Question: It seems like Fitzgerald Toussaint is struggling in that area. Is it just a matter of he comes out of the game on third down, what do you do to get him ***?
Brady Hoke: “It is not one-two, it is not lack of effort or lack of toughness with Fitz and you all probably know that from what he came back from. Again, that is something we’ve got to do a better job with. We have to coach it better. Maybe there are points that we are not doing a good job with, whether it be your base, your knee-bend, your head up, eyes on, hands inside, all those things. He is a good screen runner. He does a good job. Do you want to take him out because of the other things that he does, no not really.”
Question: Can you look at the next game and what jumps out for you with Northwestern.
Brady Hoke: “You look at how they’ve played this year in the games that they’ve lost. They’ve lost some heartbreakers. From their defense, they are opportunistic. I think Tyler Scott is one of the better down guys in the league. From their offensive perspective, you got to play two quarterbacks. You got to be ready for them to play two quarterbacks. Their offensive scheme itself is pretty much the same with either who is in there, but they both have different gifts that they can do.”
Question: The Nebraska player’s comment and the suggestion that the offense is predictable. What is your response to that?
Brady Hoke: “He’s wrong. You can say that about a lot of teams.”
Question: When you went back to look at the tape, you said you liked the play calling…you’re still…?
Brady Hoke: “Yeah. There is not any question about it.”
Question: So is it lack of execution on the offense’s part? Is it what the defense is doing to you?
Brady Hoke: “I think it is always both, a little bit. You’ve got to give them credit. They are a pretty good football team. They’ve got pretty good players. We’ve got to do a better job too.”
Question: You said it is not all on the offensive line. It looks like it is a lot, at least from upstairs watching.
Brady Hoke: “I think you can pick and choose. It is everybody who is involved.”
Question: Devin Gardner, it doesn’t look like he is moving the same way he did early in the season, is that an inaccurate observation?
Brady Hoke: “He is healthy.”
Question: He even said he is holding on to the ball a little bit longer, why do you think that is?
Brady Hoke: “I think sometimes when things go a little chaotic, you try to make too many big plays.”
Question: What do you like about the three person rotation that you have at the WILL and MIKE right now?
Brady Hoke: “I think it has worked out pretty well. I think it has kept them fresh and kept them healthy. I think all of them have earned that right to play. I think with the three of those guys through there, I think Ben Gedeon is another guy that gets better and better daily and you like some of things that he does.”
Question: Obviously Desmond (Morgan) is a big part of that because he is the one playing both. What is it from him that allows you to play him that way?
Brady Hoke: “He’s a smart football player. He’s got I don’t know how many games of experience, which is huge. He is one of those guys who can fit both. He runs well enough to be the covered up guy as the WILL and then he is stout enough, strong enough and tough enough to play the MIKE.”
Question: Coach Borges uses the bye weeks to do a lot of self scouting, without a bye week are you able to do that?
Brady Hoke: “Oh yeah. They do that really every week. They’re going to look. We are going to look defensively and they’re going to look offensively and see what things…there may be trending or whatever as far as formation-wise.”
Question: Have you been able to identify any fundamental issues with the type of offense that is being called right now?
Brady Hoke: “No I don’t think so. Fundamentals – yes. Techniques and fundamentals – yeah.”
Question: Are you disappointed with how the young players on the offense line not progressing as rapidly as you thought?
Brady Hoke: “I think any freshman number one, it is a grind. They’ve been here since June. It’s a grind. They haven’t been home. It is a grind. For the guys who have been there and have red shirted, they understand it a little bit. It is a different thing red shirting and looking on cards and then all of a sudden man you’re out there. From that standpoint, are you disappointed? I think you’d be lying if you said you were not because of what you see they can do. When they do it right, it speaks so much to them being able to do it right.”
Question: Are you disappointed in the fans?
Brady Hoke: “Yeah if they are booing the kids – yeah. They can boo us coaches all they want. Look I’ve got a harder time at home than I do there, believe me. My daughter and wife, man why aren’t we protecting better. You guys are easy compared to them.”
Question: When you struggle to run the ball obviously it is going to have an impact on your play action game, does it get to the point where you can’t or shouldn’t run play action from certain sets?
Brady Hoke: “I think certain sets maybe. I think you’re right when you can’t consistently and running the ball may be a 2-1/2 to three yard gain. If you force safeties to understand that they can run the ball enough, it affects your play action, no doubt about it.”
Question: How much do defenses copycat off of things that they’ve seen work?
Brady Hoke: “A bunch. That happens. You all look at and I shouldn’t speak for every other coach in America, but I think we all look at who defended somebody well or offensively what gave this defense problems. Yeah you’ll get some copycat looks.”
Question: You mentioned that they blitzed a little bit more than you expected, do you think that was something that they picked up?
Brady Hoke: “They could have. They are the same blitzes that they had done, maybe more frequently that they had done before and we had repped and repped and repped.”
Question: You want to do a better job coaching, when you’re doing that on the fly is that based on self evaluation or do you have outlets that you go to and say, I want to change something, what do you think maybe I should change?
Brady Hoke: “Most of that stuff when you do that development stuff is in the off season. It is real hard and that may be…. I’m not going to say who I talk to and who I don’t talk to. It may be as simple as what did you practice, what you do and how you may change something up or what you like. I love going to NFL teams in the springs to watch OTAs. You may pick up a drill you like, a competitive drill or whatever or how they meet or how do you look at two minutes – all those things.”
Question: With the way the last two games have gone, you’ve probably noticed that the natives are a little restless. Do you feel and do you react to that, do you feel like maybe something I wasn’t going to try I need to try now so this doesn’t snowball. How much pressure do you feel to get an immediate fix?
Brady Hoke: “I don’t know if I feel any. We just got to do a good job with our kids. That’s truthfully it. If we’re doing a good job with our kids, I talked about looking to be a little more detailed and all that stuff. That’s the stuff that we have to do.”
Question: The concern is that something like this once it gets snowballing…?
Brady Hoke: “I can’t worry about the 115 kids in Schembechler Hall. Did they go to class? Did they do the right thing? Are they putting the time in preparation wise?”
Question: When you say natives should be restless and expectations are high. What should they legitimately be disappointed in? I know you are going to say coaching….
Brady Hoke: “That’s what I would be disappointed in.”
Question: Why isn’t it progressive, the offense?
Brady Hoke: “I think it might be. Two weeks ago, we had 700 and some yards, not against a great defensive football team. The next week, we played the number one defense in the country. We don’t play as well as we should. We’ve got to keep grinding away. There are no easy fixes to anything ever in life and this is life and life lessons that are taught through the game of football. If it takes a guy maybe learning some difficult lessons through the game of football that is going to help them down the road.”
Question: Does it make you reevaluate some of the things that you are doing…?
Brady Hoke: “You’ll evaluate and evaluate afterwards. These kids have gone out and won six games and lost three. We’ve got three guaranteed opportunities left. We’ve got to take those one day at a time.”
Question: What kind of feedback have you gotten from your seniors or captains? You talk about this team needs to get better, the coaching needs to get better. Do you talk to your players?
Brady Hoke: “Yeah I talk to them.”
Question: Do they have any input in coming up with any suggestions?
Brady Hoke: “If they would, I wouldn’t tell you.”
Question: Are they allowed to?
Brady Hoke: “Oh yeah. I’m a pretty nice guy.”
Question: Cam Gordon and Jibreel Black are playing some of the best football of their careers. What have you seen from them the last month or so?
Brady Hoke: “The thing I like about both of those guys is that they’ve really been vested into it. Their commitment and not that they weren’t ever before, but I think they’ve taken on that personality of being a guy who is a senior and understanding that they are held to a different standard than freshman. I think we think that we can see that progress. Jibreel is playing much more physical football. I tell him all the time because he really for a while didn’t seem to really like and I’m talking a year ago, like it inside there where you have to be a pretty tough hombre. He is really showing me that he is playing tougher.”
Question: You’ve mentioned the offensive line and this is the five that you want to stick with but that group that actually started the first four games, I know you made the change after the Connecticut game, is there ever any thought of going back to that group?
Brady Hoke: “I think to be totally honest you’re always looking as you evaluate through the week. If a guy goes out there and doesn’t do it and get it done, there is always personnel changes and that’s at any position. It is just right now, we’ve got to do a better job and it is just not the offensive line with some protection issues.”
Question: You’ve said multiple times that you have to coach better. During the season, how do you balance sticking with what got you here as a coach with evaluating should I or can I do things any differently.
Brady Hoke: “I don’t think you do that during the season. The other thing is that we’ve done this. We’ve done this before. You see some of the same things that you *** to two other schools.”
Question: It is just that the patience level is different here.
Brady Hoke: “I’m sure it is.”
Question: When you go through tough times like this, do you get words of encouragement from outside, other coaches?
Brady Hoke: “Yeah. There are people you respect.”
Question: What is the main piece of advice?
Brady Hoke: “Just keep going in the direction that you’re going. Keep doing the things that we’re doing. Now do we want to play better – yeah. That would be one of them.”
Question: Is it tough to get kids to play loose and not in their own heads when they have a couple of bad games in a row?
Brady Hoke: “What happens above the neck is more important than anything period. For guys confidence and all that kind of stuff, do you motivate differently, do you talk to and more, let them talk to you. That’s all part of it. It’s part of coaching. It is part of teaching. So yeah that part of it.”
Question: You’ve said you have done this before in different situations, what is the most comparable situation to this season?
Brady Hoke: “Second or third year at Ball State.”
Question: What did you do that year?
Brady Hoke: “We stayed consistent with who we are and how we do things and the demands and expectations.”
Question: Was there a point in the downward slide that turned around, was there a play or a game?
Brady Hoke: “I think we won…you don’t know, why am I looking at you? I think we won the last four in a row that year after…I think it was the year we opened up with Iowa, Boston College and Auburn.”
Question: You’ve talked about being a smash-mouth football team, you don’t have the guys right now to execute that but is there a chance that they will be the guys in a couple of years?
Brady Hoke: “I guess I would say to that. I do know we have those guys. Does it frustrate you when you are not there right now? Yeah. From the guys that have been recruited, we have those guys.”
Question: Does that fact make this almost an extended transition? You are going to have some things that you have to change over when you first get here, but allowing the guys that you recruited to grow up where you want them to be. Are you still transitioning?
Brady Hoke: “We’re going to beat the offensive line to death and again, it is not all them – believe me. I just know that position is the toughest to play in the National Football League besides quarterback maybe and in college football. Because of the physical thing that is part of it and the mental part of it, protections and different things, changes at the line of scrimmage, all those things.”
Question: What is the main thing if you see something that leads you to believe that this will turn around quickly?
Brady Hoke: “The attitude. How they go to work. Tuesday and Wednesday, they get after each other. They’re competitive, they’re physical. If you had guys that would duck or shy away than I would be really concerned, but these guys compete with each other.”
Question: If you had guys that ducked, would you tell us?
Brady Hoke: “Yeah I would – maybe (laughter).”