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No. 11 Michigan opens the season at 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday against No. 17 Florida in Arlington, Texas.

Michigan football mailbag: James Hudson III’s move to OL, how Michigan elects captains, the best game at the Big House

Have Michigan football questions? We’ve got answers. Join us every Thursday for the Land of 10 Michigan mailbag to talk all things Wolverines. This week, we’ll discuss the move of James Hudson III from defensive line to offensive line, Michigan’s process of electing captains and which home game is Michigan’s best this season.

What’s the reason James Hudson was moved to offensive tackle when he was a stud defensive tackle/defensive end?

With the release of the roster on Wednesday, Michigan confirmed Hudson, a defensive lineman from Central Catholic High School in Toledo, Ohio, has moved to the offensive line.

Moving Hudson follows a philosophy that has actually guided the defensive line: building and cultivating depth. Given Michigan lost three of its starters on the offensive line to graduation or the NFL (Kyle Kalis, Erik Magnuson and Ben Braden), this is something the offensive line should do, as well.

“James is big, athletic guy who can move very well.” Michigan offensive coordinator Tim Drevno said. “Very powerful, very heavy-handed, and it just felt like with his measurables and his athletic ability, he could add something to our depth chart on the offensive line.”

This may also be an opportunity for Hudson to increase his versatility. Michigan has moved linemen to the opposite side of the ball before. Think of sophomore Michael Onwenu, who came to Michigan as an offensive lineman, worked out on the offensive and defensive lines in 2016, and is expected to start on the offensive line this season. Hudson has similar attributes to Onwenu — big body, quick feet, strength and a physical presence.

Do collegiate players stay inside of the locker room for the national anthem?

We answered Brian Yonkoski’s question during last week’s Facebook Live, but it’s worth revisiting again.

College football players stand on the sidelines during the Star Spangled Banner, but only at certain stadiums. From The Associated Press in 2016:

In the Big Ten, eight of the 14 schools have the teams on the field for the anthem. All Big 12, Pac-12 and Southeastern Conference teams are in their locker rooms during the anthem before home games. Boston College and Pittsburgh are the only Atlantic Coast Conference teams that are on the field for the anthem at home games.

Brian added this when he asked the question: “I’d hate for there to be any distractions on the sideline. I know (Jabrill) Peppers knelt this week for the Browns.”

This has become one of the polarizing topics in sports, especially in football, where sideline demonstrations by players to bring awareness to racial and political injustices.

“Couple guys got together, spoke, we all spoke, voiced the way we want go about it,” Peppers told reporters last week in Cleveland. “Ultimately, we thought coming together and praying for our nation was the best outcome that we could have gotten for everyone to come together and express how we feel.”

Last year, several of Michigan’s players, including cornerback Jourdan Lewis, held their fists aloft during the national anthem as a show of solidarity — Lewis said he and his teammates did it to bring awareness to racial injustice.

This will cause a few rankles among our readership, but the Constitution grants us the right to free speech. It also grants us the right to respectfully disagree.

The excellent defensive line we have will help with the defensive backs getting comfortable. What are your thoughts?

Joseph Edward Handy asked this via Facebook.

The defensive line is the first line of defense. The defensive backs, particularly the safeties, are the last line of defense.

These two units, ultimately, go hand-in-hand. We can’t forget about the linebackers, either — defensive end Chase Winovich, who came to Michigan as a linebacker, emphasized it’s a mutual relationship for all three defensive units. If the defensive line is doing its job, that takes the pressure off the linebackers, and it takes the pressure off the secondary.

Part of Michigan’s success in the secondary last season was owed to the defensive line’s and linebackers’ pass-rushing abilities. Michigan’s players in the secondary credited that as a reason the defensive backfield was so successful, allowing a national-best average of 142.5 passing yards a game.

In a way, the secondary had less work to do, which helped its efficiency. That group also had experience, including All-American Jourdan Lewis, as well as depth. When Lewis was out, Channing Stribling and Jeremy Clark shined in those roles. When Lewis then returned, it was fortunate timing; Clark was injured against Penn State (Lewis’ season debut) and Lewis seamlessly took over the spot.

This group doesn’t have the same experience and will learn on the fly, both as a position group and as individuals. If the defensive line does its job, then it gives the young defensive backs a chance to be successful and functional, and make the on-the-job training for players such as Tyree Kinnel, Donovan Peoples-Jones and Lavert Hill a little easier.

Why were only two captains named, and why wasn’t Mo Hurst one of them?

Jason Coleman posted on Facebook that he thinks Maurice Hurst Jr. should have been named Michigan’s third captain.

The Wolverines elected linebacker Mike McCray and offensive lineman Mason Cole as captains Saturday by a team vote. Michigan traditionally elects two captains each season, save for 2014, when former Michigan football coach Brady Hoke rotated his captains on a week-by-week basis. (Michigan should have stuck with two captains in 2014 — don’t deviate from tradition).

Here are some other candidates I thought of for captain:

  • Hurst: He’s a fifth-year senior who chose to return for his final year of eligibility. He’s also one of the more thoughtful players we talk to at Michigan. He has a certain maturity beyond his years.
  • Wilton Speight: As someone mentioned earlier this week on Twitter, the quarterback is the team’s MVP. But I add that the quarterback is almost always the focal point. Speight enters his fourth year with the program and has both playing experience and life experience to fall back upon. Keep in mind he nearly left Michigan two years ago. Plus, as a quarterback, you have to be a leader.
  • Winovich: Winovich needs to be rewarded, simply for perseverance. He moved from linebacker to tight end to defensive line (where he’s thrived), he’s gone through a coaching change (and stayed, when he could have looked at another program) and somehow continues to have a perpetually sunny outlook.

Any comments about the young players playing at “Jerry World” in terms of levels of distraction?

Mark Paulino brought up a good point on Facebook — how will the younger players adapt on a big stage such as AT&T Stadium, which houses the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys? There haven’t been a lot of questions of the players, in regards to playing in an NFL facility. Consider this: Most of Michigan’s players have played in an NFL facility — the Miami Dolphins’ Hard Rock Stadium for the Orange Bowl in December.

Defensive end Rashan Gary said there’s a running joke among the coaches as the Wolverines prepare to play in Arlington:

“All our coaches have been saying is, ‘Just don’t look at the Jumbotron,’” Gary said. “They make a big play, they replay it, you don’t want to get caught up looking at it.”

It’s easy, though, to be overwhelmed by a facility such as AT&T Stadium. From the exterior, it’s a monolith. Inside, it holds a capacity crowd of 80,000, and it is loud, glitzy and grandiose.

I covered Michigan’s season opener in 2012 against Alabama (a game that many Michigan fans would rather forget) and I can still hear how loud the Alabama fans were (and all the houndstooth pattern accessories they wore). Michigan, however, wasn’t intimidated by AT&T Stadium in 2012. They had to worry about keeping up with Alabama.

In your view, what is the best home game to attend?

A little bit of an offbeat question, but these are fun to answer. Thank you to Brenda Cole Sotomayor who asked this recently Facebook Live. Here are three answers, ranked 1-3. The easy one? Michigan-Ohio State, which Michigan Stadium hosts every other year. There’s a different buzz inside the stadium. That happens when you mix two fan bases who absolutely hate each other, and when everyone in the stadium knows the rest of the college football world is watching this game. And it’s not just an event at Michigan Stadium, it’s a community event in Ann Arbor. If you want to see a rivalry at its peak, pull your money together for The Game. The lowest listed ticket on TicketCity.com as of Thursday morning is $251.

Second, go to the Michigan-Michigan State game. It’s also a home game at Michigan Stadium this year, on Oct. 7 (and it could be a night game, as well). It’s the second-loudest I’ve ever heard Michigan Stadium.

A third to circle on the calendar, on Oct. 26, 2019: Notre Dame-Michigan. This is one of my favorite rivalry games, to watch or to cover — 2013 Under The Lights was the loudest I’ve ever heard Michigan Stadium.

Have a question about Michigan football? Tweet us @Landof10Mich and we’ll try to answer your question in a future mailbag. Check to see if your question already was answered by reading previous Michigan football mailbags here.