Michigan looks to embrace repetition of preseason

Michigan coach Brady Hoke jokes with quarterback Devin Gardner at the team's media day on Sunday.
Michigan coach Brady Hoke jokes with quarterback Devin Gardner at the team's media day on Sunday.

ANN ARBOR — Seven practices down, and nearly two weeks to go. It’s easy to quantify preseason practices for the Michigan football team. But in order to qualify it, the Wolverines won’t shy away from two words: The grind.

When it comes to the repetition of preseason camp, it’s all about the state of mind. When it came to discussing one of the more monotonous times of the year, Frank Clark spoke in poetic terms.

“The grind?” said Clark, a junior defensive end. “That’s a special word. It’s a word you’ve really got to embrace and I believe we have. You’ve got a lot of guys around here who are banged up, who are sore, who’s bruised up, myself included. But that’s part of the grind. You’ve got to keep working and fight through the pain.”

During the program’s media day on Sunday at Michigan Stadium, Wolverines coach Brady Hoke noted the leadership of his team’s seniors and the quality of competition at various positions after its first full week of preseason practices.

“We’re building each day,” Hoke said. “I like our team, I like where we’re at, but we’ve got to get better, because it’s going to be a quick next 20 days.”

The remaining time between today and the season opener Aug. 31 against Central Michigan might seem quick to some, but not to others. For true freshman who are less than three months removed from their high school graduation, the first days of an FBS preseason camp and the structure that comes with it may come as a certain shock. For returning players, they’re keenly aware of repetitive nature of August but also aware of the importance of psychological preparation for a month of football.

“It’s tough, but that’s the point of it, to test everyone and to find out who can bring their A-game on a day-to-day basis,” said Jack Miller, a junior center and a St. John’s Jesuit graduate. “I don’t want to say I’m used to it, but I know what to expect. From day one until now, until we break camp, it’s a grind. You’ve got to wake up every day and motivate yourself and get going.”

“If you don’t have a positive attitude and if you’re not motivated. Everyone’s too talented at this level where if you’re mentally not in the right place, you’re not going to perform to the best of your abilities. It is big that you are motivated.”

Clark also finds a value in leadership during what some consider to be the longest course of a college football season.

“Going through my third camp — and this sounds so crazy, this being my third camp — you know what’s to come,” Clark said. “You know how hard you’ve got to work, you know what attitude you’ve got to come with, going to the office everyday, to have a successful practice. You know what you have to tell the younger guys and you know how you have to lead the younger guys.”

Friday marked the first day of practicing in full pads, and Miller said he saw a sense of motivation and a high energy in his team during the course of what he labeled a physical practice.

Clark, meanwhile, takes a proactive approach to the period of time that he labels “a grind.”

“Going into camp, I knew I was going to experience some kind of pain,” Clark said. “I knew I was going to experience some type of hurt. Not injury, but hurt. There’s difference. And when you learn how to embrace the grind, you’re going to be a better player.”

RYAN UPDATE: Jake Ryan, who is recovering from surgery to repair a torn ACL, told reporters Sunday that his goal is to return to playing in October.

Ryan, an All-Big Ten linebacker in 2012, had 88 tackles but tore his ACL during spring practices.

"I took a cut, went out to my right, and I just tore it," Ryan said. "I knew it when it happened."

Ryan is currently participating in drills with the Wolverines during preseason camp, and last week defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said that Ryan has been running and doing walkthroughs with the defense during the first week of practice.

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