Campbell is another.

Rodriguez said it would take the group a while to get up to the speed of college practices.

"Probably about half way through practice they'll realize, 'Geez, I'm not halfway done yet. I still have a lot of work to do,' " Rodriguez said. "But they've done an awful lot of work in the last seven weeks."

Another new member of the program going through his first practice was defensive coordinator Greg Robinson.

Robinson, a veteran NFL and college coach, was hired in January to replace Scott Shafer, who resigned in December.

"Coach Robinson and the defense, with their energy and some of the things we're doing, it will take a few days, but I expect them to be moving around pretty well," Rodriguez said.

Robinson was a vocal presence during his first practice, loudly reminding players that "the last two yards are the most important," and making sure they sprinted in for a quick pep talk at midfield.

Michigan practiced outdoors, under sunny skies in 40-degree temperatures. The Wolverines used a FieldTurf field next to the new indoor practice facility under construction.

Even though the weather and the practice field were reminiscent of late October, it was a day of going through the motions and working on fundamentals.

Though there was little on the line, everyone appeared to be happy to get spring practice under way. Now the focus is squarely on 2009, and last year's 3-9 record is officially in the rearview mirror.

"This kind of starts our first step in our road back to where we want our program to be," Rodriguez said.

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Michigan quarterback Tate Forcier looks to throw down field during his teams first spring practice on the outdoor practice on Saturday March 14, 2009. It was the first chance for the media to watch new quarterback Tate Forcier.

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Michigan head football coach Rich Rodriguez talks with the media before the start of his teams first spring practice on the outdoor practice field on Saturday March 14, 2009.

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Michigan head football coach Rich Rodriguez talks to his players before the start of his teams first spring practice on the outdoor practice field on Saturday March 14, 2009.

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Michigan linebacker Brandin Hawthorne goes through drills in his teams first spring practice.

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Michigan Safety Karl Tech goes through drills in his teams first spring practice.

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Michigan Linebackers Coach Jay Hopson gives instructions to his players during the teams first spring practice.

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Michigan Head Football Coach Rich Rodriguez talks with the media before the start of his teams first spring practice.

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Michigan Running Back Kevin Grady looks at the action going on elsewhere on the field.

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Michigan football player William Campbell a defensive tackle from Cass Tech in Detroit goes through warmup drills. It was the first chance for the media to watch highly touted Campbell, a defense tackle from Cass Tech in Detroit.

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Michigan Defensive Tackle William Campbell, from Cass Tech High School in Detroit, goes through warmup drills.

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Michigan Defensive Tackle William Campbell, from Cass Tech High School in Detroit, goes through warmup drills during the first spring practice.

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New Defensive Coordinator Greg Robinson checks on his players stretching during their first spring practice.

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Michigan quarterback Tate Forcier hands off to running back Vincent Smith during his teams first spring practice.

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Michigan quarterback Tate Forcier takes some of his first snaps from Tim McAvoy to hand off to running back Vincent Smith during his teams first spring practice.

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Michigan quarterback Tate Forcier hands off to running back Carlos Brown during his teams first spring practice.

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Michigan quarterback Tate Forcier yells out the play as Tim McAvoy prepares to snap the football during the teams first spring practice.

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Michigan running back Vincent Smith participates in his first spring practice.

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Michigan quarterback Nick Sheridan scrambles out of the pocket during his teams first spring practice.

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Michigan Quarterback Tate Forcier throws down field during his teams first spring practice.

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Michigan quarterback Tate Forcier throws down field during his teams first spring practice.

:D :D :D :D :D

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Robinson keeping tabs on Michigan QB race

Michigan fans everywhere are itching for any morsels of information about the team's ongoing quarterback competition, and no one is more captivated than a certain high school senior in Deerfield Beach, Fla.

As Nick Sheridan, Tate Forcier and David Cone compete for the top job in spring practice, a fourth candidate is monitoring the Ann Arbor arms race from afar.

"I'm always keeping an eye on what's going on up there," Denard Robinson said.

Robinson is finishing his senior year at Deerfield Beach High School, where he starred as a quarterback and cornerback. He expects to join his new teammates at Michigan immediately after graduation.

Although the other three quarterbacks get a head start in the competition this spring, coach Rich Rodriguez has no plans to name a starter until well into preseason camp. Robinson will arrive a bit late to the party, but his pedigree and skill set might put him in the spotlight very soon.

If fellow true freshman Forcier doesn't create some distance with a strong spring, Robinson could close the gap in a hurry.

"The whole time, they've been telling me the same thing," Robinson said, "that I have a real good chance to contend."

For now, he remains clued into the competition through Wolverines quarterbacks coach Rod Smith, with whom he talks every other day, and Michigan slot receiver Justin Feagin, a fellow Floridian who started off as a quarterback last year before making the switch. Smith updated Robinson on Michigan's first spring workouts when the two spoke Monday night.

"Going over it with coach already, I think I'll be able to catch up fast, real fast," Robinson said. "I'm just going up there to handle business."

Despite a smallish frame (6-foot, 180 pounds), Robinson boasts top-end speed and the ability to freelance with his feet, keeping plays alive and gashing defenses for big gains. He hopes his playmaking skills match those of quarterbacks like Shaun King and Pat White, who starred in Rodriguez's offense at Tulane and West Virginia.

Robinson kept close tabs on White the last few seasons.

"He had a pretty good, strong arm, but nobody really recognized it because he didn't have so many good receivers," Robinson said. "Me going to Michigan, they've got good receivers like [Greg] Mathews and [Martavious] Odoms, so it's going to be a good thing. Then we've got Je'Ron [stokes] coming in. I think I'm going to have a good receiving corps, and I could probably do better things than Pat White did because I have those wide receivers."

Robinson watched Michigan's offense sputter last season, as the Wolverines finished 109th nationally in total offense, 108th in passing and 99th in scoring. But he wasn't discouraged by what he saw.

Quite frankly, Robinson thought he could do better than the men taking snaps in 2008.

Soon enough, he'll get the chance to prove it.

"I love competition," he said. "That's what I live for. That's why I play the game of football, for competition. I guess it boosts my confidence. It makes me play better."

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Minor looking at major duty

Brandon Minor entered spring practice healthy and conditioned.

Minor likely will be expected this fall to pick up where he left off last season -- as Michigan's primary running back.

"He's in great shape," Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez said. "Last year, he played with one wrist. The other wrist was hurting, so he carried the ball in one hand. That's healthier now, and that's a good thing.

"Brandon loves working out and loves football. I think he's focused. We'll see."

Rodriguez said Carlos Brown, who has been nagged by injuries throughout his career, also is healthy and in shape.

"Those are two veteran guys that have had great offseasons," Rodriguez said. "It looks like they are in great shape. We'll see how that carries over."

Minor took over the starting job last season against Penn State. He finished with 533 yards on 103 carries (5.2 avg.). Freshman Sam McGuffie, who started six games, has transferred, and freshman Michael Shaw, a solid contributor last season, is missing practice while he recovers from a sports hernia.

Along with Brown, Kevin Grady also is in the mix at tailback.

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Ex-players to gather for flag football before U-M spring game

In hopes of enhancing Michigan’s annual spring football game, the athletic department will offer additional activities this year, including a flag football game featuring former U-M players.

The hour-long event, scheduled to start at 10 a.m. April 11 at Michigan Stadium, will feature former U-M head coach Gary Moeller coaching the maize squad and longtime assistant Jerry Hanlon coaching the blue team.

Following the contest, the 2009 crop of Wolverines will take the field for their spring performance at noon.

A few weeks ago, coach Rich Rodriguez casually mentioned his interest in breaking the national spring game attendance record — believed to be 92,138 fans at Alabama’s 2007 spring football game.

“I hope that a large crowd will show up April 11 and help us break the Michigan spring game record for attendance,” Rodriguez said. “We are real excited that our former players are interested in playing a flag football game. That alumni contest and the promotions associated with the spring game plus the other sporting events on campus should make for a fun Saturday."

The band, cheerleaders and dance team will be involved as well, all a major step up from last year's rain-soaked, limited event at Saline High School.

The alumni game roster will be posted on mgoblue.com in the coming weeks.

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Yeah that's funny. People want to all of a sudden pretend like they give a crap about gymnastics. It's amazing what massive underachievement in football can do to fans. It makes them suddenly believe that things like college baseball and gymnastics and golf and volleyball actually matter.

Again you speak and you don't know what you are talking about.. UGA won the SEC in 2005 and many were talking about gymnastics with another national championship. I know you are not a fan of florida. You are a fan of their football and basketball team. Since you haven't gone to the university you root for them in two sports, but you odn't root for or care about your university.. those who do and who root for their university do so regardless of the sport because they are a fan of where they went to school. when you do go to college maybe you will learn that. :rolleyes: Your smacktalk is lame. You would actually think you were a fan of a team that won something.. you are acting like a fan who hasn't figured that out yet. It's also very obvious you have never been to a gym dawgs meet. They are some of the most trained and dedicated athletes at any university not to mention they look awesome and the competition is fierce..

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