Wolverines gear up for conference play

ANN ARBOR — As he stood at the podium on his first day as Michigan coach in January, Brady Hoke insisted the Big Ten championship was his goal, every year.

The Wolverines open conference play this week against Minnesota with the revival of the Little Brown Jug game.

“I would imagine the intensity’s going to pick up,” U-M defensive lineman Ryan Van Bergen said. “We’ve had some pretty intense practices, but the way Coach Hoke keeps talking, even talking through fall camp and even these four weeks, it’s always been about the Big Ten. Everything is in comparison to the Big Ten.

“We have to play better or we won’t be able to compete against the Big Ten. We have to be better up front or we won’t be able to play in the Big Ten. The Big Ten standard is higher than any other expectation. In order for us to be competitive in the Big Ten the way Coach Hoke wants us to be, we better step it up.”

Although that has long been the standard at U-M, the team had a combined 6-12 Big Ten record the past three years.

“We want to be Big Ten champions,” Van Bergen said. “We’ve started off 4-0 nonconference schedule. But to come out with a strong showing, that’s a big showing to us. I can tell you a lot of guys in the locker room are really excited to get into the Big Ten season and see what we’re really about.”

Michigan coach Brady Hoke gave a personnel update for this week’s game against Minnesota, with no real changes from Saturday’s win over San Diego State.

The most significant change might come at punter, as last year’s starter, Will Hagerup, returns from his four-game suspension.

Freshman Matt Wile has filled in for him and improved week by week. He drew praise from Hoke for his performance against the Aztecs.

“They’ll compete,” Hoke said Monday. “We’re going to compete in everything we do. That’s the important part of your development as a program, and that’s how you improve as a program.”

Hagerup was suspended for undisclosed reasons. Hoke was asked whether Hagerup has a different attitude.

“We all grow up, we all mature in life and everything else,” Hoke said. “He’s done a nice job of coaching Matt and helping Matt.”

Cornerback Troy Woolfolk, who left Saturday with an ankle injury, practiced and did everything the rest of the team did Sunday.

Left guard Ricky Barnum remains uncertain with his ankle injury. Hoke said “he’s sore.”

Linebacker Cam Gordon didn’t play for the fourth straight game because of his back, and Hoke said “he’s just not 100 percent yet.”

Running back Justice Hayes missed the San Diego State game with “a bump” but will be fine, Hoke said.


Posted by Tribune News Services

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