Highlights from UM coach Al Golden’s preseason news conference Thursday:
### He said players now view conditioning as “essential, not punitive. We’re much stronger than we were. There’s not even a comparison between our strength last year and this year. Our conditioning is better. These kids paid a price this summer. We got pushed around too much up front [last year]. A lot of guys made sacrifices. A lot changed their diet.”
### Beyond quarterback, Golden mentioned other positions where the competition is keen: “Receivers, because we brought in five, should be exciting. I think [freshmen] Ereck Flowers and Danny Isidora certainly will have something to say [on the offensive line].
[Guard] Jeremy Lewis is in the best shape of his life. He knows it’s his last at-bat. Jermaine Johnson wants to say something at guard or tackle. Running backs… There aren’t a lot of guys that are untouchable.”
### Offensive starters on the depth chart: Mike James at running back; Allen Hurns and Rashawn Scott at receiver; Maurice Hagens at fullback; Malcolm Bunche, Jonathan Feliciano, Shane McDermott, Brandon Linder and Seantrel Henderson from left to right on the offensive line and Asante Cleveland at tight end.
Quarterback was listed as an either/or between Stephen Morris and Ryan Williams. Morris is considered the front-runner, but Golden said Thursday “it’s neck and neck.”
Golden said he has “never really been a fan” of splitting time between two quarterbacks: “I don’t see that right now.”
He said: “Both quarterbacks are smart and have come a long way in terms of leadership. There has to be an X factor. Who are those guys going to follow? Who has command of the huddle? Ultimately, who can we trust to execute our system?”
UM will hold scrimmages Aug. 12 and 18. Golden said a starting quarterback could be named a day or so after either of those scrimmages.
### Defensive starters on the depth chart: Anthony Chickillo and Shayon Green at defensive end; Curtis Porter and Darius Smith at tackle; Denzel Perryman, Jimmy Gaines and Ramon Buchanan at linebacker; Brandon McGee and Ladarius Gunter at cornerback; and Vaughn Telemaque and Kacy Rodgers at safety.
### Phillip Dorsett is listed as the top punt and kickoff returner, with Dallas Crawford behind him for both roles.
### Freshman running back Danny Dillard has been cleared academically and will be able to practice immediately, Golden said.
### On who has emerged as leaders in the offseason: “Hurns has been fantastic. On the offensive line, Shane and Linder. Asante has been good. Word has it that [defensive tackle] Luther Robinson maybe had the best summer of anyone on our team. McGee and Vaughn Telemaque have given us what we need on the back end.”
### On what he expects from elite newcomers Duke Johnson and Tracy Howard: “It’s too early to tell. They come in with high expectations. They have to let that go. The only way they’re going to get a promotion is accept and execute the role we give them for [Friday’s] practice. Both come in with the mindset they want to be the best.”
Golden said “the infusion of youngsters into the program has really created an energy.”
### Golden praised Dyron Dye, who is listed as the No. 4 tight end behind Cleveland, Clive Walford and David Perry: “I see a different Dyron Dye. I see a different attitude. Much more confident.”
### Golden said he’s not recruiting any players from Penn State, who are being allowed to transfer because of NCAA sanctions.
### Golden: “We have a no excuse mentality in our building. I hope we have a team that is intrinsically motivated and doesn’t make excuses.”
### Among players who missed time in the spring, Hurns, Buchanan, Shayon Green and Corey King are fully back, Golden said. Tight end Cory White “will not be fully integrated initially.”
### Asked what areas he feels confident this team will be better – besides conditioning – Golden said, “I hope situational football, our football intelligence.”
### Golden is keeping in touch with some UM players who are now in the NFL. “I get texts from Lamar [Miller] and Olivier [Vernon].”