Michigan Players Gearing Up For Challenge of Notre Dame

Michigan Players Gearing Up For Challenge of Notre Dame

Football

Michigan Players Gearing Up For Challenge of Notre Dame

ANN ARBOR, Mich — It’s less than two weeks away, when Michigan will take the field in South Bend for its Week One contest against the Fighting Irish.

Expectations for both teams are high, but the Wolverines haven’t yet culminated fall camp — and won’t for another week. Yet, though starting jobs across the board haven’t been decided, the excitement is palpable, and players are starting to look forward to their turn in the rivalry renewed.

Of course, it’s a big challenge, starting the season on the road against a top-flight opponent. And the maize and blue have arguably the three toughest games of the season in hostile territory.

But, fourth-year wide receiver Grant Perry wouldn’t have it any other way.

As far as Perry sees it, playing those games on the road, and starting off the season on such hallowed ground as Notre Dame Stadium, that just heightens expectations for the season that much more.

“I think if you’ve got to get motivated to play at those places, you’re at the wrong place,” Perry said. “I don’t know a single guy in that locker room that wouldn’t want to run around on those fields and play.

“Like we talked about earlier, I’m kinda happy we’re playing at Notre Dame. The place is a monument. I really want to see what it’s about, see what the crowd’s like. As much as I love playing at The Big House, I want to score and look at Touchdown Jesus.”

Of course, very few of these players have actually played in this rivalry. There’s a handful of current Wolverines who were on the roster, as the fifth-year players were technically a part of Michigan’s 31-0 drubbing at the hands of the Fighting Irish in 2014.

But those who were a part of the team who didn’t get to make the trip are eager for redemption.

Michigan DE Chase Winovich was on the scout team that year, and was still considered a linebacker. At Big Ten Media Days, before camp even started, Winovich was nearly foaming at the mouth at the opportunity to right the first loss he experienced as a Wolverine back in his freshman season.

“Our level of excitement about that game is off the charts,” Winovich said. “We’re eager to play that game and get another shot at almost redemption for those guys. For me, personally, whenever I was a freshman – I didn’t go to Notre Dame. I was on the scout team and trying to prepare those guys. We got smoked at Notre Dame. I think it was 31-nothing? So, it wasn’t a great day at the office for the Wolverines.

“There’s challenges and there’s opportunities in life. And this is a great one. We definitely look forward to it and it’s definitely motivation for us.”

But there are others who joined the team well after that loss.

Third-year cornerback Lavert Hill had a keen eye on Michigan the last time the Wolverines played Notre Dame, as not only a Detroit-native, but also with his brother, Delano Hill being a part of that Michigan team that last played ND.

The last time the maize and blue and navy and gold squared off, the elder Hill recorded just his second ever tackle, playing as a reserve safety as well as on special teams against the Fighting Irish.

But the younger Hill’s memories of the rivalry go back even further, to 2011, as he can recall a pivotal moment when a current Michigan grad assistant made a play that will forever be remembered as one of the game’s best.

“Coach Roundtree caught a good pass in that game,” Hill recalled. “Just the tradition. I’ve just been watching (that rivalry) my whole life.”

Now Hill will get his own shot at glory, when the teams face off against one another on Sept. 1. But, he has something of a big challenge ahead of him — literally.

As noted by FOX Sports color analyst Brady Quinn in a WolverinesWire exclusive interview, Notre Dame has some incredible size on the outside at wide receiver, with Chase Claypool and Miles Boykin having significant height advantages.

“Their wide receivers are going to be tough for Michigan to match up with – not so much because of speed, but because of size. Miles Boykin – 6-foot-4, 230-pounds. Chase Claypool’s about the same size. Alize Mack, the tight end – he’s got a lot of size and athleticism, too. He’s like 6-5, 250-pounds. So, those are tough matchups, I think, even for the best cornerbacks, because unless you’re Richard Sherman, and you’ve got that 6-foot-2 frame, the ability to leap and still make plays on the football, it becomes tough then. When you’re not one of those taller, lankier cornerbacks or even safeties that’s that good in coverage. That’s something they’re going to have to look out for.”

It’s a difficult matchup that Hill acknowledges.

“Their offense is pretty good,” Hill said. “They’ve got pretty tall receivers on the outside, so it’s going to be a tough challenge just going against them by height-wise.”

While Hill works to figure out how he and his compatriots in the secondary will cover the Fighting Irish’s behemoths, his cornerbacks coach Mike Zordich is confident that his unit will be ready.

“Just the size alone, you stand them up next to each other, there’s a little bit of a difference,” Zordich said. “But our guys, David, B-Wat, Lavert – they’re all very talented athletically. I’ll just get some bigger guys when it’s time, and work bigger guys against them.”

So how does Zordich and Hill expect to deploy against Notre Dame’s size advantage?

Hill thinks he already has the answer.

“Just being strong, because they’re strong,” Hill said. “I’ve gotta put on my big boy pants that day and just go out there and ball out.”

Michigan and Notre Dame are set to square off in South Bend at 7:30PM on Sept. 1.

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