Big Ten: Rudyard Kipling

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez opened his news conference Monday afternoon by clarifying the status of running back Kevin Grady, who remains suspended for games but can now practice with the team. Rodriguez also addressed several other topics following the Wolverines' first workout, including the quarterback candidates, his first look at several freshmen and Michigan cracking the preseason coaches' poll.

Let's take a look:

  • Rodriguez seemed satisfied with the quarterback play Monday and highlighted the performance of sophomore Nick Sheridan. But the competition for the starting spot is far from over and could stretch well into the season. Sheridan and redshirt freshman Steven Threet emerged as the frontrunners after spring ball, and fleet-footed freshman Justin Feagin joined the mix Monday.
"I hope that we have at least two that we feel we can win with, that's the goal," Rodriguez said. "Not so much just finding a starter as finding two that we feel we can win with."
Both Threet and Sheridan said they felt more comfortable running the system Monday after a rocky spring. Michigan spends the first few practices reviewing the portions of the scheme installed this spring before moving on to new plays and formations.
Sheridan came away happy with his performance but admitted he's "nowhere near ready to play."
"It wasn't a walk in the park," Threet said.
  • With so many questions on the offensive depth chart, Monday's most encouraging sign could have been the performance of the freshman skill players. Rodriguez came away pleased with what he saw from several slot receivers, namely Martavious Odoms and Terrance Robinson, two players who also impressed Sheridan.
Running backs Michael Cox, Sam McGuffie and Michael Shaw also got in some good work. Several of those players will audition as punt and kickoff returners.
"Our goal in recruiting this class was to improve our skill, in particular because of all the formations we like to do in the spread," Rodriguez said. "I think we did that with these guys. ... They're pretty intelligent guys as well, which is something you don't know for sure, until you put in a system, how quickly they can pick it up."
How quickly Feagin picks up the offense likely will determine when he sees the field this fall. The freshman likely has the most speed of the four candidates, but the other three benefited from going through spring practice.
"He tries to learn a lot, he asks questions, he's a good kid," Sheridan said of Feagin. "He's a freshman, so he's swimming a little bit, particularly at this position, but so far, so good."
  • Glad to see I'm not the only one who shares this opinion about preseason rankings and Michigan's inclusion in the coaches' poll. Rodriguez doesn't think too much of his team cracking the rankings.
"Who cares?" Rodriguez said. "If it gets the fans excited, but we already sold our tickets, I think. Sometimes if you're not used to that and your team's ranked high, it sells a few more tickets. That's good, rah, rah. ... It's fun for everybody to write about an opinionate about, whatever, but they shouldn't probably even take a poll till October. The reason why we're probably ranked there -- because we lost a lot of players -- is because the reputation of Michigan, I assume."
  • Real men read poetry, and Michigan's defenders will continue to do so this season. In past seasons the Wolverines' starting defense convened the night before games and recited Rudyard Kipling's poem, "The Law for the Wolves."
Despite all the changes at Schembechler Hall this season with Rodriguez's arrival, Kipling's poem remains on the wall.
"That's such a great thing to have on defense, a great motto to have," senior cornerback Morgan Trent said. "It's been there since I've been here."
  • The practice field isn't the only place where Threet and Sheridan will be paired together. The quarterbacks are also roommates this summer, an arrangement that is working out well so far.
"He wasn't a snorer last night, so that was good," Sheridan said. "We're going to have to lower the temperature in the room. It was a little hot. He agreed, too. It sounded like he slept well. I was rolling around."
  • Rodriguez weighed in on the music blaring from a golf cart during the early portions of practice. "We'll see if anybody can dance," he joked, "You know that show, 'So you think you can dance.'"
The music is actually used to simulate crowd noise and create distractions for the offensive players, particularly the quarterbacks. Football administrative assistant Dusty Rutledge currently is in charge of the song selection, but Rodriguez plans to let the players make nominations.
  • Wide receiver Junior Hemmingway was limited in Monday's practice as he recovers from a high ankle sprain sustained during spring drills. Rodriguez expects Hemmingway to be at full strength in a few days. Rodriguez is doubtful that offensive lineman Elliott Mealer will be able to practice before the season. Mealer suffered a shoulder injury in a car accident that killed his father and his girlfriend last Christmas Eve.

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