On Monday, Brady Hoke announced that his star linebacker, who suffered a torn ACL last spring, had been cleared to play by doctors, but Michigan coach still was being cautious.
“Playing football, when you haven’t played in a long time, and now we try to get him in, get him in, get him in,” Hoke said. “But we don’t put him in everything.”
Jake Ryan, Michigan's leading tackler, has been cleared to return from his torn ACL in the spring.
Hoke said Ryan could play this weekend when the Wolverines travel to Penn State, but the coaching staff likely would limit the redshirt junior somewhat as they bring him up to speed.
Hoke and Ryan will make the final decision on when he returns to the field, but Hoke admitted that Ryan has wanted to get back and that if it were up to Ryan only, he already would be back out there.
“He wanted to play last week,” Hoke said. “He wanted to play the week before. What do you think he’s going to say? ‘No, coach, I don’t want to play.’ ”
But Hoke is feeling wary about bringing him back too early. He often points out how he is not a doctor when talking about injuries, but he said that when it comes to bringing back Ryan, he’s “probably more worried about it than anybody.”
There hasn’t been a gaping need for the Wolverines at SAM linebacker. Brennen Beyer and Cam Gordon have both played well in Ryan’s absence, and Hoke said that when Ryan does return it will bring depth to the position. He also might consider moving Beyer back to defensive end -- where Beyer played last season -- depending on the personnel groups and which fronts they play.
But with what Ryan has been able to do in practice, Hoke said he has seen that fast and explosive nature that defined his game and helped him lead Michigan in tackles last season.
And his teammates have seen it, too.
“The way he has been playing -- Jake’s Jake,” left tackle Taylor Lewan said. “I don’t think the kid knows he’s hurt. He’s the same Jake. He just has shorter hair.”