Question: I’m trying to get a sense if what Michigan State did last year has collectively changed the way they are viewed by their peers in the conference. For you, when a team does have a season like that, you had a season at Ball State where all of a sudden it changed the way they were perceived in that league. How does that change the way you perceive that program?
Brady Hoke: “I don’t know if it changes because they are such a great rival. I don’t think I’ve ever looked at it that way. They had a wonderful year.”
Question: Two years ago they looked at themselves at having arrived and then they had a rough year. It seemed the way their peers viewed them, it seemed differently the way other people viewed them as having arrived the way they maybe do now in terms of what they accomplished last year.
Brady Hoke: “I don’t know. They’re a great rival. That’s all I need to say on that.”
Question: What gives you the best confidence that your running game has improved?
Brady Hoke: “I think the guys running the football and the guys up front, quarterback getting in good plays and out of bad plays. Our receivers what they can do.”
Question: Being able to spread it out?
Brady Hoke: “They’ve got to block. You want big plays, your receivers better be in somebody’s face.”
Question: Derrick Green is down 20 pounds?
Brady Hoke: “Down to 222. He looks great. I wish I’d do that.”
Question: Did he try to bulk up too much to play?
Brady Hoke: “I think it is a typical normal kid coming from high school, who thinks big is better and that’s not necessarily always the case. He came into camp and he sprained an ankle. He missed some significant time from a learning process of it and being out on the field physically. You saw it at the end of the year, he started to come along. Then in the spring, he really had a good spring, he and DeVeon, Justice Hayes, both. We get Drake Johnson back, which Drake probably a year ago would have played a whole lot of football for us as a running back. But he blew his knee out. We’re more equipped there. We’ve got so much quality competition going on in all positions. That gives you a lot of confidence.”
Question: The guys up front, that’s where it starts?
Brady Hoke: “Yeah, always does.”
Question: Coach, how would you characterize Devin Gardner’s progression since he’s been here. How much has he improved?
Brady Hoke: “I think he’s improved greatly. I think just watching his progress and the learning and everything that he’s doing, I think he just keeps making great strides.”
Question: Do you think he’s had some difficulty maybe, he’s had to change. He was recruited for a spread offense, then he had Coach Borges, do you think there has been some difficulty in that, do you think that’s disrupted his progression in any way?
Brady Hoke: “I don’t think so. I think, number one, he graduated from the University of Michigan in three years. That’s pretty significant. So, he’s an intelligent guy. Where he’s improved is his football IQ, football intelligence. I that is something that instinct has to play a big part of and the coaching every day. I think all of that he’s improved greatly from his mindset, from his leadership.”
Question: There were a lot of highs and lows last year. He committed a lot of turnovers in some games and he played excellent in some other games. What do you think is the biggest key for him in trying to find more consistency this year?
Brady Hoke: “I think number one, he’s got to trust in his teammates. He’s got to trust that he doesn’t have to win the game for us. It’s nice to have a great quarterback who can but he’s got to understand and I know he does, that there are 114 other guys on that team.”
Question: So you felt like sometimes last year he tried to do too much?
Brady Hoke: “Sometimes, but that’s a guy who is a competitor. But, at the same time, we didn’t help him much.”
Question: Urban was asked yesterday about Michigan State and he said there’s only one rival, speaking of you. How do you respond to that?
Brady Hoke: “That’s his opinion. We’ve got great rivalries. That’s why Michigan is different, why it’s special. We’ve got three great rivals. On a national scale, state/egional scale, and then another state/regional but national scale.”
Question: Is Notre Dame still a rival even though your not playing?
Brady Hoke: “Sure they are. They’ll come back sometime.”
Question: How confident are you that he (Devin) is going to lead the offense?
Brady Hoke: “I’m very confident in Devin. What Devin knows to is that he better come out and perform every day, if not, we’ve got great competition. We have a guy who’s played snaps before, where last year we didn’t.”
Question: Is there still competition there?
Brady Hoke: “Always, competition every day, who makes the best bed in the morning, it’s competition.”
Question: Greg talked about blitzes in the spring not getting along. Are better athletes more equipped to do that and how do you teach them?
Brady Hoke: “Better equipped because of the athleticism, better equipped because of the understanding of the scheme, better equipped because the guys on the outside are better cover guards.”
Question: How much do you ask Frank Clark to really elevate and be that pass rusher?
Brady Hoke: “A lot, a lot. Frank and I talk about it every day. He had five sacks. I could get five sacks.”
Question: Would this new playoff system be better for the Big Ten than the BCS?
Brady Hoke: “I don’t know. I’ve never thought of it, reflected on it that way. People wanted it, we got it. I think we will go a couple of years and see how it goes. I’m a traditionalist when you look at the bowl system and those rewards to some degree. I worry about, you have a semi-final game in the Rose Bowl with all that pageantry and everything that is involved in it. Teams aren’t going to do that because they want to win that week and then the next week. Being able to go to a Rose Bowl and experience that, I feel bad for the kids in the Big Ten who don’t have that opportunity.”
Question: Jerry Kills speaks so highly of you. Just in your words, what does that relationship mean to you?
Brady Hoke: “He and Rebecca are two of the finest individuals, finest people. You are talking about truly, people who are in coaching for the right reason, that’s Jerry and Rebecca Kill. Just being with Jerry in MAC meetings when we were both in the MAC, being around him and Rebecca, my wife Laura and Rebecca, when they come to these things, they hang out together. They are like people, so it’s awesome. Talk about the football coach that he is, the man can flat out coach the game and cares about his team.”
Question: Do you guys kind of identify with each other because you kind of came up together?
Brady Hoke: “I think that’s part of it. We’ve coached high school, we’ve coached Division II and the MAC. I think that’s part of it. You know how to cut the field, you know how to wash jocks and all that stuff. Other guys haven’t all done that.”
Question: How important is it to have continuity on the offensive line. Last year you had six or seven different starting line ups.
Brady Hoke: “I think it’s important. You want that consistency. I think that’s always important in every position. We got great competition, talked about that. It will be important for us to narrow it down and then playing with each other.”
Question: Will you say that the season kind of hinges on how the offensive line does?
Brady Hoke: “I don’t know if that’s fair. I think there is no doubt we have high expectations for them, but I don’t know if that is what your season is on. We’ve got to play great defense. We’ve got to be great in the special teams. We’ve got to be able to have backs who understand protections completely and backs that are going to make a guy miss and get that extra yard.”
Question: Darrell has taken a lot of heat for last year’s performance. Is that unwarranted, is that unfair?
Brady Hoke: “Always unwarranted. That’s my fault.”
Question: What are the goals of this tea?
Brady Hoke: “It’s always Michigan to win the Big Ten Conference. We are not going to hide from that. It doesn’t matter. That’s an expectation when you represent Michigan.”
Question: You lost both your tackles… how can that position possibly be better?
Brady Hoke: “Well, I think the guys, you know, there are five guys up there, right, it can be six if you want to cut, what’s your tight end, is he a glorified tackle or is he a tight end. My point is, yeah you lose two guys, you got three guys back, we got multiple guys who will play snaps. Were they young? Yes. That’s okay. That’s part of growing. We’ll be okay.”
Question: Coach, last year you played Penn State at their place in the primetime game, lost that game. This year you have them under the lights. Is that something you’re looking forward to? You haven’t played that many games at home and you’ve played Notre Dame twice.
Brady Hoke: “It’s the first league game under the lights. I think that will be a lot of fun. We’ve always had a lot of respect for Penn State.”
Question: I just talked to Frank about his whole back story.
Brady Hoke: How’d that go?
Question: He handled it very well.
Brady Hoke: “Frank is a great kid.”
Question: He was very critical of you (laughter).
Brady Hoke: “That’s okay.”
Question: Can you just kind of tell me about your first impressions of him when getting to know him and things like that, early days of your relationship.
Brady Hoke: “Coach Ginn and I have known each other forever. I recruited Pierre Woods, which was Ted’s first guy out of Glennville to be Division I player. So Coach Ginn and I go back a long way. Frank was going to go to North Carolina and we had just got the job that January, we had two weeks to recruit. So I knew I had to go see Coach Ginn because I had been on the west coast for two years and he said, ‘I got a guy you need to look at.’ It was 218 pounds of Frank Clark. I watched him play basketball. He will say he’s a good player, he’s not that good, but explosive. He’s just grown up. He’s a son. He hasn’t made everything perfect every day, every decision. He’s paid consequences for that. You’re talking about a guy you’re very proud of and look at it, he’s got a suit on, come on. (Question: A well-tailored suit). He’s done a nice job. He’s a guy who we expect a lot of. He’s a guy you appreciate coaching because you can coach him hard. He knows why you’re coaching him hard. He wants to be coached. We expect good things from him.”
Question: You have guys ideally that you get to send home at times and say go be with your family, things like that. He’s over there telling us he hasn’t been back to California in 10 years. He hasn’t seen his mother in forever, things like that. Is there a different approach to guys who have kind of different circumstances?
Brady Hoke: “They’re all different. That’s what makes this job the greatest job in the world. You’ve got 115 sons and every day is different. Some aren’t great days. But when you have an opportunity, and I can say that about Jake, Devin, and all of them. But you’ve got an opportunity to help him and sometimes it’s tough. Sometimes it’s kicking him in the ass. It is what you do it for.”
Question: The early days when you have to kick them in the ass, how much of a different reaction was it then than now?
Brady Hoke: “We always had an ace in the hole with Coach Ginn who was really a father figure to Frank in a lot of ways growing up. We had great communication.”