- Michael Rothstein, ESPN Staff Writer
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Halfway through spring practice and surprises have already begun to emerge. Some are more expected than others, but Michigan head coach Brady Hoke rattled off a few names of who has stood out to him this spring.
He started with his backs.
Sophomore Thomas Rawls has been working well at running back along with getting some carries at fullback behind Stephen Hopkins. Meanwhile, redshirt freshman Justice Hayes has also stood out as Michigan tries to work some of its younger players into the rotation.
“Rawls is a pretty tough guy running the football but he has to take care of the football a little bit better,” Hoke said. “Hayes has shown some things with his abilities.”
He also cited all three early enrollees -- linebackers Joe Bolden and Kaleb Ringer along with safety Jarrod Wilson -- as guys who have looked good and been pushing. Hoke also liked the competition between Brennen Beyer and Frank Clark at rush defensive end and Jake Ryan and Cam Gordon at the SAM linebacker.
One of the bigger surprises has been Elliott Mealer’s play at left guard. Initially a potential afterthought as a fifth-year senior who hasn’t played much in his career, he appears to be holding on to a lead for the starting slot through the spring, holding off redshirt freshman Chris Bryant, who has now been working at right guard as well.
“When you look at Elliott, his confidence level is better and that’s a big part of it,” Hoke said. “Guys feeling confident and being in a system obviously helps. Chris has mainly taken snaps at right guard but that doesn’t mean we can flip-flop him. For a young guy, you’d like to keep him on the same side and same stance.”
Hoke wouldn’t mind a scrimmage
One of the long-time issues between football coaches and the NCAA has been not allowing teams to scrimmage other Division I teams, either during the spring or fall. Most other sports, including men’s basketball, can have scrimmages.
Hoke said Thursday he would be open to the idea.
“That would be kind of cool,” Hoke said. “I thought of it before, whether we do the NFL with different teams going to different places and interacting for two days, three days, off of that model.
“That would be kind of neat, if you could do that.”
This and that
Hoke said he and Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon have discussed the Big Ten-Pac 12 alliance when it comes to scheduling, but didn’t go into specifics. ... Michigan is holding a high school coaches clinic today and as part of the clinic will be practicing the next three days -- today and Saturday in pads and Friday without pads. The clinic was not made open to the media. ... Hoke said there has been no recent attrition on his team. ... Hoke, through a spokesman, asked the media not to ask him about the death of his father, John, earlier this week, instead requesting privacy.