Hoke says younger players will get shot

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan coach Brady Hoke said the bye week was beneficial, both mentally and physically, for his team. It gave the coaching staff an opportunity to work more on fundamentals with some of the younger players, and Hoke says he expects a few of those players will get more opportunities because of that.

"When you look at it from that vantage point, I think it's good for them," Hoke said of the fundamentals focus. "They got a little more work in."

The following freshmen could see increased opportunities: defensive end Frank Clark, defensive back Blake Countess, defensive back Raymon Taylor and linebacker Brennan Beyer.

Senior tight end Kevin Koger said it is important for the young players to learn quickly what they need to do on the field, but once the coaches have confidence in a younger player, it changes how they execute on the field.

"Knowing the coaches believe in you, even if you do make a mistake, they're going to stay with you and not take you out of the game," Koger said. "You play a lot faster. You play a lot harder when you do have that confidence."

Look-ahead: Purdue

With the off weekend, several of the players got a chance to watch two upcoming opponents -- Purdue and Illinois -- face off. The most impressive aspect of Purdue, according to fifth-year senior defensive tackle Ryan Van Bergen, is how much the Boilermakers have improved every week.

"They're a solid team," Van Bergen said. "I think they've finally found what their game plan and strategy is. ... They're rolling as a team."

Even with the bye week, and the extra preparation time it gives a coach, Hoke said players and coaches have prepared only for Purdue. He noted several areas of the Boilermakers' game with which he's impressed, including their skill players and how tough they are defensively.

Against the Fighting Illini, the Purdue defense gave up 366 yards of total offense, but it recorded four sacks. Hoke was impressed with the linebackers, noting how well they flow to the ball as a group.

"Illinois had a tough 3½ quarters of the game," Hoke said.

Injury updates/depth chart changes

Van Bergen said he believes the team is healthier than other teams in the Big Ten at this point, and that gives him confidence moving forward.

"There's a lot of guys who have starters banged up, impact players who are banged up, and luckily for us that's not our situation," Van Bergen said. "We're healthy, and that's definitely an advantage because I don't think everybody can say that in the conference."

Redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Taylor Lewan, who was sporting a boot and wrist guard, didn't practice last week, but Hoke expects him to play Saturday. ... Fifth-year senior cornerback Troy Woolfolk tweeted Saturday that he was involved in a seven-vehicle car accident on his way to Cedar Point, but Hoke said Woolfolk looked good Saturday. ... Redshirt junior offensive lineman Ricky Barnum, who has been slowed by an ankle injury, is healthy, according to Hoke. ... Redshirt freshman linebacker Jake Ryan, who has been listed as the backup at strongside linebacker despite starting every game, has finally been moved to the top of the depth chart.

Chantel Jennings covers University of Michigan sports for WolverineNation. She can be reached at jenningsespn@gmail.com or or on Twitter @chanteljennings.