Hoke Pleased by Spring Growth (with Video)

Michigan headman Brady Hoke reflects upon some of the notable spring game performances, gives injury updates, discusses position battles, the various improvements he has seen in his players in recent weeks, and more.

Brady Hoke Opening Statement:  "I think we got 65 or 66 plays in, which is about where we wanted to be.  We got some situational work that we wanted to get done.  We’ve really got a lot of young guys up front on both sides of the ball and we want to continue to improve in some of the fundamentals on both sides of the ball.  Running the football is one of them, and playing the run, getting off blocks and all of those things.  I think we got to do a little bit of that.  I think we got to do a little bit of red zone.  I would say that is one area that we need to continue to work on, on both sides of the ball.  I thought the guys went out there, it was the first day that we’ve been out, which is a little unusual.  We got what we wanted to get done.”

Question:  That was the first time you practiced outside at all this “spring”?

Brady Hoke:  "Yep.”

Question:  Talk about Devin Gardner’s day, the long pass he hit early and then deep to the outside on a windy day in one of your situational plays.

Brady Hoke:  "Devin naturally throws a tight ball and when you throw a tight ball and he’s got good arm strength, he has good velocity on it.  You can cut through the wind pretty well.  He has always thrown the long ball pretty well and I think he had a pretty good day.”

Question:  Jack Miller taking first team snaps and also Chris Wormley with the ACL injury pretty quick here.

Brady Hoke:  "I think Jack has really…there is really great competition with him and Graham Glasgow at the center position.  I think Jack has really grown as a player and again, so much of this is above the neck.  He has made some real strides in his accountability and how he goes about being the bell cow if you would when you look at your offensive line.  Chris was a little tentative early in the spring, but I think he has really had a good spring.  I think his recovery, confidence and all those things are really good.”

Question:  Can you talk about the progress of your wide receivers.  We know what Jeremy Gallon can do, but (Jehu) Chesson and (Amara) Darboh and all those guys.

Brady Hoke:  "I think the young guys and I think Jeremy Jackson has really had his best spring since obviously we’ve been here.  You look at Jehu and Amara and I think both those guys have really come along.  They are both very talented and can do a lot of different things.  Joe Reynolds.  Joe  keeps pushing everybody.  Joe is a guy who can play a lot of positions and that’s really positive for us.”

Question:  What is about Graham Glasgow that makes him better to rotate through all three positions?

Brady Hoke:  "Smart #1.  He is a very intelligent young man.  He’s tough, #2, which you need to be physically and mentally and he has a real passion for the game.”

Question:  We saw your pass rush today, your front four especially was getting to the quarterback.  They weren’t supposed to hit them, but I think Taco (Charlton) hit him a couple of times.

Brady Hoke:  "Freshman (laughter).”

Question:  Was that something you saw consistently throughout this spring and how much confidence do you have?  Greg Mattison says that he wants the front four to be able to rush the passer; how much confidence do you have that these guys can do that?

Brady Hoke:  "I think we’ve grown.  We’ve got some young kids who have got some ability obviously.  I think with Greg and his passion and how he teaches it, rushing the passer.  I really think that the work that is being put in and the guys are excited about it.  They know what we want to do and what the goal is.  We’re better.  We’re not near where we can be or will be, but I think we’re a little better at it.”

Question:  Your thoughts on how Blake Countess got through the spring and in general how the secondary is shaping up right at this point.

Brady Hoke:  "Getting Blake, he’s healthy.  We kept him out of any contact.  Same with Fitz (Fitzgerald Toussaint).  I think that is just the best way to go about it.  They’ve both played a number of snaps.  The secondary, I think the competition level at the corner position is if you are a coach you want it there.  The same thing about the safeties.  Jeremy Clark is a guy who is a pretty good athlete, pretty good player.  Marvin (Robinson) has shown great glimpses through his career here.  I think Thomas (Gordon) has had a real solid, real good spring.  He’s been very much the leader and then Jarrod (Wilson) who played quite a bit last year, but he’s come on.”

Question:  How did today factor into evaluating the quarterback position behind Devin?

Brady Hoke:  "I think with Brian (Cleary) and (Alex) Swieca, I think with both of them, it was good to give them snaps with people here.  People in this stadium, playing in this stadium.  I think both of them handled themselves well.  We put the ball on the ground on the snap, which we can’t afford to do and who’s fault was it, I’m not sure.  We’ve got to do a better job with that.  As far as the growth that both of them have made, it has been positive.”

Question:  James Ross was in the middle of quite a bit of things today, is that what you’ve seen from him all spring?

Brady Hoke:  "Yeah, James has had a really good spring.  He’s a good football player.  He’s a great instinctive guy.  He’s got good burst, movement to the football.  He’s not the biggest guy, but he’s not afraid to take on blocks and has a knack for it.”

Question:  Are those instincts kind of like Jake Ryan, is he unorthodox in that way with those instincts or no?

Brady Hoke:  "No he’s not more unorthodox.  He’s going to be a little more technician than Jake is, but it is still football instincts and you want that in your linebackers.”

Question:  What are your thoughts thus far on the transition to a pro style offense?

Brady Hoke:  "I think it has gone very well.  You’d be shocked if we didn’t show a whole lot of anything today as far as scheme and all those things, but it is what we’ve run before we came here.  We had elements in it still, but you can tell from the play-action game standpoint how comfortable Devin is and how good he can be within that offensive style.”

Question:  At times today, the offensive line was opening up holes and protecting the quarterback pretty good and then at times the protection was not really there, especially there in the middle.  How big of a focus is that going to be as you continue through this offseason?

Brady Hoke:  "We’re going to focus on all of it, but what we do from here on as a team and what they do together and what the seniors and all that.  That’s really going to tell you at the end of the day.  I think objectively there were some good plays offensively and there were some good plays defensively.”

Question:  The other day you talked about bringing in a JUCO or graduate candidate, how likely is it that you will bring one in?

Brady Hoke:  "I don’t know.  It could happen or it couldn’t happen.”

Question:  You had a couple of guys with casts and (Devin) Funchess looked like something happened to him and he was on the sideline.

Brady Hoke:  "He’ll he alright.”

Question:  Any update on Will Hagerup’s status?

Brady Hoke:  "No.”

Question:  Players obviously got used to Devin being the guy out there towards the end of last season, but how much more has he made this his offense this spring and maybe one example of when you said Thomas Gordon has stepped up as a leader, how has that shown itself?

Brady Hoke:  "I think it is just the demeanor that they carry on the field, the communication they provide.  I think all those things are part of it.  I think the accountability and how they treat their teammates.  I think all those things.”

Question:  What would it take or what would you need to see for you to take a guy like that because it seems pretty rare here?

Brady Hoke:  "He would have to be pretty good that would be first.  What would fit what we want to do scheme and what we want in our quarterbacks.”

Question:  Can you talk about Fitz’s progress and then just assess the running backs throughout the spring.

Brady Hoke:  "Fitz has made really good strides and he probably could have done a little more, but I think his progress has been good.  I think Thomas (Rawls) made a nice run in there today.  He made a really nice cut.  (Dennis) Norfleet made a guy miss in the whole.  I think Drake (Johnson) ran hard and Justice (Hayes) protected well a couple of times back there.  We’re a work in progress there.  Has there been any separation?  I don’t think so yet.  So we’ll go through summer and then into the fall.”

Question:  What kind of clarity provide to you today as far as your number two position behind Devin?

Brady Hoke:  "I think Brian is.”

Question:  Coach is that your ’97 championship ring there?

Brady Hoke:  "Yes.”

Question:  Is there some significance to bringing that up today?

Brady Hoke:  "No.  I don’t usually wear it, so kind of just had it on.”

Question:  Just felt like putting it on today?

Brady Hoke:  "Yeah.  It went with my shoes (laughter).”

Question:  Barring setbacks with Fitz and Blake would you expect them to be able to play in the opener?

Brady Hoke:  "I don’t think there is any doubt.”

Question:  You talked about Jake on the conference call the other day and you said he is making really good progress, what is the likely timetable for him?

Brady Hoke:  "I’m not a doctor, but possibly the middle of October.”

Question:  That he could play?

Brady Hoke:  "Yeah.”

Question:  Was it an ACL?

Brady Hoke:  "Yeah.  Some people react differently.”

Question:  With your offensive line, a lot of new young guys, how quickly can they be impactful and how much has Taylor Lewan kind of rallied them sort of speak?

Brady Hoke:  "Taylor has done a really personal commitment accountability job with those guys and that is one reason why he wanted to come back.  The physicalness that they need to play with and all those things that go with that.  He’s taken that really personal.  I think the group of them and the competition that has been there has really been great.  They’ll be impactful August 31st.”

Question:  Three tight ends caught passes today, they all seem to be blocking well.  How much of a strength is that position going to be for you this year and what kind of a role can Jake Butt have?

Brady Hoke:  "I think Jake being here has made it a stronger position.  He’s a guy that can catch the ball in space and run well, but he’s also a guy who blocks at the line of scrimmage for a guy who has been here since January pretty well.  We’re excited about what he brings.”

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