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October 01, 2013 - Image 7

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The Michigan Daily, 2013-10-01

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Tuesday, October 1, 2013 - 7

Is solid secondary enough?

Wolverines need
revamped run game

By EVERETT COOK
Daily Sports Editor
Throughout his Monday press
conference, Michigan coach
Brady Hoke answered questions
about the struggling or inconsis-
tent groups on his football team.
He fielded questions about the
' Wolverines' offensive and defen-
sive lines, the running backs and
quarterback Devin Gardner.
He also answered questions
about the secondary, which is
different than those other units.
The group isn't exactly strug-
gling, but it isn't exactly blowing
anyone away, either.
It's not like the offensive line,
which has clear issues on the
interior, or the defensive line,
which has been inconsistent in
its pass rush.
It's solid. But what do you do
about solid? Can you do anything
about solid?
"I think we need to get a little
better from a run-support stand-
point first," Hoke said. "And
then we've got to get a little bet-
ter when you look at some of the
coverage aspects, the concepts a
little bit at times. I think there
was some real ground we could
gain, and I think we did. Last
week was great for us, and then
some of the fundamental stuff."
Through four games, Michi-
gan has defended an astounding
162 passes, more than all but 12
Division I teams. That number
gets more interesting when con-
sidering the quality of the oppo-
nents the Wolverines have faced.
Notre Dame attempted 53 pass-
es. Akron, 49. UConn, 32.
And while Michigan has
done a fine job against those 162
attempts - allowing just over
50 percent of those passes to be
completed - teams wouldn't be
attacking the secondary unless
they saw gaps on film.
The young unit has been a
revolving door of personnel.
Senior defensive back Courtney

PAUL SHERMAN/Daily
Redshirt sophomore defensive back Blake Countess leads Michigan in interceptions with three on the year.
Avery started the season off as been moved inside to the nickel Huskies had a fourth-and-29
the starting free safety before cornerback position when the from their own 33-yard line.
needing arthroscopic knee sur- Wolverines bring an extra defen- They needed a miracle to con-
gery prior to the Notre Dame sive back on the field. vert.
game. Since his return, he's The only defensive back who UConn wide receiver Deshon
moved back and forth from cor- has been in one place for most of Foxx ran a simple post route
nerback, bumped from the safety the year is Thomas Gordon, and down the middle of Michigan's
position by sophomore Jarrod even he missed the first game secondary for a 26-yard comple-
Wilson, who has seen a signifi- of the year with a suspension. tion. Michigan was a missed
cant increase in playing time Besides the fifth-year senior, tackle away from a massive
over the last month. every other back has been rotat- fourth-down conversion given
Avery has also been fighting ing all over the field. up with the game on the line.
for playing time with junior Ray- So it begs the question, is the On the other side of the field,
mon Taylor, who has been beat play from Michigan's defensive toward Michigan's sideline,
by deep balls several times. backs so strong that no one's job Avery had been beaten over the
"Courtney coming off the is safe, or is it so weak that every- top on a straight-up fly route.
knee, I think they'll both com- one has an opportunity to earn One flick of the wrist in the other
pete," Hoke said. "And that playing time? direction from the quarterback
doesn't mean (redshirt sopho- At times, it looks like the for- and it would have easily been a
more cornerback Blake Count- mer, but at times against UConn, first down, maybe even a bigger
ess) is not competing. I think it looked like the latter. gain than that.
they all are. Courtney coming There are desperate situa- For the most part, the second-
off the knee we thought looked tions, and then there is the con- ary has done its job so far, but
pretty sharp." version UConn had to complete with Big Ten competition and
The situation has been so in Michigan's last defensive play better quarterbacks on the hori-
undetermined that Michigan's two weeks ago. Down three with zon, maybe that isn't going to be
best cornerback, Countess, has less than two minutes to go, the enough.

By LIZ VUKELICH
Daily Sports Editor
At this point in the Michigan
football season, it's no secret that
the Wolverines have struggled on
offense, in large part due to all the
turnovers from redshirt junior
quarterback Devin Gardner.
Michigan N
coach Brady NOTEBOOK
Hoke has
preached Gardner's faults are
as much his own as the team's.
And in that same spirit, he now
believes the best way to reduce
Gardner's turnovers may be as
simple as establishing a dominant
ground game.
"Us running the football, that's
part of it," Hoke said. "Taking
some of the pressure off of him to
do everything."
Fifth-year senior running back
Fitzgerald Toussaint has car-
ried the bulk of the load for the
Wolverines, rushing for an aver-
age of almost 80 yards per game.
Gardner may be the backbone of
the offense, but when he has diffi-
culty, the Wolverines have to look
to the rest of the backs for produc-
tion. Part of the reason the Wol-
verines struggled during the first
half of the Akron and Connecticut
games was because the offensive
line couldn't open enough holes
for Toussaint.
Hoke has talked all season
about getting some of the other
running backs - freshmen Der-
rick Green and De'Veon Smith
and junior Thomas Rawls - more
reps during games, but so far, that
trio has played sparingly. Green
has gained the most rushing
yards of the other tailbacks, but
that's still just 60 yards total -
58 of them came against Central
Michigan.
Hoke has minimized the num-
ber of Toussaint's reps in practice

recently and wants it to translate
into a more well-rounded ground
game.
"We would love to (lessen
Toussaint's load)," Hoke said. "I
think it gives him where he can be
fresh, and I think it gives another
guy an opportunity, who's a little
different than what Fitz is."
CHANGE AT CENTER: With
the bye sandwiched between the
Connecticutgame and Michigan's
Big Ten opener against Minne-
sota, there was some speculation
that Hoke would use that time to
change up the interior line that
has struggled lately.
But as of Monday, there was
still no change in the lineup -
Hoke said the coaching staff
won't have a decision of what it
wants to do with the group until
after Tuesday's practice.
"We wouldn't have a problem
making a change if that's what we
deem we want to do," Hoke said.
"I think we're at the point where
we want to make sure (of our deci-
sion), so one more day isn't going
to hurt us."
The biggest change would
come at center. Hoke is flirting
with the idea of moving redshirt
sophomore left guard Graham
Glasgow over to replace redshirt
sophomore Jack Miller at center.
Then, either redshirt sophomore
Chris Bryant or redshirt junior
Joey Burzynski would fill in for
Glasgow at guard.
A RESTFUL BYE: After Con-
necticut, Hoke said Gardner was a
little banged up. When Michigan
returned to practice last week,
though, it was nothing to be con-
cerned about.
"We went out (last) Tuesday,
and (Gardner) didn't look sore,"
Hoke said. "He may be doing a
good job acting because he knows
there are lot of guys who are sore
out there. It's just part of it."

'Michigan's 12th man on the field

By JUSTIN STERN
For theDaily
For Michigan freshman defen-
seman Lars Eckenrode, moti-
vation to take the pitch doesn't
come from a game-winning shot
or a goal-saving tackle. It doesn't
come from one day drawing cor-
porate sponsors on clothing or
the prospects of a professional
career.
For Eckenrode, the fire with-
in isn't stirred by something so
materialistic. For him, takingthe
field is about honoring a fallen
friend. It's about remembering
one moment in high school that
not only motivated him as he
continued his soccer career, but
also made him into the man he is
today.
In March 2012, Eckenrode's
classmates at West Springfield
(Va.) High School were struck
with tragedy.
Football player Jordan Trun-
fio was diagnosed with a brain
tumor that would later take his
life.
"I first found out when (the
quarterback of the football team)
had just told me, 'Jordan was
diagnosed with brain cancer
and they don't know how long he
has,' " Eckenrode said. "My ini-
tial reaction was being horrified,
because how often do you hear of
an 18-year-old being diagnosed
with cancer? Especially for it to
be someone that I know and who
went to the same school as me,
it's hard."
Whether it was the quick
glances in the weight room or
making each other laugh dur-
ing class in a school of 2,285
students, the two became very
familiar with one another and
formed a unique friendship.
"Jordan wasn't one of my
closest friends, but everyone
at school knew him because he
was a fantastic football player,"
Eckenrode said. "I put myself in
1 his position and thought, 'What
would I want from the people
around me if I was in this situa-
tion?'"
Once treatment started, Eck-
enrode was unaware of the hos-

around each other and sang
Jordan's favorite song - Don
McLean's American Pie. Before
long, the audience joined in and
the entire gym served as final
tribute to Jordan.
Students, parents, and com-
munity members shed tears,
unable to hold back their emo-
tions.
"It was possibly the single-
most saddest moment of my life,"
Eckenrode said.
Eckenrode also planned a
charity carwash with the help
of the football staff, which also
raised around $12,000.
Even though Jordan lived lon-
ger than doctors anticipated, the
tumor took his life on June 6th,
two months before Eckenrode
began his journey in Ann Arbor.
"He showed me that attitude
and being strong really matters,"
Eckenrode said. "Never make
excuses. Sometimes people think
they are having tough times, but
in reality, it is nothing compared
to what he went through."
Jordan Trunfio passed away
holding a pendant with the Bible
verse of John 3:16 written on it.
In honor of Jordan's memory,
Eckenrode and his fellow high-
school friends wear the verse on
a necklace every day.
As Eckenrode heads to the
locker room to change into his
uniform before every match,
he is required to take off this
jewelry, per NCAA regulations.
However, Eckenrode wears a
wristband with No. 58 (Jordan's
football number) and a grey rib-
bon printed to support the Amer-
ican Brain Tumor Association.
And now, whenever Ecken-
rode runs onto the field, Jordan
runs with him.
"Jordan's story made me real-
ize that life can go before you in
the blink of an eye," Eckenrode
said. "You never know what you
are going to lose and how you are
going to lose them. We all need
to cherish the people we have in
our life and be grateful for them
because you never know when
they are going to go."
That's all the motivation Eck-
enrode needs.

PAUL SHERMAN/Daily
Freshman defender Lars Eckenrode was a four-star prospect out of high school
and is seen as a big factor in the Wolverines'future plans.
pital's visitation rules until his he would yell out, 'Hey Lars!' "
friend made him aware that he Eckenrode said. "Just hearing
was able to how happy he
visit. was to see me, I
What start- "W hat would I said to myself,
ed off as a few 'I have to do
weekly visits w ant from the everything I
to the hospi- can to help him
tal turned into people around out."'
daily rituals, rEckenrode
like feeding me. " began to lend
Jordan Fruity an even bigger
Pebbles or buy- hand toward
ing milk for his the end of his
dad. senior year. He organized a char-
"When I visited the hospital, ity basketball game played at his

COURTESY oFT LARS ECKENRODE
Jordan Trunfio passed away earlier this year from a brain tumor but not before
becoming an inspiration for an entire community, including Eckenrode,
high school to help pay for Trun- gym so full," Eckenrode said.
fio's medical bills. The event "The students took up one half
raised nearly of the gym,
$12,000. and families
A few days " Nothi g from around
before the ' " the community
game, Ecken- compared to gathered in
rode and his the other half.
friends printed what he went I was shocked
out flyers and at the amount
placed them through." of people that
around local came."
businesses to As the game
raise aware- ended, all of
ness and ask for donations. the participants gathered at
"I have never seen the school half court. They put their arms

is

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