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September 11, 2012 - Image 5

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9 The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - 5

'Babysitter' Hoke tempers praise for freshmen

Michigan has played
12 freshmen, more
than Hoke has ever
played in career
By ZACH HELFAND
Daily Sports Editor
Devin Funcheas baffled the Air
Force defenae on Saturday, blow-
ing past the bigger defenders with
apeed, outmuscling the smaller
onea with size and electrify-
.* ing everyone else with a perfor-
mance well beyond his status aa
a freshman. He wowed everyone,
it seemed, except for Michigan
coach Brady Hoke.
"It looked like he played a good
game," Hoke said on Saturday.
"Can you expound?" one
reporter asked.
"He was productive," Hoke
said with a smirk, and that was
that.
The notoriously, tight-lipped
Hoke is not one to ramble, hut he
was particularly reserved when
speaking about Funchess, or
about the rest of his freshmen for
that matter. And for good reason:
Michigan's reliance on the fresh-
man class -12 have played so far
this year, with many playing sig-
nificant minutes - threatens to
undermine Hoke's philosophy of
leading through his seniors. On
Monday, Hoke said he has never
coached a team that played more
freshmen than this year.
Hoke preaches often about
the importance of seniors, and
he uses the eldest members of

t was another freshman lineback-
,,w; er, James Ross III, who was there.
After the game, one reporter
fgasked Hoke what Bolden and Ross
had proved against Air Force and
what they needed to improve on.
Hoke skipped the first part of that
"thnk the second part of the
question, there's a lotethey need to
w get better at," Hoke said. "From
drops and coverages to footwork,
all those things."
Of course, Hoke's apparent
cynicism is tempered by experi-
ence. After the opener against
Alabama, Hoke said the team had
to "babysit" freshmen on their
first road trip, and mocked that
they had to get "on a big boy jet"
and play "in a big boy stadium
with a big boy team."
"Redahirt junior safety Thomas
Godnsaid he places a premium
on communication when several
freshmen are in the game. The
college game can overwhelm.
"Those young guys being in the
stadium for the first time, they get
them deer eyes," Gordon said.
Funchess' immaturity didn't
show on the field, but off it he
a looked the part of the freshman.
TODD NEEDLE/Daily Speaking to the media for the
first time after a game, Funchess
fidgeted and slumped forward,
has been reluctant to heap praise his answers nervously robotic.
on his freshman despite their One reporter jokingly addressed
impact on the team. Funchess, who was paired up
On Saturday, freshman line- with junior receiver Devin Gard-
backer Joe Bolden snuffed out ner during the press conference,
a fake field-goal attempt from simply as, "Devin."
Michigan's three-yard line late "Which Devin?" Funchess
in the third quarter. Later, when asked earnestly. He didn't miss
Michigan needed abigacop on the much on Saturday, but he had
Falcons' second-to-last drive, it missed the joke.

Freshman tight end Devin Funchess made four catches tsr 106 yards and a touchdown against Air Force on Saturday.

the team as vehicles for his own
coaching values. The seniors,
unlike other classes, participate
in leadership seminars, and Hoke
took the seniors alone to train
with Navy SEALs in California
over the summer. When redshirt
senior lineman Elliott Mealer
addressed the media on Monday,
he wore ablue polo with a winged

helmet on the right breast and
"TEAM 133" embroidered below.
Above: "SENIOR."
Yet the freshman class has
begun to assert itself. On the field,
that is not a bad thing; Michigan
recruited them for a reason. On
one play on Saturday, six Michi-
gan defenders were freshmen.
"This is Michigan. They come

to Michigan to play football, and
if they play well enough in prac-
tice and in workouts, they're
gonna play," said senior defen-
sive tackle Will Campbell. "It just
gives us more bullets to our gun."
But Hoke's senior-focused phi-
losophy doesn't work if the fresh-
men feel chey own the team, this
year or in the future, and so Hoke

Trio returns from World Cup
to headline Wolverine squad

Redshirt junior running back Fitzgerald Toussaint only managed seoen yards on eight rushing attempts no. Air Force.
Line takes blame for RBs

By BEN ESTES Mealer. "As an offensive lineman,
Daily Sports Editor you kind of have the luxury with
Denard that he makes plays...
For the Michigan football With the -running backs, that's
team's rushing attack, Saturday's completely on the offensive line.
performance against Air Force "It hink we improved a little bit
was something like Dr. Jekyll and this week form the first game, but
Mr. Hyde. we've got to get a lot better and
When the offensive line start playing Michigan football
blocked for senior quarterback like Michigan linemen should."
Denard Robinson, good things The subpar performance
happened - sometimes even against Alabama was probably
* ell goo things, like Robin- expected, even if Michigan coach
snstotuchdown runs of 79 Brady Hoke and his players won't
yards and 58 yards. But when ever admit it. Few teams are able
redshirt junior running back to run on the Crimson Tide with
Fitzgerald Toussaint got the ball, success - in fact, the Wolverines
he often found himself hounded didn't even try to use Robinson,
by defenders before he could even their best rushing threat, since
get to the hole - if there was even they didn'tcthink he would be able
one there. to do much with the way Alabama
It was a hardly a triumphant was defending him.
return to game action for Tous- But Michigan's inability to run
saint, who was suspended the against the Falcons was more
season opener against Alabama troubling. They don't have nearly
as punishment for driving while the talent that Alabama does, and
visibly impaired over the sum- they are undersized to boot.
mer. He gained just seven yards "Air Force has a really unique
on eight attempts, nowhere near defense," Mealer said. "Lot of
the 5.6 yards per carry he aver- confusion, t guess you could say.
aged last season. I thought we handled that well.
Toussaint's performance was That aspect of it, the mental part
only slightly worse than the run- of it I guess, getting guys where
ning backs' performance in that they need to be was good.
first game against the Crimson "But I just think we need to
Tide, when fifth-year senior be more downhill as an offensive
Vincent Smith and sophomore line, making obvious holes for
Thomas Rawls combined for 42 Fitz and playing Michigan offen-
__ yards on 20 attempts. sive line football."
V Who's to blame for this inabil- Though the line lost Riming-
ity to get the ground game - at ton Award-winning center Dave
least, the "non-Denard running Molk and right tackle Mark
game," as one reporter dubbed it Huyge from last year's team,
on Saturday - going? If you ask it was expected that the unit
the Wolverine offensive line, it wouldn't miss much of a beat.
takes full responsbility. Redshirt junior Michael Scho-
"That's something that's defi- field, who played well at guard
nitely on the offensive line, as last season, slid over to tackle, and
far as getting Fitz and the other the Wolverines had two veterans,
guys more rushing yards," said fifth-year senior left guard Ricky
fifth-year senior center Elliott Barnum and Mealer, replacing

the departed players.
But early returns are a bit trou-
bling, though Mealer has done
a solid job after switching spots
with Barnum and becoming the
full-time center. Redshirt junior
right tackle Taylor Lewan, a pre-
season All-America candidate
and a potential early entrant to
the NFL draft next spring, called
the line's performance "awful"
immediately after the game on
Saturday. After watching the
game film, he was less critical on
Monday, pointing to Robinson's
rushing totals.
But he echoed Healer's senti-
ments about needing to get better.
"My goal for the running back
is 150-plus yards every week,"
Lewan said. "That's my goal, per-
sonally, and the offensive line's.
Our stats are Denard's rushing
yards and our rushing yards.
Those are our stats, and we have
to take pride in that."
.The aspect of the line's per-
formance that may be a bit over-
looked is in the passing game,
and Lewan said he's pleased
with the way the line has pass
blocked. Michigan gave up one
sack against Alabama and none
against Air Force, with Robin-
son's mobility helping to ease
pressure concerns.
But the run blocking for the
backs will be a major focus this
week against Massachusetts,
and it will likely need tu be much
improved in order to beat Notre
Dame the week after.
"I don't know if I'm real con-
cerned at this time," Hoke said. "I
think one, I give (Air Force) a lot
of credit for what their plan was.
I chink as a group they're coming
together. I think we've got to be
more consistent and better at the
point of attack on some things,
but I'm not concerned yet."

By DYLAN McKENZIE
Daily Sports Writer
Fresh off their international
performances for their respective
home countries in the Under-20
women's World Cup in Japan, the
Michigan trio of junior forward
Nkem Ezurike, junior defender
Shelina Zadorsky and sophomore
midfielder Christina Murillo hope
the experience can carry over into
the collegiate season.
Ezurike and Zadorsky, who
competed for Canada, and
Murillo, who played for Mexi-
co, rejoined the Wolverines last
weekend during Michigan's road
trip to California. Despite feeling
the effects of jet-lag in their first
couple of games back, the three
players made it clear that they are
in a class of their own.
Michigan coach Greg Ryan,
who was the U.S. Women's
National Team head coach for
three years, believes that the time
spent overseas had a huge impact
on the growth of the three play-
ers.
"Christina Murillo is a prime
example," Ryan said. "She was
a very good player last year but
she's taken it three levels higher.
Honestly, I don't see many col-
lege players playing the way she is
right now."
The World Cup took enormous
amounts of extra training and
months of preparation for the trio
and has paid dividends, especially
for Murillo, who left Ann Arbor
after the first semester last year to
train with the Mexican national
team.
"The past six or seven months
have helped me improve on my
one-on-one skills and I think it
helped on my shooting abilities,"
Murillo said.
Ryan hopes that the trio's
improvement from the interna-
tional circuit will push them to
become clear-cut leaders. How-
ever, due to the three players'
absence from the team during
international play, Ryan expects
their teammates to carry them as
they transition back to playing for
Michigan.
"I expect the other players
to carry them in this transition
time," Ryan said. "They haven't
been training with us and some-
times aren't in sync with the
team."
Perhaps most important of all
is the fact that the initial taste of
the World Cup has made the trio
hungrier to get better in order

ADAM GLAsZMAN/Daily
Junior forward Nkem Ezurike is expected to he a major contributor this tall.

to try and make their respective
national squads in the next World
Cup.
"It was a phenomenal experi-
ence and a great honor to repre-
sent your country on the world
stage," said Zadorsky. "But I'm
going to keep working at iL."
If Sunday's game at Oakland
was any indication of things to
come, it is a great sign for the

team. Ezurike pressured Oak-
land's defense all day and the
lone goal was a difficult shot from
Murillo.
Zadorsky led the defense in a
shutout.
And there is no indication that
every game can't play out this way.
"Somewhere down the road,
these girls will carry us," Ryan
said.

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