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August 20, 2008The quarterback position is still up in the air, defensive linemen are moving to the offensive line and injuries are starting to affect the depth chart. Yet Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez said Wednesday he's getting a better idea who he'll choose to try to win with this fall.
"I don't know whether they are neck-and-neck, but they've both gotten a lot better," said Rodriguez. "Today was probably their best day collectively. They are both pretty competitive. I think they are getting a better grasp of what we want from our quarterbacks. It's a pretty neat competition."
There's still a chance both will play in the Aug. 30 opener, Rodriguez added.
"If they are both ready to win, they will both play ... who you announce as the starting quarterback a lot of times is way overrated, unless two guys have different styles," he said. "They are the same style guys.
"The competition is still out there that I'm not ready to declare a starter. Nick has had better days than Steve and Steve has had better days than Nick. At the end of spring Steve may have been a little ahead. Nick has closed that gap, if not more, but it's all speculation. We've got another four or five practices before I'll declare for sure, and even if then."
INJURIES CAUSE SHUFFLE: Redshirt junior offensive guard Cory Zirbel, in line for a starting spot, is out indefinitely with a knee injury and could miss a significant portion of the season.
That development prompted redshirt sophomore John Ferrara's move to offensive guard from defensive tackle. Freshman slot receiver Terrence Robinson, in the mix for playing time, is also out several weeks with a knee injury. Redshirt freshman offensive guard Mark Huyge is out with an ankle injury.
Those still standing are fighting hard to make the two-deep, Rodriguez said, with plenty still to be determined.
"We're pinning down who the travel squad guys will be. We certainly haven't determined the 11 starters on offense, defense and special teams, but hopefully by the end of this week we'll get more solidified with that," he said. "We have a pretty good idea who the 70 guys would be on the travel squad. Every day we are trying to gear down ... we'll switch gears to the Utah scouting report tonight and practice will be more geared toward them from here on out."
The decimated offensive line has nonetheless improved over the last few days, and while there hasn't been a lot of "live" tackling, the unit is showing signs of jelling and becoming more aggressive.
? Sophomore cornerback Donovan Warren sported a red "out of action" jersey, but Rodriguez insisted it was nothing serious. "That was precautionary why he didn't practice today," he said.
? Ferrara's move seems to have been a good one. He put talented junior defensive end Brandon Graham on the ground with a punch block and has shown he could be a natural at guard. "We think he has a chance for the starting job," said Rodriguez. "He's such a smart and competitive guy, we've been impressed with him. I think it's a good move and I think he's going to be battling for a starting job at guard maybe by the first game."
? The rest of the offensive line remains thin, but the situation isn't dire. "We're getting some continuity there, and we're going to have some freshmen on the two-deep, Rocko Khoury and Ricky Barnum," said Rodriguez. "It makes you a little nervous to have true freshmen one snap away, but that's where we're at."
? Redshirt junior Kevin Grady's status for the first game will be determined soon, Rodriguez announced. Grady was punished for an off the field incident that took place over the summer. Injured junior running backs Brandon Minor and Carlos Brown were back at practice today and near 100 percent after being limited in previous days.