ANN ARBOR — In his first spring as Michigan's football coach, Brady Hoke has repeatedly made a point to promote competition within the program.
The quest to be best will take on a juicy angle Saturday at the annual spring game. Members of the winning team will dine on steak. The losers? Hot dogs and beans.
In truth, though, dangling a slab of meat in front of the Wolverines won't be necessary for Hoke to see good effort. From the beginning, he has said no starting job is guaranteed, and certainly a memorable performance Saturday — either good or bad — could permeate throughout the offseason heading into fall camp.
Due to lack of depth at some positions, the game will not be of a traditional format. The first-team offense will be paired with the second-team defense, leaving the first-team defense to join forces with the second-team offense.
Scoring will be kept, although Hoke did not elaborate on how points can be scored Wednesday when he addressed the media for the final time before Saturday.
Hoke said the game, which is set to begin at noon, will end "when I think we've gotten in enough plays."
Competition is expected to be stiffest among the secondary, running backs, and kickers.
Ideally, the game would pit two teams drafted by members of the senior class. It won't happen because there aren't enough offensive linemen to go around, and complicating the matter are some injuries to key players.
Unavailable to play Saturday are Troy Woolfolk and J.T. Floyd — the possible opening day starters at the cornerback spots — as well as middle linebacker Kenny Demens and left tackle Taylor Lewan. Running back Michael Shaw and center David Molk have battled injuries this spring but are expected to play.
The spring game main event is not short on opening acts. On Friday, former Wolverine receiver Braylon Edwards will host a celebrity basketball game at Pioneer High School to raise money to benefit ALS, which is more often referred to as Lou Gehrig's disease. Also that evening, Hoke will conduct a "team meeting" directed at more than 300 former Wolverine football players.
"We're just going to talk about Michigan football and introduce the staff and [tell them] how accountable we're going to be to them," Hoke said.
About 85 of the former players in town will participate in an alumni flag football game Saturday morning prior to the spring game.
HOPPING UP: Hoke and offensive coordinator Al Borges have said they're looking for consistency when evaluating the running backs. Wednesday, Hoke said sophomore Stephen Hopkins has been the most consistent of a crowded group while also giving praise to sophomore Fitzgerald Toussaint.
Hopkins (6-foot, 227 pounds) is considered a hybrid back, meaning he can line up at either half back or full back.
LOCAL LOVE: Hoke had positive things — all unsolicited — to say about three local players. He mentioned senior tight end Kevin Koger (Whitmer) as a team leader along with linebacker Brandon Herron and defensive end Ryan Van Bergen.
Safeties Jordan Kovacs (Clay) and Carvin Johnson "have a good handle on the defense [and] communicate well." As for the team's only early enrollee from the recent recruiting class, Fremont Ross' Greg Brown, a cornerback, "has really stepped it up" the past week and a half and played well in Saturday's scrimmage.
Contact Ryan Autullo at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6160.