Long before the basketballs are packed away, it is football season again. Spring drills are already underway at Michigan and will start this week at Toledo and Bowling Green. Ohio State opens spring practice in about two weeks.
Preparing for its first season under new coach Gregg Brandon, Bowling Green gets started today at 3 p.m. with practice likely being held in the field house due to the soggy condition of the practice fields. The Falcons conclude their workouts with the spring game at noon on April 12.
The Rockets, the defending Mid-American Conference West Division champions, open spring practice on Saturday at 9 a.m. at the Glass Bowl. Toledo, 9-5 in 2002 for its ninth straight winning season, has 15 starters and 36 lettermen back for coach Tom Amstutz, who prepares for his third season. The Rockets wrap up spring practice with their spring game on April 19 at 6:30 p.m. in the Glass Bowl.
The defending national champion Buckeyes will begin spring drills on April 3. Coach Jim Tressel has 51 lettermen back from the 14-0 team that beat Miami in the Fiesta Bowl, including 18 starters.
Ohio State plays its spring game at 1:30 p.m. on April 26 in Ohio Stadium. Tickets for the game are $5 each. Ohio State officials printed 80,000 tickets for the spring game, and 10,000 sold on-line last Thursday, the first day they were available.
Michigan opened its spring practice schedule last Saturday, and will play its spring game at 11:30 a.m. on April 12 in Michigan Stadium.
MICHIGAN STATE/SMOKER: Jeff Smoker is listed on Michigan State's spring practice roster after being suspended last season because of a substance-abuse problem.
“Jeff Smoker has not been fully reinstated to the team,” school spokesman John Lewandowski said. “A final decision regarding Jeff's playing status will be made shortly before camp opens in August.”
Smoker is on the team's depth chart as a third-string quarterback with Aaron Alexander. Damon Dowdell, who replaced Smoker last season in the starting lineup, is listed as a first-string quarterback along with Drew Stanton.
Michigan State's first-year coach John L. Smith was not available for comment.
When asked about Smoker's chance of returning to the team in January, Smith said: “The kid has a good heart. If you've got a bad heart, we're not going to waste a lot of time. But if you have a good heart, then we're going to try.
“First and foremost, Jeff has to make a commitment that football is important enough to him that he's going to get the respect of his teammates back. We're going to give him some opportunities to do that.”