Hoke's Roundtable: Week 13

Brady Hoke goes in-depth on the running back competition, Devin Gardner's toughness, the growth of his defense, and more.

Question:  What about Devin’s (Gardner) performance on Saturday, it seemed like the first couple of quarters he struggled. 

Brady Hoke:  “It was a couple of things that I thought.  I thought his ball security was much better.  That has been pretty good.  We had a couple of instances where they had a drop here or there interception wise.  So there are a couple of reads that we have to detail through a little more.  I think his attitude in just fighting and kept going.  We had to call the timeout and he told me, ‘Coach, you got to call timeout.’  He couldn’t feel his left arm.  So called timeout and he worked it back to where he could feel it and he did a tremendous job.”

Question: How do you work to back to feeling?

Brady Hoke:  “You go like this or go like that.  That’s why I’m not a trainer.”

Question: Is this a typical Iowa in terms of the trenches?

Brady Hoke:  “No question.  As you who have covered it long enough, you know that it is going to be a physical line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.  I think what’s pretty…I think they’ve only let four rushing touchdowns all year.  They’re averaging 190 some yards rushing the football.  They’ll be physical at the point of attack. They’re not going to be flashy.  You know that going in.  Both of our fronts got to be physical and have to…from an offensive standpoint target things right and from a defensive standpoint. We’ve got to get with the stretch plays and the zone plays as much as you can up the field penetration.”

Question: You talked about Devin’s left arm, he tells us every week that he is fine, but he really is banged up at this point.

Brady Hoke:  “He is better now than he was two weeks ago.  He’s fine.”

Question: He’s not 100% I wouldn’t imagine?

Brady Hoke:  “I don’t think any guy in football is 100%.”

Question: He was wearing a knee brace for a couple of games, he wasn’t wearing one Saturday.

Brady Hoke:  “Yeah.”

Question: What was the knee brace?

Brady Hoke:  “I think he decided not to wear it.  I don’t put the knee brace on him.  He felt that he didn’t need it.”

Question: Why do you think that is?  Did he have an injury?

Brady Hoke:  “I think a lot of quarterbacks wear knee braces.  Was it on his left leg or right leg?”

Question: Right.

Brady Hoke:  “It’s the opposite leg.”

Question: You said for a couple of years that Thomas Gordon played fast, played fast, are you finally seeing what you wanted to get out of him?

Brady Hoke:  “I thought Thomas really played fast in that football game so the answer would be yes.  I think he did a nice job with his eyes, his discipline because that’s always where it starts in the back end.  From a stance to his feet and his discipline, getting his reactions and reads, I thought he really did a nice job and then triggering.”

Question: Was there a reason for it to happen at this point in the year?

Brady Hoke:  “I couldn’t answer that for him.  I think you always as a senior…going back a lot of years when I played, I think you start realizing that hourglass that time is going fast.  We put a lot of pressure on those guys in this ball game because of the perimeter and what they like to do on the perimeter.  They did a good job with it.”

Question: Last year, Air Force and Northwestern both got on the edge and Nebraska a few weeks ago had a little success, not much.  Is this the best that you’ve seen edge play and option play?

Brady Hoke:  “Yeah and I think you have to give Greg Mattison a lot of credit.  We stayed in what we call our base defense ‘Wolverine’ package because you got Cam Gordon and Jake Ryan.  Those two with a wide receiver and if you looked at the wide receivers for Northwestern, especially guys to the field, they are big guys.  They want  big guys because they want to block the perimeter.  We put two big guys out there who are pretty good athletes in their own right.  I think that helped a lot, helped shows things faster, for a guy like Thomas to trigger off of.  So that’s part of it.”

Question: With how young this offensive line interior, how much does having a game like Saturday help with confidence and just looking at what they did right?

Brady Hoke:  “That’s an important part.  We weren’t perfect, but some of the movement that we got at the line of scrimmage and believe me that will be tested this week because of how Iowa plays the line of scrimmage and who they  have playing it, we’ll be tested.  They got movement and it was really good to see the combination blocks working together.”

Question: Did Fitz Toussaint practice yesterday and do you expect him to miss any time this week?

Brady Hoke:  “I doubt he misses anything this week.  We didn’t do our normal practice.  We did some lifting and running and stuff like that.  We did a little more mental work, meeting time, film that kind of stuff.”

Question: What is Fitz ailing from?

Brady Hoke:  “He had had a little bit of head concussion thing, but he practiced late in the week.  We just didn’t think he had practiced enough – let’s put it that way.”

Question: That last play in regulation, you talked about how well it went and how everybody got on and off and practice goes into that.  When that situation is developing, is it up to each guy who is on the special teams to be aware of it, is there somebody on the sideline organizing it?

Brady Hoke:  “Coach Ferrigno, Dan, myself, they were all basically standing behind him and I where the ball finally got marked and they went from there.  There is always…believe me when that drive started, we started making sure that Quinton Washington and the guys on defense were where they needed to be.  The guys who came in, Erik Gunderson, I think Gibby was still kicking.  Matt went and got him and said, hey, you’ve got to be ready for a hurry field goal.”

Question: Concussions are so much harder to set a timetable for. Does it make you feel better that you have two guys that could prove that they could carry that workload?

Brady Hoke:  “It was nice to see them.  Another guy I want to mention and I did I think at the press conference was Justice Hayes.  He came in and did a nice job in the protections.  Try to get the rail to him, threw the one screen, which should have been a big play.  We’ve got to finish executing on the blocks.  It was nice to get those two going a little bit – yeah no question.”

Question: How do you go from after the game saying that Fitz is still your back to now you wait?  Is it strictly because of the concussion and how he recovers from that?

Brady Hoke:  “He is fine from that, the concussion.  We just didn’t feel that he practiced enough last week.”

Question: I understand, but now after watching film that these two guys, the freshman have shown you more.

Brady Hoke:  “Yeah they did.  I think we’ll have pretty good decision to make at the end of the week.”

Question:  Fitz is 200 pounds and those guys are 230 or whatever it is, there is just a different style.  Does it seem like those two guys fit what you want to do in that power game even though Fitz runs hard?

Brady Hoke:  “I think that is a hard question because Fitz has done so good at some of the things, the last couple of years, three years.  There is a fit for all three of them.”

Question: How was the targeting of the offensive line?

Brady Hoke:  “Much better.”

Question: Better than it was all year would you say?

Brady Hoke:  “Yeah, much better.  I think Al did a nice job in where we ran the ball and how we developed and things that went along with it, which I’m not going to talk about.”

Question: Simplifying generally?

Brady Hoke:  “Yeah we have for the last two and a half weeks.”

Question: You talked about how well Gardner has held up physically and stayed in there every play.  If he had to go in, what does Shane (Morris) know now that he maybe didn’t at the end of September?  Where has he come just in practice.

Brady Hoke:  “If you say a percentage, he is probably closer to 75-80% now, where in September you’re talking about 45-50%.”

Question: With Devin, you talked about the ball security in that he had half a dozen drops that could have been interceptions.  When Devin gets in that situation is he not reading the defense quickly enough?

Brady Hoke:  “I think some of them he is reading it and maybe hurrying it or not letting it develop completely.”

Question: With the Big Ten title out of reach does that impact particularly for the running back position but other positions as well your philosophy about personnel and playing time?

Brady Hoke:  “If we had guys who didn’t work hard and didn’t come in with a great attitude, weren’t so much a good teammate, that would impact your thinking.  Our seniors and I’ve said this all year, they’ve come in and worked every practice.  I think our intensity and our concentration, our focus, I think it continues to get better, but it has been good all year.”

Question: We seem to ask you about Willie Henry every week, but again he seemed to have another pretty solid game.

Brady Hoke:  “Yeah he did.  James Ross (Biggs) had a good game and a lot of that was Willie.  I thought Quinton played his best game – Quinton Washington.  I think the rotation in there with him and Jibreel (Black), Willie and Ryan Glasgow held in there pretty well.  They freed some linebackers up, which at the end of the day they need to make sure they’re doing that and then go from there.”

Question: Do you feel like Ross has turned the corner here with a couple of games in a row where he has been all over the field?

Brady Hoke:  “Yeah he seems like he is very comfortable in what were doing and what we’re asking him to do and then at the same time, I would say the front is doing a  better job.”

Question: Do you like that group in general, Desmond (Morgan), James and everybody else in there, have the linebackers been your most steady spot on defense?

Brady Hoke:  “It might be.  I think Frank (Clark) and that group, the rush ends and the SAMs have been pretty steady, but they are part of that.” ‘

Question: Jibreel said that he kind of feels that the pass rush is coming together, what kind of progress have you seen from that?

Brady Hoke:  “I think in the last couple of weeks there is more of a pocket presence on the quarterback.  We may not get there all the time, but there are hurries and quarterback hits.  (We) trying to do as much of it without having to bring a lot of other guys.”

Question: Why is it so tough to play at Iowa and I am wondering what Derrick’s (Green) weight is right now?

Brady Hoke:  “I cannot tell you Derrick’s weight.  I don’t weight him in.  He does get weighed in, but I don’t off the top of my head tell you.  I think anywhere in this conference is tough to play and Iowa is one of those places.”

Question: A lot of past players will say that is one of the toughest because the fans are top of you…

Brady Hoke:  “They are right on top of you, they’re close.  It is a lot like East Lansing.”

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