ANN ARBOR — Three days may not tell Brady Hoke everything he needs to know about this year’s Michigan football team, but the fourth-year Wolverines coach can already tell a difference between last year and this year’s incoming team.
“The big difference, part of it is personnel and part of it is what we were able to do and what they did throughout the summer,” Hoke said Wednesday at Schembechler Hall. “That’s important.”
Three days into UM’s preseason camp, Hoke said players are embracing leadership roles, and a certain cohesiveness has been cultivated among the players after a disappointing 7-6 record in 2013.
This preseason will also bring one guaranteed change: more preseason exposure. The Wolverines will scrimmage at 8 p.m. on Aug. 16 at Michigan Stadium, a session that will be open to the public and will be split between practice and scrimmage reps. It’s also a unique move for a program that has historically kept its preparation under wraps.
"It's really healthy for our guys to get to play in front of people," Hoke said. "It's going to be a good thing for our players and the guys in this program and, hopefully, the Michigan faithful."
UM practiced Wednesday and today in shoulder pads and helmets, and will practice Friday in full pads. The Wolverines open the season Aug. 30 against Appalachian State at Michigan Stadium, then play at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 6 at Notre Dame. UM also plays 7 p.m. games on Oct. 4 at Rutgers and Oct. 11 against Penn State.
“With the mindset that they can have and how we'll go into [the scrimmage], a little bit of it will also be for night-game purposes,” Hoke said. “You want to at least be in a stadium a little bit before then.”
Hoke said redshirt sophomore running back Drake Johnson, junior defensive tackle Ondre Pipkins, and fifth-year senior offensive lineman Joey Burzynski are cleared to participate in preseason practices. All three suffered ACL tears last season: Johnson in the season opener against Central Michigan, Pipkins in October against Minnesota, and Burzynski in October against Indiana.
Jake Butt, a tight end who tore his ACL in off-season conditioning drills, has not been cleared to practice.
Hoke said sophomore strong safety Delano Hill is sidelined with a broken jaw. Hill is participating in conditioning but not in contact drills, and Hoke was uncertain of his status for the Aug. 30 season opener against Appalachian State.