DETROIT -- When Thomas Wilcher made the move from Detroit Central High School to the University of Michigan as a football player, the biggest challenges for him were in the weight room and learning the speed of the game.
So when he became the coach at Detroit Cass Tech, he worked to make sure his players would be more ready in both of those aspects when they made the same jump. With five players on last year's Michigan team and three Wolverines commits in the 2013 class -- David Dawson, Jourdan Lewis and Delano Hill -- it seems to be working.
Now, he has moved on to helping them with what he believes will be their next biggest hurdle: avoiding complacency. He knows that with the increased attention on recruits and top classes in the nation, players might feel like they don't need to do as much to really be ready.
"The most important thing is teaching them to compete and stay on top of their training," Wilcher said. "You can't slack off in the offseason. Now is when you work hard. Don't slack off and go there being nobody. Be somebody."
He does his best to build that competition on a daily basis between his players, pushing them as hard as if they were returning to his own team next fall. He pits them against one another in drills and is working with them on setting goals, knowing that come June they're moving down 1-94 to Ann Arbor.
"When he sees you slacking or not working hard, he will tell you to pick it up," Hill said. "He can be strict sometimes. He still tells us we haven't done anything yet -- to motivate us."
Wilcher calls them and asks where they are if they don't show up in the gym or weight room every day. He calls their parents if they miss an opportunity to do one-on-ones or drills. He still checks in with their teachers on grades and classroom participation, knowing all of these aspects are what will help them excel at Michigan.
He encourages his players to get as much into game film as they can and constantly improve their technique, and all three current commits have responded well so far.
Lewis, who works with a personal trainer in addition to his time with Wilcher, also has reached out to freshman cornerback and former Technician Terry Richardson to see what he could do to be even more prepared for fall camp. Richardson told Lewis to be mentally prepared and ready to learn.
Richardson echoed all the sentiments of Wilcher, repeating Brady Hoke's common "expectation for a position" phrase. Lewis has taken Richardon and Wilcher's words to heart and with Wilcher there every day to push him, he appreciates all the input his coach might have.
"He knows how we have a short time until college is here," Lewis said.
And while five months might seem like a lot of time to most 17-year-olds, Dawson, Hill and Lewis know that it can be measured in pounds and tenths of seconds, so time is ticking and goals have to be attained.
Dawson, who suffered a foot injury during the season, is rehabbing and getting back to running and jumping. Lewis is working to gain weight. And Hill, who will compete for the Cass Tech track team this season, is trying to gain speed and quickness.
Whenever he can, Wilcher reminds Hill that someone is faster, Lewis that someone is stronger, Dawson that someone is working harder. Keeping that competitive edge is key, and Wilcher wants his players to go to Ann Arbor with that.
"I keep it real with them -- this is what you have to do; this is what your game lacks," Wilcher said. "We fuss at them, scream at them, we yell at them. … We're trying to keep them accountable."