Hoke's Roundtable: Week 11

Brady Hoke goes in-depth on the state of the offensive line and the rebuilding of its depth, the competition at running back, the game-plan versus Michigan State, this weekend's match-up with Nebraska, and more.

Question: You talked about pass protection in the past, and that seems like something that Fitz had a rough game of on Saturday. You played Derrick Green a little bit. What’s the status of the other guys? Thomas Rawls, Justice Hayes, or any of those guys?

Brady Hoke: “They’re still in the mix. I think Fitz is our best pass protector; has been. Derrick, again, and some of the young guys, it’s a little more difficult.”

Question: De’VeonSmith and Keith Heitzman didn’t travel with the team Saturday. What’s their status?

Brady Hoke: “De’Veon didn’t travel because I took him off the travel team. Heitzman has a little bit of a hand issue.”

Question: Is De’Veon off the travel team – are you guys keeping that in-house? He just did earn –

Brady Hoke: “Just, yeah.”

Question: Will Heitzman’s issue keep him out of the game on Saturday?

Brady Hoke: “I don’t think so. It’s something that’s kind of day to day. He practiced on Thursday, but it wasn’t as effective as you’d like him. We’d love to have him, believe me. “

Question: You said something about how Funchess is being coached right now. Is he getting some Ferrigno and Hecklinski, or –

Brady Hoke: “Mostly with Heck. Most of it’s all with Heck.”

Question: Because he already knows the tight end stuff?

Brady Hoke: “Well, and Heck knows the tight end stuff, too, so if there’s anything that’s dual that we need to take care of, it’s easier to have the guy in one room the whole time.”

Question: The cameras caught Taylor with his hand in the facemask there. What was your assessment of that?

Brady Hoke: “My assessment is it’s not what we want to portray or be, and him and I have had a discussion regarding that. It’s not who we are.”

Question: On the Big Ten reviewing Lewan’s conduct and whether he thinks a suspension is warranted?

Brady Hoke: “Well, if I think he should be suspended, I would have already done it.”

Question: You talked about Heitzman a little bit, but Brennan Beyer is listed as the starter at defensive end. With Jake getting healthier, how nice is it to be able to get those two on the field at the same time?

Brady Hoke: “Well, him and – Cam Gordon played a really good football game the other day too, at the SAM, so having him and Jake in the sub packages, both those guys, I think it’s really good for us. I think Brennan has always been a guy – he can wear a lot of hats. He’s smart, tough, good technician.”

Question: What does it give you in there that you might have been missing otherwise?

Brady Hoke: “I think number one, it’s a more than quality football player.”

Question: What is it like for you to have an athletic director who’s supporting you publicly, privately, and really involved with the program?

Brady Hoke: “I think that’s always nice if you have people you work with that are positive.”

Question: AJ’s status? Is he back?

Brady Hoke: “He’s back.”

Question: And how much – was it noticeable that he wasn’t in there in terms of the protection?

Brady Hoke: “Well, we changed a little bit, and used six offensive linemen in there a lot, so –“

Question: And that would have been him?

Brady Hoke: “Could have been, yes.”

Question: As your program goes forward –

Brady Hoke: “Our program.”

Question: Right. Is this an anomaly that you ended up so young in the offensive line? In other words, going forward, should this not be a “problem” again.

Brady Hoke: “Yes. Should it be a problem again? No. That’s what you asked, right?”

Question: Right.

Brady Hoke: “Yeah, when we got here, we had eight scholarship offensive linemen. That number usually is 14 to 15.”

Question: And how long do you think it takes for an offensive lineman to develop from arrival to being a guy who can really push, make a difference?

Brady Hoke: “I think that’s – I think I’d be wrong if I didn’t say it takes a little development, physically and mentally, because of the position, but I’d also be wrong if I wouldn’t say there are guys who have done it, and guys who have done it at a quicker pace. Kyle’s been here since January, and I think he’s come along pretty good in some instances. Now, did we all have our best moment Saturday? No. Coaches included.”

Question: So, the restocking part, it’s just the production part going forward now? Like, you said you had eight scholarship offers. How many do you have now?

Brady Hoke: “Oh, 15? 15, yeah, 15.”

Question: So you have restocked?

Brady Hoke: “Well, we are. You know, we may have to do it upfront too, because you’re in the same position a little bit, because of scheme, with defensive linemen.”

Question: Going back with the eight scholarships, some of those guys were older. Obviously you didn’t expect it to be negative 48 yards, but did you guys foresee this being –

Brady Hoke: “Well, it doesn’t help when – an issue –“

Question: The struggling thing; did you foresee growing pains, or is this not acceptable at all?

Well, it’s never – number one, it’s never acceptable. Doesn’t matter who it is. You know, the expectation is for the position, and it will always be that way, always has been that way. Do we need to do a better job? Yeah, we do; the coaches. That’s always something that we have to look at, and we have to be able to push more, and the kids have responded well. Was it representative? No. You get seven sacks, and you snap a ball 20 yards, it doesn’t help your positive yardage.”

Question: Did you tell the guys in the staff meeting that ‘we have to coach these guys better’? Is that –

Brady Hoke: “Well, yeah.”

Question: Because they’re younger?

Brady Hoke: “I mean, we all have to."

Question: You were defending short fields it seemed like all day long.

Brady Hoke: “Yeah.”

Question: It might have worn on the defense after a bit, but what do you have to do defensively in a game like that when you know you’re not going to score a ton of points to –

Brady Hoke: “Well, you need to steal some possessions, which means you have to create some turnovers. You have to give your offense more opportunities. That’s part of it. Getting off the field, you know, third downs, we weren’t great, especially in the second half, and the last drive of the first half. Getting off the field is important, and again, creates more opportunities for your offense.”

Question: With Nebraska, what jumps out at you?

Brady Hoke: “I think first thing, I think Ameer Abdullah is really a good back. They’ve played three different quarterbacks, maybe four, with Martinez out. I think the two that I’ve seen the most of are very capable of running their offense and doing a good job with it. Physical offensive line, and that’s part of their trademark. Defensively, I think they were young early, especially up front, and for us, Willy Henry played a very good football game the other day. Willy’s gotten better as the year’s gone on, and I think their guys have gotten better.”

Question: Back to Lewan. You said you would have suspended him if you thought that was necessary. He pushed the line a little bit, though, didn’t you think, with the twisting Isaiah Lewis’ helmet?

Brady Hoke: “It’s not acceptable.”

Question: But not enough, obviously, to – did he explain why? Heat of the moment, or –

Brady Hoke: “Trying in some ways to get our quarterback out of harm’s way, in a pile. Some of it is he got overtaken with his emotion, and he’s kind of one of those guys, and you all well know, who is a very good teammate.”

Question: Do you think what he did was just as bad as what Gholston did?

Brady Hoke: “I’m not going to judge that. That’s for somebody else to judge.”

Question: You also said after the game that the two week break might be overrated that we all –

Brady Hoke: “I think, yeah –“

Question: Well, why?

Brady Hoke: “Here’s the best thing about two week break. They get to rest, and so you – how you approach it is getting them some rest, and at the same time doing some things for the next opponent, but you want a fresher team than you did if you were playing every week.

Question: So it’s not really about making adjustments, and –

Brady Hoke: “Well, I think we did. We did the first bye week. We adjusted the offensive line, did some things that we needed to do. You always – I mean, that’s the first thing we talked about. Where are we at, next five games? Personnel; do we have the right personnel on the field? Do we have the right guys in the kicking game?”

Question: Devin, you said he was beat up. Does he need a couple of days here to gather himself?

Brady Hoke: “He’ll probably need (Sunday) and (Monday).”

Question: Do you expect him to go (Tuesday) in practice?

Brady Hoke: “Yeah, yeah.”

Question: What was he like yesterday? Did he come in pretty sore?

Brady Hoke: “I think like any quarterback who gets seven sacks, and a lot of helmets in different parts of your body.”

Question: Was that your decision to take him out at the end of the game? Or was that Devin’s?

Brady Hoke: “No, it wasn’t his decision.”

Question: It was your decision?

Brady Hoke: “Yeah.”

Question: Were you impressed with the way he –

Brady Hoke: “I thought he was a warrior. Now, did he do everything perfectly? No.”

Question: Chesson gave you a big play in there.

Brady Hoke: “Yeah.”

Question: Where is he from the start of the season?

Brady Hoke: “I think he’s come a long way, you know? I think – and you can see the growth. You look at the special teams part of it, and what he’s done as a gunner on the punt, and on the kickoff. He’s made a significant amount of plays, and as he’s grown into a guy, as a receiver, who’s very good for us. He can stretch the field. He went up and made a nice play on the ball, the one thing he wanted to do, and he said yesterday, I should have finished.”

Question: I know you talked running backs earlier, but coming into the season, Fred was in here talking about five or six guys he thought were going to be impactful. Why is it that this far into the season, it seems like it’s just Fitz; that he’s your only option? Besides pass pro?

Brady Hoke: “I think some of it is that some of the guys haven’t come along as well as we’d like them to, and that’s as big an issue as there is.”

Question: Is that not identifying the right backs to bring in, or is it that the talent’s maybe not there that you thought?

Brady Hoke: “No, I don’t think from a talent standpoint. I think it’s a comfort level sometimes we all get too.”

Question: Wile had that 49-yard field goal at the beginning of the game. It looked like Brendan was also ready to go out there, but he didn’t. How is that decision made? Is that in advance? Is it a certain yardage?

Brady Hoke: “Yeah, usually anything 50, 51, 52, Matt will kick them. That was 49 I think, rainy, you know, you have to put a little more pop on the ball.”

Question: With how you guys have struggled running the ball at the tailback position, especially with the offensive line and the running back, do you have to look at, at least in the short term, and I know you have, but adjusting, and being careful not to pound your head against the wall trying to run the ball from the tailback position?

Brady Hoke: “Yeah, I think we’ve done that. I think when you look at game-plan-wise, I thought the offensive game plan was a very good plan for what we wanted to do.”

Question: Throwing the ball deep?

Brady Hoke: “Well, there were a lot of shots that were there.”

Question: In the last two years, you’ve lost to Michigan State, and then you lost to Nebraska last year, and whatever that took away, you guys were able to rally a little bit, similar to what Nick asked you before, but was there a plan that you guys used, and that you can go back to, to try to reenergize?

Brady Hoke: “I wish I could remember whatever that plan was, but it’s probably being consistent in what we do. The guys know what to expect. I think there’s a consistency to it. I think we’ve had guys who have a lot of passion, number one, for Michigan, and what they’re all about.”

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