Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner (98) is starting his second season at quarterback and said he doesn't need to be voted captain to feel like a captain. (Steve Perez / Detroit News)
Brady Hoke has praised the leadership on his current team.
And he means throughout the Wolverines, not just the senior class.
“We’ve talked about if you’re good enough, you’re old enough,” Hoke said this week.
The coach spoke about a sophomore class that has an “edge” and suggested that perhaps he also is feeding off that.
But in a departure from Michigan tradition, Hoke has decided for the first time in his four seasons as coach to have captains elected after the season.
Former coach Rich Rodriguez used the same approach in 2008 and 2009.
Hoke, a captain of the 1980 Ball State team, has acknowledged leadership was lacking last season. With the leadership council in place, with representatives from each class, he feels more comfortable with the option of game-by-game captains this fall.
But if captains had been voted on before this season, here are a few to consider:
* Jake Ryan: Voted a captain last season as a junior, he earned more respect after accelerating his return from a torn knee ligament suffered during spring practice to get back on the field at Penn State. He wears the Bennie Oosterbaan legacy jersey and has earned the team’s top linebacker award in the last two seasons. His teammates know him as affable off the field, focused on it.
* Devin Gardner: He’s starting his second season at quarterback and said he doesn’t need to be voted captain to feel like a captain. Two seasons ago he earned respect from teammates and coaches for moving to receiver to add depth. Last season, Gardner showed his toughness playing on a broken left foot in the last quarter and a half against Ohio State.
* Frank Clark: After the bowl last season, Clark was the most vocal about a team that hadn’t exactly played as a unit. He was given a second chance after legal issues early in his career and said he has grown. Last year he was named the team’s top defensive lineman. He is fiery and vocal and has always been expected to be a defensive leader.
* Ray Taylor: As a junior last season, Taylor (Highland Park High) led the team in tackles with 86 and was second with four interceptions. He is a three-year letterman, a starter at corner and is focused and serious.
* Desmond Morgan: He has started 31 of 36 games in which he has played. He has been a steady force at linebacker, but like Ryan, has natural leadership abilities and is a steadying force as a leader. Morgan, an Academic All-Big Ten last year, wears the No. 48 legends jersey of Gerald Ford
* Jack Miller: He might seem like a dark horse, but he’s a junior who carries himself like a fifth-year senior. He is unflappable and understands the ups and downs of the game, having been a starter at center in the first four games of last season before losing the job to Graham Glasgow. Miller is an even-keel presence who might not keep his job, but does bring a hard-working approach every day.