Devin Funchess will play almost exclusively at receiver after being the Big Ten's tight end of the year last season. (John T. Greilick / Detroit News)
Ann Arbor — Change is in the air for the Michigan football program.
Last week, Michigan coach Brady Hoke announced changes in his defensive staff’s coaching responsibilities, and after the first day of spring practice Tuesday, he revealed several position changes.
In the aftermath of a 7-6 season, Hoke also fired offensive coordinator Al Borges and replaced him with Doug Nussmeier, who spent the last two seasons with Alabama.
Change and more change.
“I’d be lying if I didn’t think that was part of it,” Hoke said after practice when asked if the season had something to do with the number of changes.
Defensive back Ross Douglas, a redshirt freshman, has moved to running back, and defensive lineman Keith Heitzman, a redshirt junior, has moved to tight end. Both played those positions in high school.
Heitzman’s move helps shore up a position that took a hit last month when Jake Butt suffered a torn ACL. Butt will undergo surgery this week.
Wyatt Shallman, a redshirt freshman, is working at H-back and running back, and Devin Funchess, the Big Ten’s tight end of the year last season, will play almost exclusively at receiver.
Defensively, with the move of senior Jake Ryan to middle linebacker, James Ross, a junior, has moved to the strong side, and Desmond Morgan will replace him at weakside linebacker.
Hoke, who said he has been thinking about these moves for a while, called the moves of Ryan and Ross a “win-win.”
“One of your best football players (Ryan) from a playmaking standpoint, you’re putting him in the middle of the defense,” Hoke said.
Unaware of protest
The News on Monday reported the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights is investigating whether Michigan failed to promptly respond to an alleged 2009 rape.
The Michigan Daily student newspaper last month reported that former Michigan kicker Brendan Gibbons had been expelled for violating the university’s Student Sexual Misconduct policy in December.
There was a student protest on campus Tuesday regarding the university’s handling of the sexual assault investigation allegedly involving Gibbons. Gibbons was never charged.
Hoke said he was not aware of the protest. He said he can’t comment because of student privacy policies.
“Like I said before, believe me, I can’t say anything,” Hoke said. “I don’t like that. But I can’t (comment).”
Work in progress
The offensive line was a major issue last season, with three new interior linemen anchored by veteran tackles Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield.
But, Lewan and Schofield are gone, and the offensive line remains perhaps the biggest question mark this spring.
Tackle Erik Magnuson, a seven-game starter last season, will miss spring practices because of shoulder surgery and Logan Tuley-Tillman will be out until the final two weeks of spring practice because of a hand injury.
Right now, the starting offensive line appears to be Graham Glasgow returning at center, Kyle Bosch and Kyle Kalis at left and right guard, respectively, David Dawson at left tackle and Ben Braden at right tackle. Dawson is a redshirt freshman and Braden a redshirt sophomore.
“Is (the offensive line) a concern?” Hoke said. “Yeah, it’s going to be a concern, but we’ll just keep working every day.”
Depth is solid
The offensive line and running game go hand-in-hand and neither was very good last season and certainly not on a consistent basis.
Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith earned playing time toward the end of last season and return for their sophomore seasons. Drake Johnson is continuing his recovery from a torn knee ligament and will be limited this spring.
Justice Hayes also is in the mix, and Douglas has made the position switch.
“I think I feel more comfortable about the depth we have there,” Hoke said.
Punter Will Hagerup, who was suspended last season for a violation of team rules, is practicing. He hit the top of the indoor facility several times with punts, Hoke said.
… Hoke said that while Mark Smith has moved from coaching linebackers to defensive line, he also will continue to assist coaching the linebackers.