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Michigan fullback Ben Mason talks about his offseason preparation. Angelique S. Chengelis, The Detroit News

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Ann Arbor — For Michigan fullback Ben Mason, football season begins with a haircut. A faux hawk, to be exact.

It has nothing to do with how he plays, but it has been a tradition of his.

“I’ve actually been getting this haircut since I was like, 6,” Mason said Thursday. “My first year of football, every football season I’ve gotten it. My mom’s gotten used to it. I just go in and tell them, give me a mohawk but cut the back.”

There’s nothing faux about the way Mason approaches the game, though, and he has been focused on playing offense, although in the spring there was talk from the coaches that he could play some at linebacker, as well.

“Right now I’m not playing any defense in camp, but if I’m needed for the team then I’m definitely willing to play,” Mason said. “For right now I’m just playing offense.”

Asked if he studies the defensive playbook, as well, you know, to stay sharp, he played coy.

“Yeah, I look at the playbook,” Mason said.

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh has raved about Mason, who was voted the team’s “toughest player” last season as a freshman, and describes his playing style as “cracking skulls.” In the offseason, Mason had a minor procedure on his knee and said in June he was then 100 percent.

As the leader among fullbacks, Mason is expecting to make an impact. And not just as a blocker.

“I look at myself as a complete player,” he said. “I can block, I can run, I can catch.”

Under a new strength and conditioning regimen with strength coach Ben Herbert, Mason said he changed his game.

“I’ve seen my biggest gains this offseason in just my overall speed,” he said. “Change of direction is much better and I feel really great about this year.”

And he feels even better about the offense, which has plenty of room to improve since last year’s slugging showing.

“One of the biggest things with us this year as an offense, we’re really playing fast which I think is going to pay dividends,” Mason said. “The overall speed on the field is much different.”

Assessing the backups

Starting quarterback Shea Patterson said all of the quarterbacks have improved since spring practice, using the time during camp to make each other better while taking the next steps in their games.

Patterson was named the starter on Monday and will lead the Wolverines in the opener at Notre Dame. He was competing against Brandon Peters, who started late last season, redshirt freshman Dylan McCaffrey and freshman Joe Milton.

“They’ve grown a lot,” Patterson said. “Learned a lot from Brandon. He knows this offense inside and out, so from that standpoint he’s helped me. Dylan is a very smart guy. He has some wheels, too. Just watching those guys in the pocket — and obviously watching Joe, he’s got a rocket launcher attached to his arm — and being in that room on a daily basis where we can give each other feedback and brainstorm with each other (has helped).”

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Michigan's Michael Dwumfour gets a visit from fellow defensive lineman Rashan Gary. Angelique S. Chengelis, The Detroit News

Beast mode

Defensive tackle Mike Dwumfour was addressing the media when end Rashan Gary decided to join him for a few seconds. As soon as Gary moved on, Dwumfour was asked the type of player Gary will be this fall.

“He’s gonna be a beast,” Dwumfour said, smiling. “Y’all know.”

angelique.chengelis@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/chengelis

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