'Everyone's on same page': Wolverines expect to be at full strength for Citrus Bowl
Ann Arbor — A year ago, Michigan had four starters sit out the bowl game. But as the Wolverines continue practicing for Alabama, their opponent in the Citrus Bowl on New Year’s Day, they expect everyone to play this year.
Michigan was without Rashan Gary and Devin Bush, who were first-round selections, as well as running back Karan Higdon and right tackle Juwann Bushell-Beatty last season. They all opted to skip the Peach Bowl and prepare for the NFL Draft.
The Wolverines (9-3) see this as an opportunity get a signature win and reach 10 wins for the second straight season. Michigan and Alabama have met four times and have split the series.
“I wouldn’t expect anyone that can play to not play,” linebacker Jordan Glasgow said Sunday night after the team awards show. “We’re playing a very good Alabama team and you perform there, you create a very good situation for yourself going forward. If anyone wants to sit out, I would say not to. I’d recommend not to because it’s a very good team and we have an opportunity to leave the team on a good note.”
Michigan had its third practice on Sunday and so far there has been full participation.
“We’ve all been practicing, so there’s no one sitting out practice,” defensive end Kwity Paye said.
There have been no formal conversations among the coaches and players about playing or sitting out. Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said on the Citrus Bowl conference call a week ago those are typically individual conversations, but he has a standard approach.
“Finish what you started has always been kinda the general rule that I’ve personally thought of it as,” Harbaugh said.
This is uncharted territory for Alabama, which has been a fixture in the College Football Playoff. The Tide players typically play because it’s for a national championship, but this is a unique situation.
Alabama coach Nick Saban, like Harbaugh, said it’s an individual decision. And also like Harbaugh, Saban believes playing in a bowl is another opportunity to establish a player and present more film to scouts.
“Look at this as an opportunity to enhance their future by playing really well and improving their draft status,” Saban said on the conference call. “That’s what we’ll emphasize to our older players on the team, and they’ll have a choice to make. When you have guys that don’t play in bowl games and they do play in the playoffs, that in itself tells you the view of the players in terms of how they look at the bowl game, because we have made everything about the playoffs in college football."
The Michigan players said they haven’t had to have discussions about the pros and cons of playing because that hasn’t come up.
“There’s really been nothing to address,” two-time captain Ben Bredeson said. “I think everyone’s on the same page. Any chance you get to play for Michigan, everybody’s going to do it.”
Paye said he has submitted for an NFL grade from the College Advisory Committee and expects an answer in the next week. Paye and Aidan Hutchinson shared the award for best defensive linemen given Sunday night.
It sounds like Paye should be counted on to play for the Wolverines next season.
“I think I’m leaning toward coming back,” Paye said. "I feel like one more year would help this team, help myself and I’d graduate and get my degree. I talk to coach (Don) Brown a lot, coach (Shaun) Nua. I feel like this year was all right, but I feel like come back, get my degree. We’ll have a lot of guys back next year on this defense — we’re losing maybe three or four guys.”
Paye said “of course” when asked if he will play in the Citrus Bowl.
“I don’t think anybody is going to sit out,” he said. “We should end the season strong. I feel like a lot of the seniors didn’t end the season strong. I feel like this is another way to do that in a way.”
Quarterback Shea Patterson, who was voted by his teammates the Most Valuable Player, said he had spoken to safety Josh Metellus and they’re both playing in the bowl.
“Hopefully nobody is sitting out,” Patterson said. “I don’t think anybody has any room to sit out in this game. I think (for) everybody, it’s an opportunity. For the seniors, if they’re thinking about sitting out, it will only hurt them.
“It just depends on your situation, (but) any time you have an opportunity to go out there and play and compete against the best in the country, it’s another opportunity to prove yourself. It’s a way for us to go out there, some guys who haven’t done as much, we still have plays to make and stuff to prove. It’s an incredible way to go out.”