Rudock commands first team at practice for UM students

Kelly Hall
Special to The Detroit News

Ann Arbor -- Donning glasses and a headset, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh peered out at the 400 or so fans who came out to the students-only practice and welcomed them to the submarine.

First and foremost, he had rules.

"We don't want anyone recording our practice," Harbaugh said. "Nobody will be recording Utah's practice tonight, and a video of us would give them an advantage."

Even with 200 students gathered on the north end-zone track and the other half in the stands, fans were being constantly monitored by ushers strategically placed throughout the stadium. Per Harbaugh's orders, cell phones weren't allowed and ushers escorted out students who flashed their phones.

He also made it clear that he wanted it to be loud. He urged the crowd and band to make as much ruckus as possible, and for about an hour and a half, cheerleaders, marching band members, piped-in crowd noise and music blasted throughout the Big House to emulate the noise expected in 12 days in Salt Lake City, Utah.

During stretches, Motown joyfully bounced off of the stadium walls, but as soon as the scrimmage started, the genre quickly changed to KISS and AC/DC.

Regardless of the cell phone ban, news that Iowa transfer Jake Rudock would be quarterbacking the first team managed to leak out quickly. Rudock threw both touchdown passes, one to sophomore wide receiver Drake Harris and the other to junior tight end Jake Butt.

As expected, Butt was a frequent target and had just as many catches as any receiver. Harbaugh has a reputation for developing tight ends, and if Rudock and Butt continue to mesh as well as they did Saturday under Harbaugh's direction, the pairing will be well known this fall.

Though the quarterback battle has been hot through fall practice and junior Shane Morris said that it's his job to lose, Morris didn't have much of a field presence and couldn't manage to put together long drives.

Morris still has a rocket for an arm, and he overthrew senior wide receiver Jehu Chesson past the end zone and into the crowd. Sophomore quarterback Wilton Speight was the last quarterback to come on the field and connected well with third-team junior wide receiver Jack Wangler for a 10-yard pass.

To many students' dismay, freshman tight end Tyrone Wheatley Jr. and junior offensive lineman Patrick Kugler were both on crutches, and senior wide receiver Amara Darboh — who recorded 36 receptions for 473 yards and two touchdowns last season — had his left pinkie in a splint. Sophomore wide receiver Freddy Canteen's right arm was also in a sling.

The injuries allowed freshman wide receiver Grant Perry and sophomore wide receiver Drake Harris to get a lot of attention from Rudock on the first team. Perry took advantage of his situation with multiple catches of his own, and Harris' most notable catch came halfway through the scrimmage on a 15-yard touchdown pass to the north end zone.

The pair helped prove that the Wolverines may need to use a more pass-oriented attack. Harbaugh previously said that he wants a balanced offense, but the rushing game appeared inconsistent, with junior running backs De'Veon Smith, Ty Isaac and Derrick Green struggling to make an impact.

As the scrimmage ended, AC/DC faded out and practice came to a close. Harbaugh took off his headset, thanked the students for coming out and walked back up the tunnel. The submarine was closed again.

Kelly Hall is a freelance writer