Michigan tight end Sean McKeon said he supports his teammates' decisions to sit out the Peach Bowl against Florida. Angelique S. Chengelis, The Detroit News
Atlanta — Three Michigan starters have decided to sit out the Peach Bowl game and prepare for the NFL Draft, but junior cornerbacks David Long and Lavert Hill will play and then decide their futures.
Michigan (10-2) will face Florida (9-3) in the New Year’s Six bowl game on Saturday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium but will be without defensive end Rashan Gary, linebacker Devin Bush and running back Karan Higdon.
“That was their decision, we respect it,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said Monday. “I have respect for them — that’s their decision to make.”
Long said he has not submitted for an NFL grade that offers prospects an idea where they might be drafted, and Hill said he’s not waiting on a grade.
“I’ve got to make a decision, but I’m just waiting until after the game,” Hill said Monday. “I’m just worried about Florida at this moment.”
Long had eight pass breakups and an interception this season, and Hill had five pass breakups and an interception returned for a touchdown against Wisconsin.
Hill was asked if he’s ready for the NFL.
“I feel like I’m ready for the NFL, just after Florida I’ll see,” he said, adding that if he returns to Michigan he will want to work on being more physical.
Not playing in the bowl game was never a consideration for Long.
“There was a lot of speculation whether I’d play, but I’ve always intended on playing in the game and finishing out the season,” Long said, adding players make decisions for what’s best for them.
“It’s just another game I can play. Everybody has their reasons. I don’t think about the pros and cons. I’m able to play in the game, so I just play. Other people had different things at stake and different opportunities, and I understand the reasons why.”
The decision to not play a bowl game has made for an interesting discussion, taking into account a number of things, including the playoffs and whether those devalue the bowl games. Michigan players said that because the Peach Bowl is a New Year’s Six game, it is important.
But Michigan players also said they understand the decisions their teammates made.
“As a locker room and as a team, especially as a defense, we understand the opportunities those guys had outside of Michigan football,” Long said. “I definitely respect that. I respect those guys to the fullest. They laid their bodies and everything on the line the past three years. Like I told Devin Bush, things are short-lived but appreciate everything he did for the team, for the defense. It’s only right he does something for himself for once.
“I can’t put myself in their shoes. I have to understand there’s two sides to the story — they have a family at home, and they have a family here. They’ve got to take care of themselves first before they can take care of us, essentially. It’s a good thing to play, but you can understand why somebody would choose to sit out.”
Long said Harbaugh does not “push or pull” the players in any direction as far as the decision to turn pro. He also hasn’t spent a lot of time thinking about the NFL because he wants to get Michigan’s 11th victory of the season.
“I know if I’m ready, I know if I’m not ready,” Long said.
He also knows Michigan, especially the defense, is only a few weeks removed from the 62-39 debacle at Ohio State, and getting the win against Florida in the bowl game would take some of the sting away.
“I think that’s the most I’ve ever got scored on since I’ve been playing football,” Long said. “It’s one of those things you have to understand, when you’re playing at this level and you don’t come in prepared, things like that can happen.
“It’s easy to dwell on it and say this or that, but I’ve got to tip my hat. They came in there and beat us. They beat us up front and we didn’t do things they did, and that was the result of the game. They executed and we didn’t. It was simple. Those caliber games, things can get out of hand.”
Long and Hill were asked what they’d like Santa to bring them Tuesday for Christmas. Both answered quickly: “A win.”
Michigan vs. Florida
Kickoff: Noon Saturday, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta
Records: Michigan 10-2, Florida 9-3
Line: Michigan by 7.5