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Published: 8/5/2008

UM sweating, feeling good

BY ZACH SILKA
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Michigan s Rich Rodriguez had a good time at his first practice. Michigan s Rich Rodriguez had a good time at his first practice.
TONY DING / AP Enlarge

ANN ARBOR - Terrance Taylor was still sweating profusely an hour after leaving the field.

Fellow defensive lineman Will Johnson already needed a change of shirts just minutes after changing and walking into the Commons at Schembechler Hall.

This was the aftermath as Michigan kicked off its first fall practice yesterday afternoon with coach Rich Rodriguez at the helm.

"It was intense," Johnson said. "It was a good first day. It was intense. It was hot, muggy. But we're all in good shape even though we're a little sweaty. Everybody's tired because we started working out at 8 in the morning lifting [weights]."

The Wolverines know now what to expect from Rodriguez and his emphasis on elite conditioning.

The day began early for the players in the weight room, followed by practice in the afternoon with Motown hits blaring from speakers to greet the players and conditioning drills at the end.

"I don't think I've ever ran more in my entire life," Michigan quarterback and Adrian graduate Steven Threet said.

What hasn't been decided and likely won't be until the season begins, if then, is the starting quarterback position.

Threet, a redshirt freshman, is locked in a battle with sophomore Nick Sheridan and true freshman Justin Feagin.

Rodriguez said he likely will opt to go with a two-man rotation at quarterback to begin the season but added it may not be decided until well after the Wolverines' opener against Utah on Aug. 30.

"It's going to be a competition that may continue to go throughout the season," Rodriguez said.

"I hope that we'll have at least two that we feel that we can win with. That's the goal. Not so much as finding a starter as finding two that we feel we can win with."

Rodriguez pointed to the week leading up to his team's matchup with the Utes as his target to settle on his two quarterbacks.

Sheridan and Threet appear to be the front runners so far, but Feagin isn't far behind.

"I thought Steve [Threet] did some good things today," Rodriguez said. "I thought Nick Sheridan had a really good day, and Justin Feagin showed a few things as well."

Sheridan and Threet, who are training camp roommates, spent the summer working out together and individually to speed their adjustment to Rodriguez's spread option offense.

"It's a competition, but being roommates that doesn't change anything," Sheridan said. "We're still normal guys and teammates, so it's not awkward at all."

Threet acknowledged the seriousness of the quarterback competition but said he also realizes the importance of all the quarterbacks working together to learn this new system.

"All of us are trying to do what we can to get on the field and play and show the coaches that we should be the guy," Threet said.

"As much as I would like to know [who the starter is going to be], at the same time I think it takes a little pressure off of us, to be honest, because we're not worried about that right now.

"We're just worried about going out and doing the best we can every play and trying to get better every practice."

GRADY PRACTICES: Junior running back Kevin Grady, who was arrested last month for drunken driving, practiced yesterday.

Rodriguez had said earlier that Grady would be suspended indefinitely and would need to meet certain criteria to be reinstated with the Wolverines.

"He's still suspended as far as actual games, but he's practicing," Rodriguez said yesterday. "He's done enough to earn his status back on the team but he's not done enough yet to warrant playing time."

PRESEASON RANKINGS:

Rodriguez also addressed the Wolverines' No. 24 preseason ranking in the USA Today coaches' poll, despite returning only one starter on offense.

"Who cares?" Rodriguez said. "They probably shouldn't even take a poll until October. The reason why we're probably ranked there [even though] we lost a lot of players is because of the reputation of Michigan, I would assume. But it don't matter."

Contact Zach Silka at:

zsilka@theblade.com.



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