Hoke Breaks Down Team 133 (Part 3)

In part three of this four part interview with Brady Hoke at Big Ten Media day, Michigan's second year headman talks a LOT about "The Rivalry," about the left guard spot, about his running backs, about Blake Countess, and more.

Question: Obviously a big game coming up September 1st in Dallas. If you had to put one key on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball what would they be and why?

Brady Hoke: "Like they are normally you know. You have got to be able to stop the run defensively and take care of the football offensively."

Question: What challenges does Alabama present as an offensive unit?

Brady Hoke: "Well their offensive line is as good as any offensive line as I have coached against. So they're formidable. So when you are the reigning national champions, I think your going to have some good players. "

Question: Coach, I am from Columbus. I am just curious Urban Meyer's first year in the league what is his introduction to the league from your perspective do I guess, for the conference, for the rivalry, whatever?

Brady Hoke: "Well the rivalry is not going to change. It doesn't matter who coaches at Ohio or Michigan. It never will change. I mean it is about two schools that have had a tremendous amount of success over the years, tremendous rivalry, great institutions and obviously there is a passion on both sides for the type of football."

Question: He was saying that too. It is kind of interesting because somebody was saying you've got to coach against Brady Hoke, and he said, the coaches aren't involved.

Brady Hoke: "No, he is not going to play it down and I am not going to play it down.

Question: He said it is the player.

Brady Hoke: "Thank god (laughter)."

Question: Is that what makes a good special as you look down the years, I mean obviously two great programs and so many great players on both teams. He was saying the players are the ones that make the rivalry.

Brady Hoke: "Well there is no question. I mean it always has been that way. This game is about the players. I mean the game itself, so why shouldn't that rivalry be about the players?"

Question: I know you guys are not looking that far ahead, but you guys are always going to focus on that game, but that will be their last game (Ohio State) kind of building up to that moment.

Brady Hoke: "We really have not talked about it or thought about it.

Question: Brady what do you see right now from punters?

Brady Hoke: "There will be competition. I can't tell you. What I see will be fun to see what I see."

Question: What did you see in the spring?

Brady Hoke: "Oh, I think Matt (Wile) obviously is a guy that has a good leg. Will (Hagerup) I think his consistency improved a little bit which is an important part of it, but I think we will have a great competition."

Question: Have you diagnosed a little bit what happened with Will last year with the inconsistency?

Brady Hoke: "I think it's more sometimes he wants to hit the ball too hard instead of just letting the normal leg motion and keep it within just like any other position. Keep it in your fundamentals and techniques."

Question: What about left guard. You had (Joey) Burzynski there in the spring.

Brady Hoke: "Yeah, I think that will be fun. I think that will be an interesting battle throughout the spring."

Question: What did you see from those guys in the spring?

Brady Hoke: "I thought Joey worked hard. I think Joey has got some leverage naturally. That's pretty good and so he is smart. He is tough, so as they come into camp, I think it will be interesting."

Question: Can Joey be a Big Ten starting guard?

Brady Hoke: "Yeah."

Question: What have you seen from that he could? He is a sophomore walk on. We can see that.

Brady Hoke: "Right."

Question: Then they think this kid came out of nowhere, but what have you seen from him?

Brady Hoke: "Well he has got good fundamentals, good technique. He has got nice leverage. I mean he is pain. He is, which is good."

Question: That's what you want from an offensive lineman.

Brady Hoke: "Yeah, yeah. Especially when you're a D-line coach."

Question: It looks like the conference is going to stick with eight conference games and not nine, is that how you would favor as a coach?

Brady Hoke: "I will be honest with you. I really don't care. I just want to make sure that we get a solution to what it is going to be and now our athletic directors can make games."

Question: Brady could you see freshman factoring into your offensive line rotation?

Brady Hoke: "I could see any of those kids who came in being part of anyone whether it's O-line, D-line. I think they will all have an opportunity to compete, playing freshmen anymore, a lot of people do it."

Question: As an 18-year-old kid though on an offensive line having to face 20-21 offensive lineman, what kind of challenge does that present?

Brady Hoke: "Well, I think it always presents a challenge, but you look at the physicalness they come in with. There are a lot of different things that go and are involved with it. How fast they pick up the system, how fast and where they're at from a physical standpoint. I think all of those things are part of it."

Question: Brady this is down the road a bit obviously, what are your thoughts about the idea of a playoff?

Brady Hoke: "What kind of playoff."

Question: The national championship.

Brady Hoke: "The one that we have settled on?

Question: Yes. Did you agree? Did you like that?

Brady Hoke: "It's fine because I think it keeps the league important; the league play, I think it does that. I think our association with the Rose Bowl is one being at a Rose Bowl as a coach and being there a couple of times as a fan, I think that there is no game like it and so keeping that affiliation."

Question: Coach I was talking to Taylor (Lewan), he said that when you came in you really emphasized the Michigan and Ohio State game. Not to knock on Rich Rodriguez, but he did not get it. You were at Michigan when they won the national championship in 1997, so you had been there before, but do you agree with him that he came in now that you stressed from day one?

"Brady Hoke: "Well, yeah. I mean that is in my opinion that is the biggest game we played. We have got a great rivalry with Michigan State, an in-state rivalry that's an important football game, but that the last Saturday in November especially."

Question: Fantastic year for you guys last year. Taylor didn't agree with me because you guys did not win the Big Ten Championship, but still 11-2, winning the Sugar Bowl and beating Ohio State. No one picks you guys to come close to any of that. As you reflect on your first year, what are your thoughts on that?

Brady Hoke: "Well, I think Taylor is right. I mean we had a good year. We didn't have a great year. You have great year when you win the championship. We didn't do that, so we talked about that as soon as we got wheels down in Detroit about this team 133. Taylor was right. We got a long way to go because to be Michigan and live up to the expectations, we are not even close."

Question: The first week against Alabama, you're carrying the torch of the Big Ten—you going to have Ohio State fans rooting for you in that game? Just talk about that game.

Brady Hoke: "Not many. You know that (laughter)."

Question: I am telling you I mean I run one of our boards and it's like people are saying this is the one game I am rooting for Michigan. That is such as huge game, carrying the torch with the Big Ten in that game, defending national champion. Your thoughts on that game?

Brady Hoke: "Well, I think it is going to be a great experience. I think it is going to be a lot of fun. I think any time you have the opportunity to play the reigning national champs, I think any time your kids get an opportunity to play in a venue like that stadium which can be distracting, but you know we are proud to be a member of the Big Ten. We are proud of this conference and the players who play in it, the coaches that coach in it. The schools that has represented it so, it will be a lot of fun.

Question: Your relationship with coach Meyer, do you guys have one? Do you have a past relationship?

Brady Hoke: "Well, we have known each other for a long time as assistants. We recruited one day I know together at one point. It has been years ago, but I have a good relationship with him."

Question: There is such high expectations for the season. Do you worry at all about what losing that first game could do?

Brady Hoke: "No.

Question: Obviously, you do not think about losing.

Brady Hoke: "No."

Question: How mentally tough…?

Brady Hoke: "I think you learn. You got to be mentally tough because of the distractions that are out there. You guys are part of the distractions, like it or nott, but that is what your going to find out. That is what you will find out about your team. You know we have a lot of answers that we got to figure through fall camp. We got a lot of once you get in the competition there are a lot of answers that we need to find out about our team. Win or lose, your going to learn, so it's fun."

Question: Do you worry at all Air Force and their kind of quirky tendencies to having a short week to prepare?

Brady Hoke: "I worry about every football game. Every competition we'll play. Troy Calhoun does a great job at Air Force. They've got a quarterback who is very special, so in playing him for two years out in the Mountain West, they are a good football team."

Question: Brady, you were around in 1997 and that team went through a gauntlet on the schedule I believe you played nine or ten ranked opponent at the time. This year's schedule is very daunting. I know you've been around football for a while, is this a very compatible as far as the toughness of the schedule?

Brady Hoke: "You know I think every year is different, but obviously we are playing ten bowl teams. We are playing five of those bowl teams on the road. So you know playing on the road always has it's…I don't want to say difficulties, but a uniqueness about it. Every stadium is different. You don't have 114, 000 where you know maybe 112,000 are rooting for you. So there is always those distractions that are there."

Question: How often is Ohio State for Ohio in your case mentioned in the summer, throughout the season. Woody (Hayes) and Bo (Schembechler) really emphasized it.

Brady Hoke: "I think we emphasize it."

Question: Do you want to elaborate on that?

Brady Hoke: "We emphasize it."

Question: It is clearly in the best interest of the rivalry and our enjoyment of the rivalry coming from it and looking at it from outside either state when both teams are good. Is it better for Michigan when Ohio State is good?

Brady Hoke: "Probably so. It is better for the Big Ten. I mean I never thought of it that way, but I think yeah. I don't know if either one has never been good. I don't know if that makes sense. Those two schools are always, will have football players. They are always going to have good programs. Maybe, not as good as they want to be every year, but I have too much respect for any one of the schools to not say they are never good."

Question: Competing for championships is part of it. Now with the divisional set up. It is only for a championship and a title game. That could take something away over time. Do you think it will?

Brady Hoke: "I don't know. I mean I don't know. I couldn't answer that. I know it won't for me."

Question: There is not a player from either school who has necessarily gotten the full flavor of the experience playing the other for a championship, so you know you kind of want that for them. Do you see how that can be…

Brady Hoke: "…for us, or for both of us?

Question: It could be a defining experience for both a Michigan player and for an Ohio State player?

Brady Hoke: "Yeah, but I think that the defining experience is always playing in that game. When you talk to guys who played at Ohio. You talk to guys who played at Michigan. You know, the former players. They know what their record was against either school. I mean they take great pride in that."

Question: Do you know your record? As an assistant for your whole time?

Brady Hoke: "Six and three. I do know the record."

Question: Your father, just how excited he was when you got the job. I wondered how he was this last season with you as the coach?

Brady Hoke: "Oh, he had a great season. He had a great season. He had a great Sugar Bowl. I am happy he had that. So it was a good year for him and my mom."

Question: Tell me maybe a little bit about what he was like, your relationship with him, and how would you even describe it?

Brady Hoke : "Well, he was a great father and great mentor. He loved football. He has got two boys who coach football so; you know, but he would coach here after a game. I can tell you that."

Question: He would?

Brady Hoke: "Oh, yeah.

Question: Like even now after this last year?

Brady Hoke: "Yeah."

Question: What would be an example?

Brady Hoke: "You know, why did you do this or why did you do that? Or you know that guy did not play very good or who is coaching that. I would say that would be me, but he was coach until the end."

Question: Did he ever give any good pointers?

Brady Hoke: "Well, yeah. He knew what he was talking about. He knew the game."

Question: Did he coach at any point?

Brady Hoke: "He coached in high school for a while, yeah until he became an administrator."

Question: Coach, can you talk a little bit about like the importance of the Rose Bowl to you?

Brady Hoke: "I do not think there is another bowl game as great as experience as we had out in New Orleans. That experience out in Pasadena is something special. You guys are all getting way too young, but waking up on New Year's Day and watching the Rose Bowl parade. The excitement around that. For us, we was eating sauerkraut and roast beef, or not roast beef, but corned beef. That was just part of New Year's Day and watching the Rose Bowl."

Question: Is that like the end goal for you guys every season to get to the Rose Bowl?

Brady Hoke: "Well to win the Big Ten championship. Then you know if you do that everything else will kind of take care of itself."

Question: You would rather play like a national championship game than the Rose Bowl?

Brady Hoke: "I think we all would think that is an important part of it, but if you can get yourself to the Rose Bowl, you got a chance to play in the national championship."

Question: Coming off of last season, how hungry is the team to get to that Big Ten Championship game?

Brady Hoke: "Oh, I think they are hungry. I think they have worked hard. I think they have done a nice job of being a team. I think the seniors have done a tremendous job of really leading them. So you know we got a long way to go though before we can get there."

Question: How big of a disappointment was it last season when you still 11-2 and everything, but you didn't get to go to that game and Michigan State?

Brady Hoke: "Well I mean, they earned the right. We didn't earn it. We didn't take care of our business and that starts with me. I didn't do a good job coaching. So we got to do a better job coaching and preparing as coaches and preparing our players."

Question: Brady I want to ask you about scheduling either Alabama obviously this year, going forward is the Notre Dame game enough of a nonleague schedule or do you like to have another marquee game given the playoffs?

Brady Hoke: "Well, I don't know yet. I don't know yet, I think we take a break. It is either in 2017 and 2018, or 2018 and 2019 with Notre Dame because I think they go play Texas. I don't know, I think as you look at it I think it's going to matter if they are going to have this committee, how the committee is going to do everything. I am sure in the next two years though it will work out all the kinks or whatever there might be to it, but to be honest with you, you coach at Michigan and you come to Michigan to play in games like that, so it's alright with us."

Question: Brady can you talk about the stable of running backs, (Thomas) Rawls and Justice (Hayes)?

Brady Hoke: "Well I thought they both, Vince Smith is in that group, but I think they both really had good springs. Thomas is a different guy, hard to tackle. He is strong. He has got good vision. I mean he is a kid I think played well in the spring. I think Justice they are two different types of backs. His explosiveness and the hole and I think his vision was a little better at the end of spring. Then Vince's kind of workhorse. Vince is as tough as any guy pound for pound on our football team. He is a tremendous competitor.

Question: Brady how hard is it for a freshmen offensive linemen. We have talked with Al (Borges) about that some, but for a freshman offense linemen, if you needed one to step in. How hard is that for them, if they are ready physically, everything else that goes into that?

Brady Hoke: "I think it's probably always tough, but I think at the same time it depends on the kid. You can't just lump everybody in that same boat. There are guys from a physical standpoint, guys from a mental standpoint understanding fundamentals, techniques, and understanding schemes. I think that all is part of it. The toughest thing for any high school kid is protection. That's the hardest deal, what the protection is that you're sliding weak, you're sliding strong, you know what is the double read. Now put the fundamentals in front of that. I mean so that is the hardest thing."

Question: If you had your way would you redshirt for the most part your offense line or is it something where you don't really mind it?

Brady Hoke: "No. We have started freshmen before. The good thing about freshmen, they get older."

Question: I mean is there any value in saving that extra year, a guy like Taylor, I mean everyone is not the same?

Brady Hoke: "Well he may have not mentally been ready for it. We may have a couple of guys who are mentally are ready for it."

Question: Do you feel like you might have some?

Brady Hoke: "We might."

Question: Question about Terrence Talbott, is he transferring?

Brady Hoke: "Yeah."

Question: It just didn't work out?

Brady Hoke: "Correct."

Question: When you talk about Jordan (Kovacs) and the leadership qualities and things he brings to the defensive side?

Brady Hoke: "Yeah, the way he comes to work every day. I mean he has done that since we have been here. I am sure he did before, but he has got a great workmen like attitude. He is a tremendous team guy committed to his teammates - accountable. He does a great job in the back end keeping everybody lined up right. So he brings all of those characteristics to our secondary which in turn he brings it to the whole defense."

Question: How may four year starters that were walk-ons have you been around?

Brady Hoke: "That is a good question. I would have to think about that."

Question: It is very rare. He says he gets emails about he inspires people, do you see him inspiring fellow teammates?

Brady Hoke: "Oh, I think he does. Yeah. He inspires me."

Question: No coach Mattison says he is sort of like a coach on the field. Could you see Jordan being a secondary coach?

Brady Hoke: "Hopefully, he picks a profession that is a little more…maybe he will be in the media someday."

Question: You were quoted yesterday when you were asked about the Sugar Bowl that there was a situation of who they picked that you were out of control. You also famously quoted when you first came in to saying "We're Michigan for god's sake". Isn't there a certain favorite nation status as a result of the Michigan football program and did it not help that the CEO of All State the sponsor is also the sponsor for the Sugar Bowl?

Brady Hoke: "I don't know. You would have to ask him."

Question: There were no conversations with your athletic director?

Brady Hoke: "I don't believe so."

Question: Do you think?

Brady Hoke: "I don't know. I coach nose tackles."

Question: Coach, there has been an influx of new coaches in the Big Ten the last couple of years, you being one of them of course. Do you think the Big Ten is evolving in the sense of playing styles and everything of that nature in the last few years?

Brady Hoke: "Well I think there has been guys who have come in different situations. They have a philosophy from an offensive standpoint or defensive standpoint. They believe it, so that is always going to change you know what guys do maybe from school to school from a playing style if that is what you're asking. The spread, three-five or whatever it is, under defensive, over defense, West coast offense. I mean everybody has got their beliefs."

Question: Do you think that the Big Ten in terms of trying to keep up with the national and some of the other conferences, did it need like this influx of kind of new blood?

Brady Hoke: "I have no clue."

Question: Kind of switch direction a little bit. How important is it for you guys to be on TV like for banding Michigan and recruits and things like that?

Brady Hoke: "I think it is important for everybody. I mean everybody is this league, we all like being on TV. You touch a lot of people. The market that is out there, high school kids who are watching. I mean I think that is all important for everybody's brand."

Question: Brady there has been some questions that Denard got yester about the Heisman. From a coach's standpoint, how do you think he is handling those expectations or those questions?

Brady Hoke: "I think he is doing fine."

Question: What would a Heisman mean for Denard and for Michigan?

Brady Hoke: "I think it would be great for Michigan and obviously be great for him. It means we've won."

Question: If it comes down to the end of the season and he is a finalist, do you anticipate you or anyone else in the athletic department campaigning at all for Denard?

Brady Hoke: "I can't speak for anybody but the football program. How we coach and how we will do things and how we go through it. I mean we will be on TV enough for people to see him."

Question: You can out in the spring games with challenges that you thought changes that would be made on the offensive line and the defensive line. Are you feeling any more comfortable now than you were a couple of months ago?

Brady Hoke: "I don't know if I am comfortable. I think once we get into fall camp we will find out a little more. We will learn a little more. I think that is an important part of it. I think our guys have worked hard. I think there has been a sense of urgency with them that they need to get better and go to the next level as far as their play from the spring."

Question: Do you think the biggest challenge for an offensive line is gelling together as a unit.

Brady Hoke: "Yeah."

Question: Concerns with the toughness?

Brady Hoke: "I don't know. I don't think there are concerns. I just think we have got to do a good job of the guys as you will have probably six to eight guys that will probably be in the mix a little bit, and we will just kind of figure it out from there."

Question: Talk a little bit about Blake Countess, a sophomore out of Good Counsel in Maryland. What has he been able to do to really assert himself on the cornerback situation?

Brady Hoke: "I thought Blake had a good spring. I think he went to work every day. I think he did a nice job with it, but he knows that there is no entitlement and that he has got to perform. He has got to perform at the highest level every day, so that he can improve and better himself and better Michigan."


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