Michigan players must earn their wings

Oh, to be a fly on the wall in the Michigan locker room right now ...

Who's on board for the 2010 season, and who isn't? That question continues to be asked as Michigan goes through preseason drills.

Head coach Rich Rodriguez told reporters Monday night that players still must earn the right to wear the famous winged helmet for the Wolverines. He didn't go into specifics, saying "it's a team thing."

During the Big Ten Network's visit to practice last week, several players didn't have wings on their helmets (there's some debate as to whether quarterback Tate Forcier was one of them, although he's wearing the winged headgear in a recent practice video posted on the school's official Web site).

"There's usually more involved than, 'Is a guy out of shape?'" Rodriguez said. "It's more, 'Has he earned the wings?' Certainly we want everybody that runs down that tunnel on September 4 be wearing a winged helmet. In order to be running down that tunnel, you've got to appreciate that privilege that you have to play here, and I think all of them will. But if they don't, they won't wear the helmet."

The winged helmet thing goes back to the start of camp, when Rodriguez said several players came in out of shape and might lose the opportunity to wear the helmet if things didn't improve.

We know Michigan's coaching staff kept its distance from summer workouts after the NCAA investigation into the program. But how was the attendance among players?

Cornerback Troy Woolfolk had some interesting comments at Big Ten media day.

"In the past, it was a given that you've got to come out, people already knew," Woolfolk said of the voluntary workouts run by the seniors. "Nothing was mandatory. Now that we got in trouble [with the NCAA alleged violations], the coaches are trying so hard to put an emphasis that this is not mandatory and you don't have to do it, and I think it's actually encouraging [players to skip]. ... [It has] had a negative affect on the people actually coming out to practice."

Needless to say, Rodriguez needs everyone on board for a pivotal season. But he also can't waste his time with any players who are wavering in their commitment to the team.

Michigan has enough obstacles in front of it to worry about who's in and who's out.