Hoke Breaks Down Team 133 (Part 1)

In part one of this four part interview with Brady Hoke at Big Ten media day, Michigan's second year headman discusses the offseason growth of many of his players, the development of Brennen Beyer, Ondre Pipkins' weight loss, the Alabama match-up, injuries, and more.

Question:  The fact that he (Elliott Mealer) has gone through so much adversity to get to where he is right now, does that inspire his teammates to work harder and get better every day?

Brady Hoke:  “Inspire could be the right word, but I think it is an example.  I think guys recognize that and respect that.”

Question:  You came out of the spring talking about wanting to get stronger up in the middle. 

Brady Hoke:  “Yes.” 

Question:  Is there anything that these guys could do or have done over the summer that plays into that?

Brady Hoke:  “I would say yes.  Again, with our rule being what they are, you just look at some of the bodies.  We have had some team meetings now and then so we can see each other kind of and some academic things and all that, but you look at them physically.  They look better.  Part of that is genetics and part of that is maturing.  Part of that is what Aaron (Wellman) does.  It is probably a big part of it.  I know just talking to the different guys you know Craig Roh, he has been on the sled every day.  He takes pride in breaking the sled.  So, but I mean he has really done a nice job.  I think Taylor (Lewan) mentioned it yesterday that the D-linemen have been down there working together pretty hard.”

Question:  What do you mean by breaking the sled?

Brady Hoke:  “Well like any instrument there is parts and pieces.  So they have broken some of the pieces and if we can keep John Falk busy fixing it then we are okay.”

Question:  How many times has he broken it?

Brady Hoke:  “I don’t know.  He has got a whole box of parts.”

Question:  Is he about where you wanted him to be weight wise?

Brady Hoke:  “Yeah, I think him and Jibreel (Black) both have done a nice job.  We do some things with BOD POD, which I have not been in yet, but probably won’t either.  That takes your body fat and all that.  He has gained real muscle and loss body fat; he has done a nice job.” 

Question:  Being such a student of defensive lineman over the years, are you able to tell like because these guys have not played as much, are you able to look at spring film and see that they can make that leap spring to fall, or do you need to see it actually on the field?  

Brady Hoke:  “I think we will see more of Mark during the fall camp, but I think you can greatly improve yourself especially, and this is an opinion, offensively upfront and defensively upfront by what those guys do during the summer.  It is all voluntary.  That is one thing about having senior leadership because most of your team is going to react like your leaders do.  I think from a fundamental technique standpoint, I think they can do a great job.”

Question: Ondre Pipkins is listed at 337, where would you like to see him?

Brady Hoke:  “Probably about 320 right now.  He is working on that, but I think you would like him 320.  For all of those guys everything is so much accelerated.  The intensity of how you lift, the intensity of how you go to school, the intensity of expectations, and how you act and all of those things, so it takes a little time.  Some get it sooner than others.  I cannot tell you who that is who is going to get it, but I know as a class they seem very close.  They seem like they are hard working.  They seem like they have taken a lot of pride, excuse me, in what they are doing.” 

Question:  What has Brennen Beyer done specifically this spring to get him talked about the way he was?

Brady Hoke:  “He was productive.  I thought he did a nice job.  We challenged him to get a little stronger and get a little bigger.  I think he has done a nice job of that.  The productivity that I think he showed during the spring is just scratching the surface of what he can be.” 

Question:  Brady when you came in when you first took the job, what did you expect out of three guys who were here? What did you really see out them?  Do you think they could be leaders once guys like Mike Martin left?

Brady Hoke:  “I think when you first come in you don’t know any of them well enough to really make any kind of determination or I don’t know what the right word is, but it’s like I did not watch any of the tape.  I did not watch any of that because guys have coached differently, different schemes and all that.  That is not fair to have preconceived opinions about how they can play, who they are, and all that stuff so I would say that is probably the same.  You don’t know.  You got Denard, who has got a tremendous personality and a smile that can light up the room and all of that stuff.  There is more to it than that.  I think he has grown into that.  I think Jordan (Kovacs), it has probably been part of his DNA a little more naturally to some degree, but he is a quiet guy also.  You want them to be who they are because that is who their teammates know them as.”

Question:  When did you realize that they would be your leaders? 

Brady Hoke:  “Well, I think Kovacs probably and Denard sometime during last year, I think they were leaders.  I think when you play the two positions they play I think that kind of puts you in that situation to some degree.  Jordan is back there getting the secondary lined up and arranged and all of that kind of stuff.  Denard obviously the ball is touching his hands every snap, and so that is an important part of it.” 
Question:  Brady, I am assuming that Alabama is already on the schedule when you came in?

Brady Hoke:  “Yeah, yep.  I think David (Brandon) made it sometime during the fall before I came in.” 

Question:  It is a huge came, we all understand that.  Is there are danger when people read too much into this? Either way, I mean just because of the history of the two leagues and they are defending national champs? 

Brady Hoke:  “Yeah, I don’t know if it is danger.  People are going to have opinions.  You know that.  It really does not matter to us.  Anybodies opinion is what we think and what drives us, so with that being said, you are going to have opinions one way or another.  It is going to be two great programs that have a rich history.  Both of them do.  It is going to be fun.  I can’t see how anybody can’t look forward to it.”   
Question:  The Sugar Bowl was so big in the development and getting back, but that was the last game.  If you win this, you still got a season to go?

Brady Hoke:  “Well, we got a lot to go.  I mean the one thing about playing games of this magnitude if you want to call it that; the reigning national champs and all of those things, I think you find out a lot about your team, win or lose.  I think you do that with every game, but when you’re on a national stage, I just think you learn a lot more.  You are always going to have things you got to do better in every game because you want to be playing your best football in November.  I believe that, so we will probably make a few mistakes.  They will probably make a few mistakes.  We will learn a lot either way.” 

Question:  What did you think of Nick’s (Saban), just his game plan and coaching that night against LSU in a rematch?   

Brady Hoke:  “Yeah well, I think it doesn’t surprise me.  I mean he is going to play close to the vest.  He had a great defense.  The quarterback is a tremendous football player.  He does a great job with their offense.  I think their offensive line may be as good as offensive line that I have coached against ever.  I mean I think they’re formidable.  So I mean they got a good football team.”

Question:  Does that concern you considering... 

Brady Hoke:  “Yeah, it concerns me.  I am concerned about their managers being better than ours… (laughter).” 

Question:  Aren’t they the image of what football wants to be year in and year out, and the whole they way they play?

Brady Hoke:  “I think Michigan football has been that in the past.”

Question:  Nathan Brink, how is he health wise and what are your thoughts on how he will play? 

Brady Hoke:  “Well, I don’t know.  All of these guys, we are going to compete every day.  No one is getting handed anything.  So yeah, he is healthy.  It is going to be great to have him back.  He is a tough guy.  We lost him for the bowl game.  I felt bad for him because it was going to be an opportunity for him to play a little more.  He improved all the way through the fall.  I am excited about that.” 

Question:  How did that game (Alabama) come about?

Brady Hoke:  “You are going to probably have to ask Dave.”

Question:  I mean did he come to you and say, hey how would you feel about this? 

Brady Hoke:  “Yeah, he did, but I think it was already done. 

Question:  Oh, was it?

Brady Hoke:  “But I thought it was great.  I really do.  I don’t think I am in the minority.  I think all of us would like to play that kind of game.  I said it the other day, if you look at Michigan over a course of I don’t know how many years, we have always played those kind of games.  I know we were here before we played UCLA.  We played Washington.  We’ve always and you add Notre Dame in there, so I mean I think that is why kids come to Michigan.  I know as a coach I mean I might not be the reason you come to Michigan, but you look forward to those opportunities.” 

Question:  How are you going to balance that down the road in a couple of years when all of you know everybody wants to be one of those four teams to make that playoff?

Brady Hoke:  “I think you got to look at how this panel or how they are going to weight the schedules because I think that will open some eyes.  I think there is probably you know how many league games you’re going to play.  That goes back and forth.  I do not think I really care.  Just let us know so we can make schedules.”

Question:   Could you have said, uggh we are not ready or I don’t feel like it?

Brady Hoke:  “Well believe me, we are a long way from being any good.  I can tell you that.  I mean I thought we have done some good things improving and those king of things, but you know I think we are a long way to being the Michigan team that we have the expectations to be.” 

Question:  You never had any thought to vetoing the game (Alabama)?   

Brady Hoke:  “No, not at all.” 

Question:  New coaches will come in and say, well we don’t want (want to play that game)…?

Brady Hoke:  “No, you know just look how much we have talked about it this week.  I mean it’s fun.  I mean we are going to have fun with it.  We are going to prepare.  I think it does give your kids something, which I don’t like saying it, it shouldn’t be that way, but when your playing an Alabama to open up the season, I think there minds set and work ethic and everything else may be a little different.  I can’t say it has been, but you would think.” 

Question:  So when we do those matchup boxes, do we give the advantage to them or you guys the managers? 

Brady Hoke:  “You know what I want to see how our managers are doing.  You may sit here and look at that.  I will let you know.  They can be. We are getting the plays run and the balls spotted right.  See I’m with you all the way.”

Question:  Brady you’re seeing more and more different schools, the restrictions on social media problems.  What do you say to your guys and have you considered any sort of restrictions there?

Brady Hoke:  “I kind of have thought about that.  As most of you know I don’t do any social media.  I don’t have e-mail, but I am really probably a dinosaur with those kind of things.  I think at some point our guys need to understand the ramifications and have a….look, we are trying to build men.  Guys who are going to graduate and be great husbands, fathers, community; well they have got to learn responsibility.  Part of that if you just say no you can’t do it, I don’t know if you’re helping them learn responsibility.  So it is a double-edged sword in my opinion.  The one thing we talk about if you grandmother, your mother, whoever you respect most in this world would not like what you put out there, don’t do it.” 

Question:  Any guys that are going into camp that won’t be able to participate? 

Brady Hoke:  “Not at this time.  I mean we will know more.  Again, we will meet.  We started meetings last Monday, but we will meet with Paul (Schmidt) tomorrow.  What is today? (Friday) Monday we will meet and just go through everybody.  So far I think we have been done pretty good.” 

Question:  What about Antonio Poole

Brady Hoke:  “He will probably be the only one who is really going to be not in camp as a participant.”

Question:  Do you expect him back? 

Brady Hoke:  “I am not sure yet.  I am not sure.  You know I think everybody heals a little differently.  I think there is a pain tolerance I think we all have.  I don’t know what his is yet.” 

Question:  What is his injury?  What exactly did he do? 

Brady Hoke:  “He got hurt.” 

Question:  Body part?

Brady Hoke:  “Oh, body parts.  His body parts are involved in the injury.  In injuries, there are body parts involved (laughter).”

Question:  So his entire body is injured?

Brady Hoke:  “No I didn’t say that.  I said when you’re injured, it is body parts that is part of it.”

Question:  So he is injured and not hurt then?  I mean there is a difference there?

Brady Hoke:  “There is a difference.”

Question:  We have talked about why kids want to come to Michigan.  Michigan is one of those schools that you can kind of sell based on name alone, but yet with the commitment that Michigan has as a university has put towards the athletic facilities, how does that help you as a coach recruit better kids and kind of convince kids more to come to Michigan?

Brady Hoke:  “There is a lot more to it than the facilities.  We ranked I think fourteenth in the world as a university from an academic standpoint.  We are the winningest program in the history of college football.  We do have great facilities.  We have great alums.  We have great passion.  I don’t know what else you would want.  We’ve got a great community.  Our community will hold you accountable and they do.  I mean there is one thing I can tell you, you’re not going to be able to you know a guy gets in trouble, he is going to get in trouble.  Which is good, because we can all learn and get educated from all of those things.” 

Question:  You talk about the upgrades and the facilities, how does that I guess help you?

Brady Hoke:  “Oh, it always helps.  We got a great stadium.  I mean what they have done in the renovations to the athletic field house.  They are going to do nine million, ten million to the front of Schembechler Hall.  I mean it always helps.  But the one thing with kids and the one thing we talk about, we got all of these things, but it is about the people you’re going to be with and the people that you trust.  I think we have a tremendous staff of guys who really care about the kids.” 

Question:  When you talk about how far away this team is from where you want it to be; how much do you  mean the 2012 team and how much is it the program?

Brady Hoke:  “It’s always a program.  It’s never one team.  It will always be a program, but it’s never going to be where I want it to be, ever.  That is just the expectations.  You can’t be satisfied with any part of it.”

Question:  Just the way a coach has to think?

Brady Hoke:  “It is the way that I think.  I think it is the way we think.” 

Question:  Holding the staff together after such a successful season, the whole staff it seems pretty unusual in college football.  Where there measures that you took or is it just the nature of these guys or something? 

Brady Hoke:  “Mark, I think some of it is the guys themselves.  I think they understand we got a great university.  We have got a great opportunity.  I think the one thing there is no egos, which I think we have all been on staffs when you will have some egos and that kind of stuff, but we have no egos.  Everybody works and everybody works for the kids.” 

Question:  Is that part of your assembling of the staff?

Brady Hoke:  “Well, yeah.  I mean I think there is no question.  That’s what you want to look for.  Guys that number one have wives that are very supportive because I think that’s important and guys who believe in family, believe in trust, believe in great work ethic, believe in the betterment for the kids in the program.”

Question:  Did you have that with your staffs at the Ball State?

Brady Hoke:  “Yeah, and I think we had the same thing at San Diego State.  Ball State, we took some transition through it, but we got there.” 

Question:  Brady the running back position obviously you still have some decisions to make as far as business is concerned, but now the guys after that.  I mean you were talking about them before, I got to talk about them more now.  Talk to be about the depth of that spot? 

Brady Hoke:  “Well, I think I think Fred (Jackson) is happy.  If Fred is happy, he has coached some awfully good backs throughout his career.  I think Thomas (Rawls), Vince (Smith), and Justice (Hayes) is probably the guy that I want to see a little more from still, but he has shown from working scout team from how he progressed in the spring.  I think that is exciting.  I think Thomas is hard to tackle.  I wish I could really describe it more so, but he is hard to tackle.  He has got some strength to him.  I think his vision is good.  Smitty is one of those guys who can do about anything for you.  He does a tremendous job.” 

Question:  If Fitzgerald (Toussaint) is not in a position to go that first game, do you go with the committee or do you go with one guy? 

Brady Hoke:  “I think that will play out during fall camp.” 

Question:  Coach, how about that first game?  Do you like starting the season off in that manner with that kind of game?

Brady Hoke:  “Oh yeah, I think it’s great.  I think it’s great for our program.  I think it’s great and that’s why guys come to Michigan to play in games like that.  I think you find out win or lose you always find out a lot about yourselves.  You’re play the reigning national champions and a tremendous football team I think your guys look at that schedule and understand that.” 

Question:  Does Fitz’s availability or non-availability change maybe Drake Johnson or Dennis Northfleet?  Are they still so far down the chart? 

Brady Hoke:  “You know like I said before, nobodies off the table from playing.  I mean we obviously would like Drake and Dennis for a lot of different reasons, so we will just kind of see where everybody shakes out.” 

Question:  You know you talk about where are you at injury wise right now? 

Brady Hoke:  “We will know more Monday.  I think we are okay.”

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