Michigan head coach Brady Hoke wouldn't heap too much praise on his team with just ten days remaining before the season opener against Alabama. However up to this point, Hoke sees the right things happening on the practice field with the team appearing eager to go against someone else.
"This is our 19th practice today," said Hoke. "I think you can tell it's the 19th practice in some good ways and some ways that they're starting to get tired of punching each other, hitting each other and all those things that go along with preparing for football. That's the good thing about it. I think we're making some progress on a daily basis when you look at where we're at as a football team."
Part of the progression the Wolverines are hoping speeds up is the development of inexperience both offensively and defensively. With several freshmen sure to be in the two deep and contribute right away, specifically up front, the coaches are working to get them ready.
"Where we're at," said Hoke, "with trying to bring some guys who haven't played much football at Michigan—we've got that on the defensive front and a little bit on the offensive front—who haven't played in games really. That's coming along. It's a little bit of a process to make sure that we're getting all we can out of them without going over the edge too far. I think we're making progress. I like how they've come to work everyday and I'm happy, somewhat, where we're at."
Mealer standing out
The battle for the starting left guard spot seems to have taken a positive turn with the emergence of fifth year senior and feel good story Elliott Mealer.
"I think Elliott Mealers really done a nice job," said Hoke. "I think right now if we were playing tomorrow he would be the guy. Joey's competing but I think Elliott really—and you love to see it about a guy who's a senior. His work ethic, his leadership and I think the maturation process. I'm really excited for Elliott as much as anything else and then for our football team."
For Mealer the difference in the eyes of the coaches lays in the mindset the fifth year senior has displayed throughout camp.
"I think he's playing faster," said Hoke. "I think he's playing with a better technique. I think when you look at pad level and those things and I think he's finishing things better. I really believe we think its more confidence. He's got his confidence level at a high level."
Hoke updates injury statuses
After news of freshman defensive tackle Ondre Pipkins neck injury broke Friday morning, Hoke addressed the status of the massive man in the middle of Michigan's defense.
"He's fine," said Hoke. "Our medical staff here did a phenomenal job of taking the right precautions and all of that. He's back in full pads practicing and doing everything."
As it turns out, Hoke, who often assists in coaching defensive linemen in practice, was monitoring Pipkins closely in a routine drill when the injury occurred.
"I was there, and you didn't think it was going to be real bad but you're not sure," said Hoke. "It was my drill. It was just a one on one drill."
Another Wolverine working his way back to practice is Michigan senior wide receiver Roy Roundtree who is making a quicker recovery than initially expected.
"He's close," said Hoke. "He's way ahead. I shouldn't say that ‘cause that sounds like I really know and I'm a doctor. He's progressing very nicely."
Asked whether or not he believes Roundtree will be ready for the September 1st opener with Alabama, Hoke couldn't give a definitive answer.
"I don't want to speculate on that," said Hoke. "He's running. I've seen him running, and he was in full pads today, just doing stuff with the trainers and those people."
Wolverines headed to Ford Field
As Michigan prepares to head to Dallas Cowboys Stadium for their nationally televised, primetime match-up with Alabama, Hoke and the Wolverines will take a little road trip down I-94 Wednesday, practicing inside a somewhat similar atmosphere.
"Well we're going to Ford Field tomorrow night," said Hoke. "We're going to go down there and change the environment up a little bit. Change it up a little bit. I think its good for us and have some distractions that are built in when you do that."
"We'll practice with some situational two minutes," Hoke continued. "Put the high pressure stuff on them and see if they can stay focused."
Not only will the Wolverines head to Detroit in order to prepare for the atmosphere and hoopla that will be surrounding the team in Dallas, the coaches have already been adding as many distractions as possible on their own practice field.
"We've been doing some crowd noise or whatever, music," said Hoke. "I think AC/DC was on when we did some first down stuff, so we're going to do that."
To watch video of Hoke's press conference Tuesday evening, click play below.