A lot of people have asked me how I feel about new Michigan football coach Brady Hoke. My answer has been: I don’t really know. I know how I would’ve felt had one of the other potential candidates been hired: I did not want Les Miles and while Jim Harbaugh has come across as a bit of a jerk over the last few years, there’s no denying his success. But with Hoke, who comes from San Diego State and was at Ball State before that, I’m not sure how I feel, and I think that sort of sums up the hire—it’s hard to get too excited about Hoke, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
One of the first questions when Hoke was hired—well, since Rich Rodriguez was fired, really—was whether Denard Robinson would stay at Michigan. Robinson has said he will, which is reassuring to Wolverine fans. It would have been impressive if Michigan could’ve somehow induced both Ryan Mallett (who had the fifth most passing yards in the country this past season for Arkansas) and Robinson, the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, to transfer within three years of each other.
Part of the reason Robinson is staying is because of Hoke’s willingness to adapt to the star quarterback’s skill set. At least that is the hope. Rodriguez said the same thing as Hoke in his introductory press conference—that he is going to implement his style but will adapt to his personnel—but it proved to be not entirely true. Granted, Rodriguez didn’t have much to work with in his first year (regardless of what he was willing to do offensively), but his stubbornness didn’t help.
We’ll see if Hoke and offensive coordinator Al Borges, who has never presided over a running quarterback, can make good on their initial promise. Reducing Robinson’s carries may not be such a bad thing anyway, but if he doesn’t get some freedom to run then the transition from Rodriguez to Hoke could be just as rough as it was from Lloyd Carr to Rodriguez.
Speaking of Carr, a certain group of Michigan fans is not exactly enthused that Hoke was an assistant under Carr and believes in a similar football philosophy. These people were understandably frustrated with the last few years of Carr’s tenure and were excited about a shift they had hoped would bring Michigan football into a new era. Rodriguez’s three years obviously didn’t work out, but the Hoke hire by no means suggests Michigan is “surrendering” and settling for mediocrity.
|Brady Hoke at his introductory press conference (Credit: MGoBlue.com)|
Look at what Carr did in his first six years as Michigan’s head coach (starting in 1995): a 55-18 (.784) overall record with a 5-1 mark against Ohio State and a 4-2 record in bowl games, including a national title in his third season. It was his final seven years that weren’t as strong, though still respectable: 64-24 (.727), 1-6 vs. OSU, 2-5 in bowls. Of course there are a lot of factors that make Carr’s beginning as Michigan head coach different from Hoke’s, but it’s foolish to pretend Michigan was not great (not very good, but great) during Carr’s first several seasons.
Another assistant under Carr, Greg Mattison, returns to Ann Arbor as the defensive coordinator. Mattison’s resume and the reviews from his peers suggest this was an excellent hire. Rodriguez’s demise was largely because of his choice of Greg Robinson as defensive coordinator, so in this very important regard Hoke made a great choice. Mattison leaves the same position with the Baltimore Ravens, and you’ve got to like anyone who was affiliated with the Ravens defense.
There is no doubt that Hoke really wants to be at Michigan—at his press conference he said he would have walked to Ann Arbor from San Diego to get the job—and that passion certainly can’t hurt his chances of succeeding. The pressure is certainly there. With each season the Wolverines are really bad, bad, or just average (as they have been the last three seasons), it will be harder for them to climb out of the hole and back to national prominenc