THIS YEAR COACH HOKE IS STRESSING PLAYING FASTER WITH MORE EDGE.
On Fan Day The Media Meets With Coaches and Players In The Morning At Breakfast and Fans Meet the Coaches And Players In the Stadium With Autographs Available In The Afternoon.
This year the weather was perfect in all respects for the event.
More than in recent seasons, the so called “Kool Aid” (a kind of homer optimism) prevails before the season. Hopefully it will prove to be on firmer ground than in seasons immediately passed. There are a number of cogent reasons for optimism.
And far fewer reasons to support gloom and doom, even if there are a few serious question marks. While Coach Hoke is not yet satisfied with either side of the ball when it comes to playing the game faster and more physical, he seems pretty pleased with the progress to date of Team 134. There are 20 days before the first reality check which will be supplied by the Chippewas of Central Michigan.
- Hoke wholly owns this system. Now into its third year, it is firmly in place,. including the pro-style offense that is OC Al Borges’ trademark, and Brady’s preference. In Devin Gardner, a suitable, big, dual threat quarterback is in place. Even if he can only be considered semi experienced with just half a season under his belt, he acquitted himself well in several tough games last year, and is reported to have had a good spring practice, and summer, and camp so far. Look for an offensive system that is fifty-fifty pass or run. Already there is speculation that Devin will be going pro next year, as he has already graduated, speculation that if he has a spectacular year this year, he may be gone. I hope he has the opportunity to weigh such a decision, as the Wolverine’s fortunes are tied closely to his this season. They are inseparable.
There is now a stability to the football program that is reminiscent of better years. Recruiting has been at least OK and at best spectacular for the several years of Hoke’s leadership. The school benefits from the great effort by Hoke and his Assistant Coaches. They cover the country at great personal effort and sacrifice of personal comfort, becoming familiar with long flights to distant and sometimes obscure destinations, hopping several flights on a single trip, flight delays and cancellations, and otherwise suffering all the slings and arrows of dependence on Bernoulli’s principle for transportation. Not glamorous, and it has to be grinding. They aren’t spending the summer at the cottage. They aren’t complaining, and all seem hyped to spread the good word regarding the Michigan football product, and educational experience. The stability of the Coaching staff is a big, big plus.
In football, size does matter and it’s got to be costing more to feed those guys this year. There has been a considerable influx of large, athletic players. It speaks to the job that Aaron Wellman and his staff are doing to condition, in addition to their improved recruiting. Probably that type of change will be most easily noticeable at RB or WR, but seems fairly general. Darboh and Chesson are both tall lanky receivers. Hoke on Darboh and Chesson making an impact on the passing game … “I think they’ve done a really good job, both of them. I think (Amara) Darboh, he was a guy a year ago when we had this conversation that Roy Roundtree talked about, and ended up with no catches. He’s done a great job committing himself. Jeremy Gallon and Drew Dileo have done a tremendous job of coaching those guys. He’s made some nice catches and shown good concentration so far during camp. Jehu (Chesson) probably hasn’t had as many opportunities, but he can stretch the field vertically so well, we’re excited about him.”
- Never one to underestimate his charges, Coach Fred Jackson waxed eloquent regarding his seven or so RBs in his own entertaining way. Fred is flat pleased with this year’s stable. He thinks that they are going to get third and longs. That they are big and tough, including the Freshmen. Says they are the kind of guys that, when faced with a challenge will hike up their pants and say “UhHuh”. Fred cited FB Joe Kerridge, as big and physical. 250 pounds. Think you will see more use of the full backs this year. Hoke thinks there will be more than one significant running back.
- Sunday I got to meet some of this season’s players. They have been well schooled on how to meet the media. They were all polite. Lots of “Sirs” flying around. Like the late Rodney Dangerfield, I’m not used to that. They didn’t overdo it, and stood up for the interviews. When asked what they liked best about playing Michigan Football, a common theme was the bond formed by shared trials and tribulations as they try to achieve difficult common goals they have formed, or are forming with their teammates. In other words, a sense of team pervades.
Some of last year’s serious woes seem curable. One of the most serious offensive deficiencies was lack of a running game other than Denard Robinson. Running back production was simply the worst in Michigan history. Fitz Toussaint’s injury finalized the ground game woes. Fitz seems to be in competitive physical shape now. Unfortunately last year none of the RB understudies stepped up enough to seize the opportunity. Additionally the OL did not provide the holes. With two of the best tackles in the Big Ten in Lewan and Schofield that’s all set, but the interior will be talented and inexperienced. This ought to turn out to be a remarkable OL…in time. Ben Braden and Kyle Kalis will be great linemen…in time. How soon is the question.
Hoke on the battle at center and how Jack
Miller is fitting in: “Jack (Miller) has done a really good job. I think him and , and Graham Glasgow Joey Burzynski being the third element in there, I think they both have competed well. I think both of them, and really all three of them, have really good intelligence and that helps because they can play guard. We’ve worked them at all three. Jack (Miller) has mainly stayed at the center position, but he knows the guard position. I think it’s a good competition. This week is a big week for all those things to see how they play out.”
- DL should be as good or better. A big cog in the Wolverine opposing quarterback demolition machine is Frank Clark. Last year the Wolverines pass rush was nothing to write home about on too many occasion as they didn’t get “home” on too many occasions. I talked to Frank and he thinks he can get the job done, perhaps get a sack full of sacks. And he will get more than a little help from his friends.
There seems to be many genuine reasons to savor the preseason Kool Aid this year. Right now things are looking good to compete for their oft stated top priority- a Big Ten Championship. Will they be able to win away from home this year?
Hoke cites the same size field etc., same game, and blames last year’s away from home inertia, on turnovers. He repeats and repeats a season without a Championship is a failure.
That’s not “Kool Aid”. You got to believe the Coach don’t you?