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Published: Thursday, 8/27/2009

Michigan keeps its depth chart top secret

BY RYAN AUTULLO
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

ANN ARBOR - Maybe it is situated on the coach's desk, smeared from the outline of a maize and blue coffee cup. Perhaps in a university-wide effort to cut back on spending, mass copies of it were not printed.

Allegedly, a near-finalized depth chart exists somewhere inside the football offices at the University of Michigan. But to question Rich Rodriguez on the contents of that list, or even its whereabouts, is as fruitless as asking the coach to share the security code to his credit card. With a little more than a week before his team's opener in the Big House, Rodriguez is offering only the obvious when discussing the starting lineup for a Sept. 5 game against Western Michigan.

"Oh did I?" Rodriguez jokingly asked yesterday when reminded of his intentions to spend the early part of this week formulating a depth chart. "It's still ongoing. I think we have several position battles that will probably go all the way up until next Thursday."

The most publicized - and bizarre - battle is at quarterback, where Rodriguez has said three guys will play against Western Michigan. But uncertainty resides at other places on offense, specifically at kicker, right tackle, and running back, although the latter is mostly to determine hierarchy after starter Brandon Minor. Rodriguez, speaking to reporters before yesterday's practice, said he hoped competitions for spots would become less muddled by the end of the week, which seems reasonable because he probably doesn't want such distractions lingering over next week's preparation for a dangerous Western Michigan team.

If yesterday's practice session was an indication, freshman Tate Forcier has an edge over Nick Sheridan and Denard Robinson at quarterback. Forcier began drills with the first-team offense, although it was the junior Sheridan who displayed the strongest and most accurate arm of the three, both indoors and later in the rain. It seems as if Sheridan is closer to catching Forcier than the fleet-footed Robinson is of supplanting Sheridan. Rodriguez said practices have been structured so all three will be afforded meaningful repetitions, a scenario that will continue until a player progresses or regresses in relation to the others. Asked which signal caller was atop the depth chart, Rodriguez said, "All three of them."

Whoever it is will be blessed by a veteran line, where the only non-returning starter is at right tackle, a position that was manned by Mark Huyge yesterday. Rodriguez said the sophomore Huyge has been solid in camp, but in sticking with his noncommittal tune, Rodriguez praised the competition being provided by freshman Patrick Omameh. At kicker, it appears senior Jason Olesnavage, who has not seen game action in his career, is set to start over a host of other inexperienced contenders.

"Jason is the first one out of the gate right now," Rodriguez said. "He's kicked pretty well, pretty consistent. Some days have been better than others."

Of local interest, Whitmer product Kevin Koger appears to be the starter at tight end but perhaps not a runaway favorite over Martell Webb. Wauseon's Elliott Mealer is behind Stephen Schilling at left guard.

Contact Ryan Autullo at:

rautullo@theblade.com

or 419-724-6160.



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