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Ann Arbor – Michigan coach Brady Hoke said he has always put academics first.

Hoke, speaking Wednesday at his weekly news conference, said university president Mark Schlissel called him to apologize for not giving context Monday to comments he made about UM student-athletes' academic performance.

Schlissel, speaking before the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs on Monday, said Michigan admits students "who aren't as qualified, and it's probably the kids that we admit that can't honestly, even with lots of help, do the amount of work and the quality of work it takes to make progression from year to year."

His comments were made while referencing academic issues at the University of North Carolina. They were published in the Michigan Daily student newspaper on Tuesday.

Hoke has frequently mentioned that 69 of 69 seniors under his watch have graduated during his nearly four seasons at Michigan.

"He called, apologized for his comments, and I'm not going to speak for him," Hoke said Wednesday. "I know he's put out whatever statements or interpretations he needed to. We've always believed this is truly an academic university. I was here for eight years before (as an assistant coach), and I think the one thing you learn about being a former player and coaching, you can only play so long.

"That's what this Michigan degree is all about. That degree will last forever. We take it very seriously. We try and recruit the best football players, the best student-athletes and people that fit the blueprint here at Michigan. It's not for everybody, because it is demanding."

Schlissel apologized publicly in comments released by the university on Wednesday.

"Academic success of our student-athletes is a priority for coach Brady Hoke and all of our coaches," Schlissel said. "From my first conversation with Brady, it was clear that he viewed himself as a teacher and mentor of the young men in his charge, and I respect that greatly. I appreciate all he and others in athletics have accomplished, particularly the student-athletes themselves."

Hoke would not break down whether there are certain standards like grade point averages that players must meet to be considered during the recruiting process.

"There are so many things you look at in a kid," Hoke said. "We do everything the right way, we get as much information as we can, and that's where we go from. We are engaged and we are committed to the academics and what the university means."

Green improving

Michigan has found rushing production the last two games from Drake Johnson and De'Veon Smith, who have emerged since Derrick Green suffered what was first thought to be a season-ending broken collarbone at Rutgers in early October.

But Green could return before the end of the season.

Michigan, 5-5 overall, is off this weekend before returning for its final home game Nov. 22 against Maryland. The final regular-season game is Nov. 29 at Ohio State.

Hoke said a week ago that Green might be able to return before the end of the season, and on Wednesday he left open the possibility. After the Rutgers game, Hoke said Green would be out for the season.

"We'll see," Hoke said. "He's doing a little more every day we go out."

In Green's absence, Smith has played a much larger role. In Michigan's 10-9 win at Northwestern last Saturday, Smith had 121 yards on 18 carries and scored the Wolverines' only touchdown. A week before, in the win over Indiana, Drake Johnson had a breakout game with 122 yards on 16 carries and scored two touchdowns.

"It was De'Veon's kind of game in some ways because of the way he runs the ball, his style," Hoke said of the Northwestern game. "De'Veon obviously got the hot hand, if you want to call it that."

Hoke and the backs said a big reason for the improved running game is the play of the offensive line.

"We thought it was their best game," Hoke said of the Northwestern game. "Five guys who have played six games together, that helps the continuity there."

Ten games into the season, Hoke said his team's identity is that of a grinder.

"That's who we are," Hoke said. "We're not going to score 30 points every game. We're going to grind it out and our offense is going to do their part, and the defense is gonna respond, and that's what we have to keep doing."

Norfleet returns

Hoke said Dennis Norfleet, a receiver and Michigan's main returner, will be back by the Maryland game. Norfleet missed Northwestern because of an undisclosed injury.

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