Michigan: We’re ready to fight ‘like no other team’

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Kekoa Crawford

Ann Arbor – Since the moments just after losing to Florida State in the Orange Bowl, Michigan’s returning players have been eager for this – the start of the new season.

The Wolverines dropped three of their final four games last season by a total of five points, and although the youth on this team and lack of returning starters have been highlighted throughout preseason camp, there are plenty of returning players who remember how crummy they felt.

Sophomore Kekoa Crawford said he and his teammates have been “itching” for the start of the season Sept. 2 against Florida in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, since the Orange Bowl.

“We’re all ready to go,” Crawford said Friday night after practice. “I don’t think it will be a big nerves thing, more just when that first play hits … we’re going to be ready to go.”

Those storylines of youth and few returning starters have been highlighted because they’re very much keys to the season. Five starters are back, and Michigan will look to younger players who saw some playing time last year, and freshmen to help mold the team.

Fifth-year senior fullback Khalid Hill believes starting with a big-name opponent on a big-time stage will offer plenty of insight on where the Wolverines are headed this season. And for the record, he thinks talk of youth and inexperience on this team is overrated.

“Definitely, (this) will be a sign of our season. It will show what we’re working with,” Hill said Friday night. “A lot of people think we lost of guys, we don’t have any depth on the team, but I believe in this team more than any other team.

Khalid Hill

“Even though we’re a young team, these guys have fight like no other team I’ve seen before. I believe in them as much as they believe in me.  I think we’re ready to play Florida right now as we speak. We’ve been working our butts off every day. I think we’re ready.”

Safety Jordan Glasgow said the team has worked on some Florida preparation during preseason camp, although the Wolverines are now into game-week work in earnest.

“We’ve had stuff throughout the whole camp focused on Florida,” Glasgow said. “We’ve had periods in which we’ve run plays they would run in the last year or two. Now we’ve started focusing more on film. We’ve been getting prepared with everything we need. Everyone knows the first game is the only game in our sights.”

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Both Harbaugh and Florida coach Jim McElwain have not named starting quarterbacks. McElwain last week told reporters he had not made a decision and all three – Notre Dame graduate transfer Malik Zaire, redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks and redshirt junior Luke Del Rio – could play in the opener.

Glasgow said he and his fellow defensive players are ready for whatever Florida throws at them.

“I know the playing styles of the quarterbacks, but the way you prepare for it, you just go out and play as hard as you can play,” he said.

Harbaugh said at Big Ten media days he was avoiding all “fun stuff” to concentrate on the upcoming season.

“We lost three of our last four games last year, two by one point and one by three points in overtime,” he said at the time. “Didn’t like that feeling, and it’s motivated us to put more time into the football team and our jobs and give more effort and pour more of our heart and soul into it and avoid fun stuff.”

Message received by the returning players, who already were approaching this season the same way.

Receiver Eddie McDoom recently said that despite the influx of youth and a number of less experienced returning players, no one on the team believes the Wolverines are a year off.

“We’re not looking for next year, we’re looking for now,” McDoom said. “That’s our mindset. Freshmen, every player.

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“We think we’re going to win it this year. There’s no next year. No, it’s this year. We’re going to come in and grind, and we’re going to come in fighting. Our goal right now is to win the national championship, the Big Ten and be the greatest team we can be.”

Sophomore offensive lineman Ben Bredeson echoed his teammates’ sentiments that they’ve been eager to get on with this season since the end of the bowl game.

Well, the time is now.

“We’ve been counting down since the Orange Bowl,” Bredeson said. “We can’t wait to get this thing going. They’re a good team – it’s the Florida Gators. It’s the SEC. It’s not going to be a rollover game. We’re going to be ready. They’re going to be ready. I think it’s going to be a hell of a game.”