Tag Archives: Brady Hoke

Michigan Wolverines Football Season Preview 2011

How stubborn is Brady Hoke? For the Michigan Wolverines that may be the most important question of the 2011 season.

At this point it’s not about whether a guy with a 47-50 record as a head coach deserved to be the next head coach at Michigan. History is filled with people who may have appeared to be undeserving of their opportunity but thrived once given it. Although his record today is still 47-50, there are no signs he is in over his head: His recruiting was solid. The coordinator hires were terrific. The star quarterback he inherited is still here.

But everyone wants to know how Hoke will utilize that star quarterback. Watching Denard Robinson and the Michigan offense last year was about as much fun as you can have watching football. I’m not exaggerating when I say it felt like Michigan could score on any given play. Many of Robinson’s runs were so good they were laughable. This allowed him, on several occasions, to give the defense the slightest perception he might run before tossing it to a receiver so wide open that anyone in the bar who said “I could have scored there” wasn’t wrong.

The architect behind all of that, Rich Rodriguez, is no longer in Ann Arbor. That’s not unfair nor is it necessarily sad; it’s just unfortunate. This offense probably fails to take a really big leap because of that fact, but I think it can still take a step forward.

I am basing that largely on a hope that Hoke and offensive coordinator Al Borges (who came with Hoke from San Diego State) will be more flexible than Rodriguez was when he first arrived. They have said all the right things but we really won’t know until Saturday afternoon and maybe not even until the next Saturday night.

People may doubt Robinson’s ability to be a consistently accurate thrower in an offense more pass-oriented than he’s accustomed to, but people doubted his ability to go from “running back who stands where the quarterback stands” to Heisman candidate and he did that in one offseason. The Spring Game may not have been encouraging but I’m willing to wait and see.

How much of this will we see from Denard this season? (Credit: John Peckham)

As for the defense, it will be better than last year. There won’t be true freshmen everywhere. Greg Robinson is no longer the defensive coordinator. (Let that sentence sink in for a moment.) The new coordinator is Greg Mattison, who last year at this time was preparing the Baltimore Ravens defense for another stellar season. Michigan went from a handle-less bicycle to a Porsche in that department. This still won’t be a great defense but unlike the offense there’s no concern about messing with a good thing. Michigan fans won’t want to cry this season when the other team has the ball.

Another thing this team has going for it is the schedule. The first five games are at home and include Western Michigan, Eastern Michigan, and San Diego State. Notre Dame, Nebraska, and Ohio State all come to Ann Arbor. That is why I will be optimistic and predict a 9-3 record for Michigan. Nebraska feels like a loss while Notre Dame, Michigan State, Illinois, Iowa, and Ohio State are toss-ups. Ask me tomorrow and I might say 8-4, but you only get one prediction so 9-3 it is.

Not to get all defensive, but a new coaching staff makes predictions difficult. Nobody really knew what to expect three years ago and the same is true as we head into the 2011 season. All eyes will be on Robinson and the offense: How many designed runs will there be? How often will he be under center? Has his accuracy and decision-making improved?

And it all leads back to the coaching staff’s willingness to blend their personal schematic preferences with their personnel. Everyone knows Robinson’s biggest asset is his speed so it will be imperative that the coaches maximize that—even if they don’t maximize it to the same extent Rodriguez would have. Finding the right balance as Michigan tries to win this year and begin the transition to a new era is easier said than done, but Wolverine fans are ready to embrace it.

Brady Hoke: Michigan Football New Coach

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

A Coaching Search in 2011

This was not your father’s coaching search. This wasn’t even your older brother’s coaching search. The Internet has changed the news landscape, so when Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon announced yesterday that Brady Hoke would replace Rich Rodriguez, for the first time in a week the Wolverine fan base could stop clicking the “refresh” button.

The Web resources below were in existence when Rodriguez replaced Lloyd Carr three years ago, but were not as popular. Regarding the Michigan coaching search and any future searches at other football-crazy schools, here are the game changers:

Twitter
Although 140 characters isn’t much, it’s enough to write, “Harbaugh to Michigan, sources say,” or “Miles is being interviewed by UM; likely to accept offer if one is made.” Sure, publishing to a blog is fast, but Twitter is the emblem of immediacy.

There’s still an attitude that “it’s just a tweet,” so take it with a grain of salt. Also, athletes are on Twitter, and even though they often have no idea what’s going on, they can influence people with even the vaguest of messages.

Flight Tracking
FlightAware.com allows visitors to track flights live, even private planes, and people did just this to determine the whereabouts of Brandon. This happened during Michigan’s last coaching search, but it was taken to a new level this time.

It was determined there were two planes involved in the search—one with the Michigan winged helmet on the nose of the plane and one owned by Domino’s Pizza, Brandon’s former company. Bloggers and message board posters could pinpoint exactly where the athletic director was travelling and could reasonably speculate which coaches he was meeting. It was even noted that on one trip from Baton Rouge to Ann Arbor, Brandon’s plane went slightly out of its way to avoid Ohio airspace.

Yeah, the flight tracking got a little creepy. Not only were Michigan fans following planes, but LSU fans were as well, wondering if they might lose their coach, Les Miles. Would it have become public knowledge that these meetings took place even without such a website? Most likely. But fans and media could track the AD in real time, as if they were flying around the country with him.

I wonder if the site traffic numbers for FlightAware increase in December and January, especially when high-profile schools are looking for a new football coach.

Is this Dave Brandon’s jet? No, but the coaching search is over, so who cares? (Credit: Adrian Pingstone)

Blogs and Message Boards
These have obviously been around for a while but there are more than ever. This is not scientific by any means, but blogs are bigger and better as well. I’m not a frequent message board visitor, but it was clear that during the coaching search the boards were pounded just as they would be after a game.

I know many Michigan fans (myself included, at times) who clicked refresh on their favorite blogs throughout the past few days. Not everyone has the time, energy, or know-how to access the relevant information on Twitter or flight tracking sites, but many bloggers did that work for you, culling the news and speculating on what it might mean.

The Michigan coaching situation was unique in that it occurred later than most (if a coach is fired, it usually takes place before the bowl games) and took longer than most (Rodriguez was fired last Wednesday). The resourcefulness of the media, bloggers, and fans, however, are things you are going to see in any future coaching search involving a big-time football program.

And there was plenty of false information flying around. It seemed like everyone was trying to be first as opposed to being right, a philosophy of sports journalism that has apparently carried over from 2010. Get used to it.