Mason Cole on taking snaps at center, Jim Harbaugh making the winning group in practice run extra, and receiver Amara Darboh on improvements. Angelique Chengelis
Ann Arbor — Mason Cole, who started every game at left tackle for Michigan last season, had never played center until last week.
Since the recent departure of Jack Miller, the starting center last season, and the suspension of Graham Glasgow, who played center most of 2013, Cole's move clearly shores up an area of need.
"It's a coach's choice," Cole said Tuesday. "They want to try me out there, so they threw me in there. They said they thought I'd be good at it, and they wanted to give it a try, so I trust them."
Cole is not practicing exclusively at center, though, also taking reps at left tackle. He said Michigan offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Tim Drevno wants all the linemen to know how to play each position.
"I think just the fact they don't know all of us yet as well as the other staff did, so they're trying different things and experimenting a little bit," Cole said. "That's what spring's about, just changing things up and competing."
He said he's getting more comfortable at center and making calls, but admits it's taking time getting the hang of shotgun snaps and handling bigger inside linemen.
Amara Darboh (calf cramp) missed the first few days of spring practices but has been full go since and has turned the head of receivers coach Jedd Fisch.
Darboh said the reps are still being equally spread, and he's using the spring to not only prove himself to the new staff but to improve.
"I feel I'm getting better adjusting to the ball and expecting where he's going to put it, and also where the defender is, which is something I felt like I needed to get better at," Darboh said. "When the ball's in the air, just read it and make sure if it's short, stop, swing the defender by and go get the ball, and if it's long, make sure to stride out, reach out and go get it."
With Devin Funchess gone, Darboh and Jehu Chesson are the upperclassmen who should be the receiver leaders. Darboh said they are taking their roles as the veterans seriously and want to help shape the younger players.
"We both remember when we were young receivers getting yelled at for not doing things right because when you don't know what you're doing you don't go full speed," Darboh said.
"So we try to encourage the guys and try to build a trust and leadership role in the group."
Draft is Saturday
Michigan's spring game is April 4 at Michigan Stadium, and the team draft is expected to be held Saturday.
The players said they're excited about playing an actual game, and are trying to anticipate who might be the first pick.
"This whole week is kind of like to prove yourself to get picked high on that draft board," Darboh said.
When teams practice, players or units that struggle have to run extra or do pushups or lift weights as a punishment of sorts.
But under coach Jim Harbaugh, the winners in practice actually get the extra running.
"His philosophy is you get the chance to get better," Cole said. "If you win, you get the chance to get better so you've got to help yourself."
Darboh said the offense lost during the first practice.
"And then we watched the defense run, and at the end when we broke we were like, 'That didn't feel good standing there watching,' " Darboh said. "You kind of feel guilty. You lost, and we're just standing there. The next practice we made sure we came out and won."
Bigger and better
Defensive lineman Brian Mone is up to 330, adding 15 pounds since last season.
While he said he has improved his hands and technique, he also likes the added weight.
"I feel like I'm better," Mone said. "I need to pick up my speed a little bit."