COACH HOKE: Couple things about last Saturday. It's good to win football game. I thought we started a little slower than we would like to. I don't know if there is a magic answer for that. We talked about that as a team. The first six possessions offensively I think we were three and out three times, and then we were driving the ball and we throw an interception. That hurts you when you look at your tempo and the fluidness you want to have offensively. And obviously your defense is back on the field. I thought early we struggled a little bit with some of Jets series plays that come from that series. But after that, I think our guys made some good adjustments on both sides of the ball. I thought the kids played fundamentally maybe more sound. Then the time of possession obviously became a big factor. We play good defense when we're watching our offense, and we were able to do that in the second half a little more.But the running game I thought came on. As we saw, we still don't want to run Denard 26 times a game. That's a good way to get him beat up and hurt. So we got to keep plugging away. I thought with Vince's production, Fitz gave us some good runs in there. Took a little bit of the load off of him, but we've got to make sure that we are a healthy football team as we continue forward. Couple that need to complete a couple balls… if they're going to load the box and play man coverage, which they did. And that's smart. We got to be able to complete a couple of those things to loosen some people up. Defensively, our Thomas Gordon made probably as critical a play in the game with the interception and the fumble recovery. And both of those were hustle plays. On the interception, it was Thomas doing his job, which is he didn't get fooled, didn't get sucked in. I thought that was a nice play by him. We felt our defensive front I think during the course of the game a little more. Craig Roh I think played his best football of the year so far I think. Jibreel played a pretty productive football game. You could feel Mike a little more in there. I thought Will Campbell again gave you go some really good snaps. So we've got a lot work ahead of us with a very good San Diego State team coming in. They're undefeated; they're 3-0; beat Washington State last week. Very talented team, a team that's going to play with a lot toughness and team that's well-coached, so we got our hands full.
QUESTION: How did a Midwest guy with Midwest ties end up at San Diego State? How much does it help that you know their personnel so well?
COACH HOKE: You know, I think people may make a big deal about it. They're a travel team; 70 guys are coming. San Diego State playing Michigan, that's really all it is. It was the right opportunity at the right time.
QUESTION: Since January when you took this position, have you had a chance to talk with Rocky and talk about this game at all?
COACH HOKE: Well, we've talked some. But, you know, we talk more about families and more about, you know, what's going on. I mean, don't talk a whole lot about the football aspect of it besides how spring went and those kind of things.
QUESTION: Two things: First, does this game get any emotionally different for you because you do know the players and you've sat in their homes and recruited those guys?
COACH HOKE: You know, I don't know if it gets into that. Really in the framework of what's going to happen, it's two football teams competing. Their staff will compete like heck; they're very competitive. We're very competitive. It's about those 60 minutes on the field.
Yeah, there's great kids, no question, but we got great kids here, too.
QUESTION: Just with your running backs, you said Saturday you were going to look at the film and all that. Where do you stand right now with who might be the guy?
COACH HOKE: I think Vince right now probably has earned that right, his performance and his production. I think when you look at Fitz, I was real encouraged by him coming out with some toughness and running the ball hard and coming off that shoulder.
So I was pleased with that.
QUESTION: Were you involved in scheduling this game, or was it done long before you got to San Diego State?
COACH HOKE: I was involved in scheduling it. Scott Draper and Don Oberhelman from San Diego State and myself. I don't know if Dave or Bill Martin -- may have been Dave. I'm not sure.
So I was involved in it.
QUESTION: Why was it important to you?
COACH HOKE: I think it's a great place to come play a football game, you know. I thought we would have a pretty good, competitive team.
QUESTION: Brady, the last two weeks Denard started 1/7 with two picks in the first quarter in those two games. Is there you guys can do as coaches to get him going earlier, or does he just have to execute out there?
COACH HOKE: Well, there's no question as coaches we got to do a better job, maybe make him a little more comfortable with the throws depending on what you're going to throw. I know the second play of the game, I believe it was, we were going to throw the X screen. They dropped to him. They zone blitz it and drop to him, and he made a great decision not to throw the ball and get what he could.But, you know, I think we can always see from our vantage point what we can help him with. Just got to make sure we set our feet a little more.
QUESTION: You had two kind of slow offensive starts in a row. Especially this last week, it seemed like you moved pretty far away from under-center stuff. Was that in the game plan, or was that a decision that this is working so...
COACH HOKE: Well, it's always in the game plan. I mean, we have put both offenses in the whole time since January, you know. So that's always in there. Just depends how much of it you get to, and, you know, what's going to help you win.
QUESTION: Do you chart the success rates?
COACH HOKE: Oh, yeah. Al charts all that stuff.
QUESTION: Are you displeased with under-center stuff?
COACH HOKE: I been okay with it. I'll tell you one thing: if we can hit a couple of the throws under-center because of what people want to do defensively on loading the box, you take a couple shots, it's going to help.
QUESTION: You're +6 in turnover margin. Obviously you would take that all year. What's the key to maintaining that?
COACH HOKE: Yeah, you know, I think pressuring the quarterback. You know, when you talk about from the interception standpoint or whatever that is, tight coverage, pressuring the quarterback, effort, and guys getting to the football. Those four components usually turn into turnover opportunities. Jibreel chased all the way from the backside and did a tremendous job, punched the ball out, and Tom Gordon was on the front side and had been blocked. He did a good job hustling his butt down to cover the ball.
QUESTION: How different of a San Diego team do you think you'll face from the one you left in January?
COACH HOKE: There are always different guys. I mean, there are a lot of returning guys. Four of the offensive lineman are returning starters; three tight ends; quarterback who's a daggone good player and a great kid. The runningback, Hillman, is a tremendous player. Defensively, Burris and Autele, McFadden. I mean, there are a lot of those same guys that were there, so we're going to see a lot of good football players.
QUESTION: Does that help in your game plan to know strengths and weaknesses of some of their key guys?
COACH HOKE: You know, I don't know if they have weaknesses, to be honest with you. You watch the film of 'em. I've watched three games from their offensive perspective, and, you know, they lost two receiver, but Colin Lockett and Dylan Denso have come in and done a great job. Colin was a corner year ago and done a great job in being a big part of their offense.
QUESTION: How did you tell those guys that you were leaving, and how tough was that?
COACH HOKE: You never do it the right way. They're on fall break so no one was there. You know one of the guys in San Diego, and you send a text because you couldn't get 'em all together. There was a time element in everything obviously. We had a full team meeting when I left Ball State, my alma mater, that was hard to leave and hard to leave those kids. So we were fortunate enough to be able to do that. We couldn't do it out there.
QUESTION: Jeremy (Gallon) obviously had a huge punt return that was negated. He was pretty comfortable as return man. Is there a shot that we'll see him as a kickoff returner because Vince is getting 20, but is not really explosive beyond that...
COACH HOKE: Well, I don't know, I wouldn't say that. I think Jeremy has done an excellent job, but to say Vince isn't explosive, you may have the wrong Vince. If we get one block in that deal on the kickoff return -- what's funny about it, is they had punts - we'll go punts first - always to the right all year set to protection. They changed it and we had a good plan, but they punted everything to the left. Jeremy did a great job. He got the ball all the way back out and made a block that you don't want to make in the back. Same with Vince a little kickoff return, because of how their coverage was going to go to our right if we're the return team. If there was one block secured enough, he's out to at least mid-field. Gallon is doing a good job and could be a guy that we would we put back there. He does both fours.
QUESTION: Did you want to try to get out of that game when you came here?
COACH HOKE: I told Dave Brandon, Let's buy that one out. Yeah.
QUESTION: Obviously didn't happen.
COACH HOKE: Well, yeah, but, I mean, game is scheduled and you got to play it. Would have been way too hard for both teams to try and find new opponents and do all that kind of stuff. Again, it's going to be a great game with two schools that have a lot of pride in what they're doing in the football program.
QUESTION: Getting back to the kick return issue with Vince, if he does become the future back every week, does that maybe change where you want him on kick return, too, because that could be an extra five, six hits?
COACH HOKE: Yeah, I mean, I don't know. At the end of the day you got to make sure your best players are on the field. He's one of our best football players.
QUESTION: How do you think San Diego players' motivation will be affected by going against you?
COACH HOKE: I don't know. That's not for me to answer, you know.
QUESTION: You talk about Denard not wanting to get too many hits. Did you see more effects on his body after this game than the other two?
COACH HOKE: You know, he didn't say anything. You know him. He's not going to say anything. He comes in Sunday like they all do to get checked out by the trainer and the docs and all that. He's in fine shape. You know, the course of the year, this is a marathon. The season is always a marathon. You want to try and protect him the best you can so he's not getting too many daggone hits on him.
QUESTION: You mentioned Ronnie Hillman for a second earlier. Could you go back to him and explain what makes him so dangerous?
COACH HOKE: Well, Ronnie has very good vision and he's got tremendous speed. You know, he, as a true freshman a year ago, I think he rushed for 1,5000 or something like that. He has an innate ability that good backs have. Their vision is good, their balance is good, and he's got a burst. You know, I've seen it a lot obviously, but he's a very dangerous guy for 'em, and he's playing very confidently.
QUESTION: Break down what makes Lindley a special player.
COACH HOKE: Ryan Lindley, he's got a very strong arm, he's got a great demeanor, and he's got a tremendous work ethic when studying opponents. His coach, Brian Sipe, who wasn't a bad football player in his own right, and has a lot of the intangibles I think Brian has been able to really feed to Ryan. The kid is a tremendous kid, he's tremendous leader, and has a great sense for the game.
QUESTION: How big a challenge is this for your safeties, because they're a pretty good play-action team, and what do you tell those guys?
COACH HOKE: Yeah. Well, you got to have your eyes on the right thing, you know, whether it's quarters coverage and it's the tight end side, or is tight end down blocking or is he releasing, you know, in the standard NCAA routes? That's the biggest thing: your initial alignment, your eyes, and then what you do with your feet. That's critical. Different coverage is a little different. If you're in temp 2 or something like that, then they should be back because they got to be the last one on a run play to the ball.
QUESTION: What did Vincent do Saturday to allow him to have the success he did? And has he grown in your eyes since you watched him?
COACH HOKE: John, I think a couple things. No. 1, I think he played good with his vision, you know, on where to go and listening to Fred as we go through the game about pressing the ball more in the line of scrimmage, you know, and then reacting off the center's tail end, let's put it that way, and where you would cut and those kind of things.Vince has been a tremendous pass protector. You know, we missed one third down - I think it was the second drive, third drive - where we had him isolate on the linebacker. Should have gone to him early with it.
But, I mean, he does a lot of things very well, and he's doing a lot of things well.
QUESTION: He had good rushing numbers. Does that mean that the offensive line played well?
COACH HOKE: I thought they played pretty well when you look at it. Couple times we got knocked back, which we don't want to do. But I thought for the most part we got on the right guys.
I know talking with Darrell there were a few cuts from the backside that we should have made that we didn't for one reason or another that we got to fix.
QUESTION: Personnel is where you want it to be?
COACH HOKE: Yeah, I think so.
QUESTION: Do you have any reservations about Vince potentially being a three-down back because he's a smaller guy?
COACH HOKE: You know, he might be smaller, but he's put together. I'm sure you've seen him. He's rocked pretty well together and he's got -- his mentality is that of a tough guy.
QUESTION: Al has said repeatedly he does not want tailback by committee, but might that be the direction you have to go?
COACH HOKE: It might be. Neither one of us, you know, we don't want it that way. But, you know, I think we're there at this point in time.
QUESTION: Did you want to try to get (Thomas) Rawls in there a little bit more?
COACH HOKE: You know, yeah, I struggled with that a little bit because I never felt real good about the game. You know, I mean, I know Fred probably would have liked to get him in, but I wasn't feeling as comfortable where we were as maybe other people were.
QUESTION: Since he's redshirt is burned, should we plan on seeing him more?
COACH HOKE: Well, you really got the rule change -- and I wish Mike was here -- until Game 6 now. So there is a lot of stuff that's different. But the best players got to play.
QUESTION: Is there a sweet spot with the amount of carries for Vince? I know he's a put-together guy, but is there...
COACH HOKE: I don't know. You know, I don't know if I can answer that honestly that I would know.
QUESTION: Were you at the same spot with Devin that you were with Thomas about...
COACH HOKE: Yep.
QUESTION: Just other people wanted to get more time for him?
COACH HOKE: I mean, got asked that three times why he didn't play more, and I never felt we were where we needed to be in the game. We're trying to teach and coach the mentality that we want to have of finishing.
Sometimes - and I've done it before - you make some moves maybe too early without the total lessen of finishing going through.
QUESTION: You anticipate Cam and Brandon will be (back for Saturday’s game)?
COACH HOKE: Yeah.
QUESTION: Could either of them potentially have played last week?
COACH HOKE: Oh, I think Cam was probably closer than Brandon.
QUESTION: If Brandon comes back, obviously Hawthorne has had a couple good games. How intense is that battle going to be?
COACH HOKE: It's going to be intense. He's got to earn it.
QUESTION: Talk about the job Matt Wile has done these last, two, three games.
COACH HOKE: Yeah, I think for a young guy coming in here and doing the punt and the kickoffs and long field goals, for a young freshman, he's hanging in there. He had a couple kickoffs and had the one punt that was not what he wanted, but I think he's done a nice job. There is a maturity level that you have to have and accountability to teammates that you have to have.
QUESTION: You said up there you said to Brandon about buying out the game. How sincere was that? Why would you want to? Just for obvious reasons?
COACH HOKE: They're good.
QUESTION: So it's not sentimental?
COACH HOKE: No, no. They're good.
QUESTION: Do the team understand how good these guys are yet?
COACH HOKE: Oh, they will. Believe me, they will. All's you got to do is watch 'em. They're pretty daggone good. They're as good as anybody we've played.
QUESTION: The TV guys were saying that you were running zone reads, but to me it looked like you were gap blocking some of those.
COACH HOKE: Yeah, well, you are so some degree. Depending on what front and what they're trying to do behind it, we'll gap some of those and run the power in to read with it.
QUESTION: Would you ever schedule Ball State?
COACH HOKE: I don't know. I don't know.
QUESTION: When Will comes back next week, what does that do for the punting competition? Is that his job again?
COACH HOKE: Makes good competition. It enhances our competition.
QUESTION: Have you tried different punt formations? Like I know last year Michigan experimented with some spread punt formations. Have you tried that to get better results?
COACH HOKE: Nope.
QUESTION: If you could pick one area that would substantially improve in the game leading up to the Big 10 season, what would that be?
COACH HOKE: That's a good question. I have to pick one? I would say our front seven defensively got to play better.
QUESTION: Yeah, what was it about (Mike Shaw and Fitzgerald Toussaint) that vaulted them ahead of Vince early on?
COACH HOKE: If you remember though, we said Vince would be a third down back, so Vince was never not in the picture.
QUESTION: What have you seen from Shaw? Seems like he hasn't gotten the same amount of carries.
COACH HOKE: He's got perform a little better. And he is. He conscious about what he needs to do. Then you get a guy who gets a little bit hot, and that hot hand kind of takes over a little bit.
QUESTION: Does Vince remain the third down back, or does that change that...
COACH HOKE: No, doesn't change that at all.
QUESTION: What did Raymon Taylor do? Did he leap frog Courtney Avery?
COACH HOKE: No. Ray played the nickel when he get in the nickel. When Troy got a little bit beat up, we only had one, and that was Thomas, who was playing the nickel. To get a little bit better of a cover guy, moved Raymon in. Ray missed two weeks. You know, we thought Ray would be on the field, special teams, maybe nickel or corner some going into the year. So he just got healthy.
QUESTION: Was that tough first call on (Taylor), that late hit? Seemed like it was pretty borderline.
COACH HOKE: I don't know.
QUESTION: What does he give the defense? Seems like he's pretty physical.
COACH HOKE: He's physical. He's a good athlete.
QUESTION: In trying to get away from the running back by committee, do you shrink the number of candidates that you look at?
COACH HOKE: No. You're going to obviously, through the week, work with guys you think are going to be the guys. But at any time that changes to some degree. You know, Stephen Hopkins is still a guy who we think is a pretty good back. He's got a little bit of a subflexor or whatever that is, I don't know what that is, that hurt him a little bit.
QUESTION: So you would never shrink it down to say it's either Vince or Fitz?
COACH HOKE: I think like anything else, at some point in time you have to do that.
QUESTION: Ronnie gained some weight over the off-season, and now he's running with more power and being successful. Where would he rank as a runningback in the Big 10?
COACH HOKE: I don't know. I honestly haven't seen all the Big 10 backs, so it's hard for me to say.
QUESTION: You said that that six game mark or whatever is nonconference in terms of freshman, are there guys who you're still looking at as possibilities to play, freshman?
COACH HOKE: Yeah, there's always -- yeah, I would say that, you know. I would say guardedly, because it depends where we are health-wise as a football team.
QUESTION: You talk to the players about being in the rankings or do you totally ignore that?
COACH HOKE: Does it matter?
QUESTION: Well, no.
COACH HOKE: No. Exactly.
QUESTION: Do you vote for yourself?
COACH HOKE: Nope.
QUESTION: Are you one of those mid-October kind of...
COACH HOKE: No, I'm at the end of November. It's not a big deal.
QUESTION: To some people it is.
COACH HOKE: Some people it's not. I guess I'm on the other side.