Here are my observations from our brief opportunity (20 minutes) to view Michigan football practice.
Brady Hoke is definitely a hands-on coach. He spent time running drills and working with defensive lineman on techniques and was quick with instruction, criticism, and occasional praise.
He also spent time working with lineman to refine blocking technique during punting. During spring practice, I asked special teams coordinator Dan Ferrigno how he would motivate players to players to do the many thankless jobs critical to successful special teams play. He said that with a head coach like Brady who understood how important these aspects of the game are that wouldn’t be a problem. Seeing Hoke instructing the finer points of blocking for the interior lineman on the punt team reinforced this.
It is my belief that special teams play is a critical barometer of the overall spirit of a team. Problems on offense or defense get more publicity but motivating players to block on on extra points or sacrifice their bodies to break up the blocking on a kick return is a special challenge. Last year Michigan special teams under the previous staff were a comedy (more like a tragedy) of errors. Every game seemed to bring a new failure. I’m looking forward to improved special teams play during the Hoke regime.
Denard Robinson both Devin Gardner threw the ball well. They ran a drill where they practiced 30 yard “touch” passes down the field. It was clear Offensive Coordinator /QB Coach Al Borges is putting special emphasis on footwork and technique with all the quarterbacks- the kinds of the things that need to happen on EVERY play no matter where the ball ends up.
Some have questioned Denard’s ability to deliver the ball down field. Watching him in practice the last several years, I have no doubt he throws ball fine. He might not have the booming cannon of an arm that former Wolverine Ryan Mallett has but he can deliver the ball with good accuracy and velocity. The larger question is Denard knowing when and where to deliver the ball- this is what will determine how successful the offense will be this year. With questions at running back and no clear cut go-to receiver Denard’s ability to check down and find the outlet receiver will be critical in the early going.
The size of the offensive line is amazing. When Denard lines up under center he practically disappears behind his blockers.
Our time at practice was interrupted by Coach Hoke summoning thunder and lightning from the skies as a show of power to the gathered media. The team didn’t miss a beat re-deploying to the amazing practice facility.
On the way out I noticed this sign hanging outside the Michigan locker room. It’s the first thing they see on the way to the practice fields.
GAME ON OHIO STATE.
AFTER YOU GET DONE GROVELING BEFORE THE NCAA YOU HAVE A DATE TO PLAY THE WOLVERINES IN ANN ARBOR!
I look forward to this sign being reset to a much lower number very soon.
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