ANN ARBOR, MICH. (AP) - Michigan’s football program has 23 seniors who will go out as winners, a far cry from their first season.
“I wish I had been under this coaching staff for four years,” Wolverines defensive tackle Will Campbell said.
Campbell came to campus during the Rich Rodriguez era and is finishing up under Brady Hoke. He and the other fourth-year players were one game under .500 during their first two seasons, but have gone a combined 18-5 this year and last.
The 23rd-ranked Wolverines (7-3, 5-1 Big Ten) hope to send the seniors out with a win against Iowa (4-6, 2-4) in their home finale Saturday.
Denard Robinson might not be on the field for a snap. The senior quarterback hasn’t played for two-plus games because of nerve damage in his right elbow.
“It won’t have anything to do with it,” Hoke said.
In relief of Robinson, junior Devin Gardner has played well. Gardner has thrown for 520 yards with four passing touchdowns and has three scores on the ground in two starts.
“It’s two different preparations,” he said. “And, both of them are tough preparations.”
Robinson hasn’t been available for interviews for weeks, but his teammates say he has stayed upbeat despite being stuck on the sideline toward the end of his spectacular career.
“He’s a source of encouragement,” guard Patrick Omahmeh said. “Whatever he can do for the team, it is what he’s going to do. Everybody wants to go out the way they dream when you came to Michigan, but we can’t always get that.”
Michigan’s fifth-year seniors saw a school-record nine losses up close in 2008 during Rodriguez’s debut season. They have benefited from a coaching change that has worked out well for college football’s winningest program. The Wolverines won 11 games last year and have a chance to win 10 games this year.
“We always knew we had good athletes and a lot of credit for that goes to coach Rod,” senior safety Jordan Kovacs said. “But coach Hoke has taken advantage of our talent and has run with it.”
Michigan, though, is desperately seeking the end to an eight-year drought without a Big Ten title.