The TSX Files: Michigan Midweek

S Jordan Kovacs, out currently with a knee injury, is a quarterfinalist for the Lott IMPACT Trophy, given annually to college football's top defensive player who best exemplifies integrity, maturity, performance, academics, community and tenacity. It is based equally on athletic performance and personal character attributes.

INSIDE SLANT Hoke successful in changing team's mindset

When he took over the Michigan program last January, Brady Hoke wanted to make it clear that things were going to change, but he wanted to do so in a manner that did not heap more criticism on his predecessor, Rich Rodriguez.

Although not a thoroughbred "Michigan man" -- Hoke is a native of Ohio who played football at Ball State -- Hoke was a former Michigan assistant coach who was well-versed in the "Michigan way." The program and the players would follow certain guidelines, simply because that's the way Michigan does business.

Throughout the tumultuous three seasons under Rodriguez, when the Wolverines went just 15-22 and lost all six games against rivals Ohio State and Michigan State, there was a constant stir over who would be starting at quarterback -- Denard Robinson or Tate Forcier.

Hoke saw the potentially destructive element in such distractions, so one significant change he made right from the start was to remove some of the stigma attached to being a "non-starter" by rotating so many players onto the field while the game is very much still being contested.

The move has paid off and the mindset is changing. Even more importantly, Hoke has made the position more important than the person.

When he was lauded for his 170 rushing yards in the win over Purdue, part-time starter Fitzgerald Toussaint recited the Hoke mantra like a good disciple should.

"We have guys that can come in and be coached," Toussaint said. "Coach always sets the expectations for the positions, so we practice any and every situation for who might be in there and that's what happened."

Hoke, a defensive line coach in his previous stop at Michigan when he helped the defense lead the nation in rushing defense, said Toussaint's effort was consistent with that any tailback of combination of tailbacks should produce.

"The expectations are for the position," Hoke said. "If you're in there, then there's a way we expect you to play."

NOTES, QUOTES

--Following the recent dominant performance against Purdue, Michigan junior QB Denard Robinson offered a simple approach for the Wolverines' offense: "We run the ball well and our offensive line always will open up the passing game, so we just have to keep doing it week in and week out," Robinson said.

--Senior running back Michael Shaw scored his third rushing touchdown of the season on a 37-yard run in the fourth quarter. Shaw owns 15 career touchdowns -- 14 rushing and one receiving.

--S Jordan Kovacs, out currently with a knee injury, is a quarterfinalist for the Lott IMPACT Trophy, given annually to college football's top defensive player who best exemplifies integrity, maturity, performance, academics, community and tenacity. It is based equally on athletic performance and personal character attributes.

SERIES HISTORY: Michigan leads Iowa 40-12-4 (last meeting 2010, 38-24 Iowa)

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The Wolverines hope they have found their balance. In the recent win over Purdue, QB Denard Robinson rushed for 63 yards and a touchdown while completing 9-of-14 passes for 170 yards. In the same game, RB Fitzgerald Toussaint set career highs for carries (20) and rushing yards (170) and scored two touchdown runs. If Michigan keeps Robinson from being the focal point of the running attack and lets him pick his spots, he becomes a much more effective weapon and this becomes a very dangerous offense.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Michigan's defense has taken a significant hit with the recent knee injury suffered by junior S Jordan Kovacs, a fiery inspirational leader in that unit. Kovacs did not play in the recent win over Purdue and his status for the Iowa game is still in doubt. To keep as much experience as possible deep in the secondary, Michigan has moved senior CB Troy Woolfolk in to cover for Kovacs. The Michigan defense has produced an improved pass rush lately and the versatility at linebacker looks better, but expect Iowa to test that backfield, especially if Kovacs is still sidelined.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We like to run the ball as an offensive line. I'd personally rather run than pass. It's fun to get going. When the offensive line gets it going, the running backs run hard -- it's a fun thing." --Michigan OT Mark Huyge

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THIS WEEK'S GAME: Michigan at Iowa, Nov. 5 -- The trip to face the Hawkeyes is only Michigan's third road game of the season. Momentum is in the Wolverines' favor after their robust performance against Purdue, but Iowa will be in a foul mood coming off an embarrassing loss to Minnesota.

KEYS TO THE GAME: Michigan's success is clearly linked to its ability to knock people off the line and run the football. When the Wolverine tailbacks are effective, then QB Denard Robinson becomes the scariest wild card in the country. Steady improvement by the defense has that unit trending in the right direction at the same time as the offense looks as balanced as it has been in four seasons.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

--RB Fitzgerald Toussaint needs to follow up his career high rushing performance against Purdue (170 yards) with another solid day at Iowa. Consistency at the tailback spot has been missing for too long.

--TE Kevin Koger is a big, physical athlete who creates mismatch nightmares for the opposition. If Michigan gets Koger involved in the passing game early against the Hawkeyes, then it forces Iowa's hand and opens up lanes for QB Denard Robinson to show his skills.

--DB Troy Woolfolk, one of the top cornerbacks in the Big Ten before a rash of injuries limited his playing time, has moved to safety to cover for the injury-loss of S Jordan Kovacs. If Kovacs can't go at Iowa, pay close attention to how quickly Woolfolk picks up the coverages from the new position.

ROSTER REPORT

--S Jordan Kovacs missed the Purdue game with a knee injury. His status for the next game at Iowa is questionable.

--DE Nathan Brink, a sophomore, made the first start of his career in the win over Purdue.

--OL Ricky Barnum, who missed the three previous games with an injured ankle, played against Purdue last week but had to leave the game when he re-injured the ankle. His status for the next game at Iowa is very questionable.

--LB Desmond Morgan, a freshman, got the start against Purdue, replacing benched starter Brandin Hawthorne. Morgan led the Wolverines with nine tackles in the game.


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