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Published: Tuesday, 8/14/2012

Michigan feels grind as fall camp continues


ANN ARBOR -- The season opener is less than three weeks away, yet these are definitely not the halcyon days for the Michigan football team. They're more like the dog days for the Wolverines.

It's a stretch of the summer that brings about the hottest days of the year, and embodied in a term coined by the ancient Romans, who saw sizzling temperatures coincide with the appearance of Sirius, the so-called dog star.

In more modern times, the dog days are a span that can stretch out abnormally and almost monotonously, in anticipation of something else.

At the same time, it's a label that's easily applicable to the weeks before the start of football season.

It's a point in the summer that Michigan coach Brady Hoke simply calls "the grind."

"The great thing about fall camp is that it's a grind," said Hoke, whose team opens the season Sept. 1 against defending BCS champion Alabama in Arlington, Texas. "It's a grind on coaches, it's a grind on our medical staff, taping and all that, the equipment, turning over laundry, and everything else, it's a grind on everybody."

For the players, who are sequestered off campus for the bulk of the preseason, it's a seemingly nonstop cycle of practices, meetings, meals, and workouts.

At some point, Jordan Kovacs realized it wasn't worth resisting that annual cycle.

"You've got to embrace it," the Clay graduate said. "If you don't embrace this adversity, you'll never make it through camp. You've got to take it one day at a time, one evolution at a time."

When it comes to preseason camp, Kovacs has a strategy.

"My whole philosophy is to make it to the next meal," Kovacs said. "Whatever you've got in the morning, whether it's practices or whether it's meetings, make it to the next meal, then maybe get an hour's nap in, and then you make it to the next one and go from there."

One thing that could break up the humdrum: Hoke said last week that with players now allowed to practice in full pads, he anticipated holding an intrasquad scrimmage some time this week.

Players agreed that working through that grind is about taking on a certain mindset. This is the time, Thomas Rawls said, when coaches expect their players to work the hardest in order to sustain themselves through the course of the season.

But, he said that in spite of it, "this team has been working hard."

Quarterback Devin Gardner agreed.

"A lot of the guys get to a point where they're tired, and this is where you fight through the pain and the fatigue," Gardner said.

It's a grind, plain and simple. Hoke believes it serves a purpose.

"The one thing I promised them is I'd put tremendous stress on them and get them out of their comfort zone, then see how they come together as a football team, who stands out, who steps up, who leads," Hoke said.

Are the Wolverines at that point yet?

"No," Hoke said. "I like how we practiced with no pads [last week]. That usually comes around pretty good, but to be tough daily, tough every play, I can't answer that yet."

Toussaint set to be in court on Aug. 28

Michigan tailback Fitz Toussaint is scheduled to appear in a Washtenaw County court Aug. 28 on a drunken-driving charge, four days before the Wolverines' season opener against Alabama.

AnnArbor.com reported that Toussaint faces one count of operating a vehicle while intoxicated, according to police records. He is scheduled to be arraigned in 14A-4 District Court and police said he will not face a weapons charge, even though a pellet gun was found near the driver's seat of his truck when he was arrested July 21 in Ann Arbor by the Saline Police Department, working with the Ann Arbor police as part of a cooperative effort between several Ann Arbor law enforcement organizations to target drunk drivers.

Toussaint, whom the Wolverines coaching staff anticipated starting a tailback this season, has been suspended indefinitely since the end of July. He rejoined the Wolverines for practices Monday, but his availability for the season opener against the Crimson Tide is uncertain.

A 21-year-old redshirt junior from Youngstown, Toussaint had 1,041 yards and nine touchdowns on 187 carries in 12 games last season.

If Toussaint is not available for Michigan's season opener against Alabama, Thomas Rawls is the likely candidate to start at tailback for the Wolverines.

Contact Rachel Lenzi at: rlenzi@theblade.com, 419-724-6510 or on Twitter @RLenziBlade.

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