(DETROIT FREE PRESS) - One of the common threads between Michigan basketball coach John Beilein and football coach Rich Rodriguez is their affinity for walk-ons, having experienced the process themselves.
Beilein leaned on it heavily in his first few years with point guards David Merritt and C.J. Lee. Rodriguez needs it to fill out his roster because scholarship numbers remain down after off-season departures.
"One of the things we did when we first got there was let's see what we can do to enhance our walk-on program," Rodriguez said. "We've always been pretty good, but we wanted to take it to another level. That's a process. It doesn't happen overnight and, like anything else, it's going to take a few years. But I think we started off with some quality guys who can have success, not only athletically, but academically at Michigan.
"They're going to create some competition at practice, and I would suspect in the new walk-on group, there will be three to four of them who will earn scholarships. There will be one or two who may play as soon as this year, and I'm really excited about that."
Of the players listed on the mgoblue.com roster, nearly 50 are in the preferred walk-on candidates. A number have been through the program for a while, arriving as walk-ons -- Bryant Nowicki, Kevin Leach, Tim North and Jared Van Slyke among them.
Nearly 80% are in-state players, which makes sense given the cost of out-of-state tuition at U-M.
"They haven't gone through the practices yet and the tough grind, but some of those guys enrolled in summer school and got started working out in the weight room," Rodriguez said.
By MARK SNYDER - FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER