August 15, 2014 at 8:48 pm

Brady Hoke wants Michigan players to show improved communication in scrimmage

Fans can get a look at senior linebacker Desmond Morgan, who had 79 tackles last season, during Michigan's open scrimmage tonight. (John T. Greilick / Detroit News)

Ann Arbor — A true freshman might start at left tackle. Michigan may or may not vote on captains. And the Wolverines are hosting an open scrimmage for fans.

Is this Ann Arbor or a parallel universe?

Michigan seems to be breaking the norm these days in a number of ways, but among the most unique is the prime-time scrimmage Saturday night at Michigan Stadium in the midst of the Wolverines’ preseason camp.

The Wolverines typically prepare for the upcoming season with closed-door practices, but Michigan coach Brady Hoke said he wanted to give his players a chance to play in front of a crowd at night to get acclimated to the night-game feel. Michigan will play Penn State at night at home and has road night games scheduled against Notre Dame and Rutgers.

Nearly 30,000 free tickets were claimed by Wednesday in an online registration. Fans can still attend the scrimmage that begins at 8 p.m. Gates open at 7 p.m.

“To get out and play under the lights a little bit will be good,” Hoke said Thursday after practice. “It will be a good experience for our guys to be there with people there.”

Michigan scrimmaged about 140 plays Wednesday, but Hoke anticipates a reduced number of plays tonight.

What won’t be reduced is what Hoke calls the “stress” on the players. He wants improved communication, particularly among his younger players, and by piping in loud music and having fans there, the players will have to have greater focus.

“I want us to handle the environment because for some of those guys this will be a little different environment,” Hoke said. “We’re going to put as much stress on them as we can. Execution and communication and physicalnesss with which we play, that’s what we’ll be looking for.”

He also will be looking carefully at Michigan’s offensive line and see how that is coming together. Hoke on Thursday said that if the Wolverines started today, freshman Mason Cole would start at left tackle. He left open some wiggle room saying plenty can change by the Aug. 30 opener against Appalachian State.

But a true freshman starting on the offensive line? What’s next? No season-long captains? Who knows, but Hoke wouldn’t say when asked Thursday when Michigan will be voting on captains and left open the possibility that they might not. Michigan has almost always voted for permanent captains before the season.

Stranger things have happened, like the open night scrimmage.

“It’s a step toward the game-type atmosphere,” said senior linebacker Desmond Morgan of the open scrimmage. “It’s one thing to play in practice, it’s one thing to add that element of music, and it’s one thing to add another aspect with people in the stands and cheering.

“Obviously, it’s not the same as Aug. 30 is going to be with 110,000 people, but it’s the step in the right direction. For some guys who maybe haven’t played that much, it’s a feeling of that game-type atmosphere, hearing those fans and responding to that. Anytime you get to play in front of people it’s fun.”

achengelis@detroitnews.com

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Open scrimmage

What: Michigan football practice open to the public.

When: 8 p.m. Gates open 7 p.m.

Where: Michigan Stadium

Tickets: Free, but deadline to acquire free tickets expired Wednesday

Parking: Free at University parking lots. Pioneer High School is charging $10.