Change is in the air in Ann Arbor this spring, but of all of the differences there is one that sticks out the most.
“Last year I can’t tell you how long we were out there (on the practice field), but this year we are out there for four hours,” DeVeon Smith said.
“Really you just got to make sure that you get your sleep. Sleep is the most important thing. I’ve learned that over the years, but this year I’ve really been trying to get all my sleep in and making sure I get enough food in me because these practices are kind of long. You’ve got to be ready to go out there for four hours and compete.”
Jim Harbaugh sets the competitive tone in practice, and his crew of assistants echoes that sentiment. That is certainly true of running backs coach Tyrone Wheatley, but within that competition he is nurturing an atmosphere of camaraderie.
“(Wheatley) doesn’t deal with us individually… he speaks to us all at once and makes sure that we all understand it at once," said Smith. “When we’re in the meeting room he is talking to not one of us, but all of us.”
“We’re competing every little thing right now. When it comes to learning the playbook and learning the passbook. The playbook, pass protection and run steps, but Coach Wheatley gives everybody a fair chance from walk-ons to the scholarship kids. So he’s giving everybody a fair opportunity to get on the field.”
That equal opportunity mantra has certainly contributed to the fast start in the rapport-building department between coach and players, but more than anything Wheatley’s personality has had the biggest impact.
“He’s a cool guy,” said Smith. "I actually talk to him a lot, on a personal level and football level. He’s a really good guy. We have our own chat. The running backs just crack jokes on each other. He just wants him to feel like we can trust him and go to him for anything. He’s a good guy.”
Harbaugh Hands On
Throughout his coaching career Jim Harbaugh has been known to get in on the action in practice with his players. He has continued to do so at Michigan.
“He’s definitely hands on,” Smith said of his new coach. “There was this one practice where he literally laid on the ground and showed the center how to snap the ball. He’s very hands on person when it comes to that. He even shows the running backs our steps making sure that we understand our footwork and make sure we have our pass blocking down.”
“When I first saw it I was kind of like, ‘why is he on the ground doing this?’ Actually day one, he helped the center and I asked the center if that helped them and all the centers said they really thought that was the first time they had a hands on experience where the coach got on the ground and showed them how to snap the ball. They said it helped it out.”
Next Man Up
Redshirt junior Jack Miler surprised coaches and players alike with his decision to leave the football team last week, but the Wolverines have managed to seamlessly turned the age.
“Graham Glasgow has stepped up tremendously and I commend him for that in taking over that role. Jack Miller is a great offensive lineman center and I’m going to support him no matter what he is going to do. He will always support me.”