Former Player Sound-Off: Leroy Hoard

GoBlueWolverine's Sam Webb went one-on-one with former Michigan standout Leroy Hoard last week to get his take on the 2014 squad. The former Wolverine tailback gave his view on the running game, why he is in favor of Brady Hoke's decision not to name captains until after the season, his outlook for this season, and more.

Sam Webb:  Interested in getting your perspective on this offense, these running backs in particular, and just kind of looking back to last season.  A lot of the emphasis on the line, what did you see from these tailbacks last year that they can work on, that they can improve on, what do you expect from them this season?

Leroy Hoard:  “I think people are not going to realize it, but it has taken a while to get over what Rich Rod tried to do.  I’m not saying that he’s a bad coach, but the mentality that he came in with, with the style of player that he brought into Michigan is what Brady Hoke had to change.  We’ve needed more aggressive players.  The running backs need to be more physical and every time I came there I just wanted to see the team as a whole get bigger and get more physical.  So if I had anything that I would add or I would like to see from the running back is just probably the whole offense more than just one position, just be more physical and play the type of Big Ten football that can you get victories in the conference.”

Sam Webb:  As we said, you come from an era of Michigan football where you guys had multiple, not just good backs, but great backs.  Guys that could get it done.  How was it handled, how did the carries get dispersed?  Did you guys get put in and did they stay with you if you were hot, were there a certain number of carries you were going to get?  How did you handle that and how did they feed all those mouths back in the day.

Leroy Hoard:  “One, they had this great invention called the wishbone and so they just put us all in at the same time (laughter).  From that standpoint, I got sometimes more carries because I could play all three positions back there.  We had Jarrod Bunch, Tony Boles, the year before Jamie Morris.  It was unbelievable when you look back at how many guys could actually play, because we played the wishbone everybody had to be alert.  We ran checks so the ball could go either right or left and you never knew when you were getting the ball.  That was one of the reasons why it was so easy, because every time you got in the backfield when you ran the option or something like that, or a play of that nature, you didn’t know who was getting the ball.”

Sam Webb:  That is certainly a good problem to have if Michigan has another tailbacks that command carries, you kind of figure it out.  One aspect of the position that is harped on here at Michigan is blocking, being able to pick up a blitz.  That’s something that the coaching staff was pretty plain and pretty candid about, they didn’t get a good performance from the tailback position in that regard.  How much improvement can we see from one year to the next and how much will the backs benefit from the quarterback taking over picking out where the blitz is coming and that kind of thing.

Leroy Hoard:  “It is kind of a two-fold thing.  Sometimes the quarterback can help the pass protection out by being decisive, reading the defense quickly and get the ball out of his hands.  That’s what you’re starting to see in college football and it is bleeding into the NFL.  Everybody wants the ball out of the quarterbacks hands because defenders have gotten so much better at rushing the passer.  Teams have gotten so much more advanced at rushing the passer.  The other things is that it goes back to that physical thing.  There is only a handful of plays in football that do you want to do it or not.   Are you willing to put yourself in harms way and block a guy.  Think about this, the guys are running full speed at you, you are not bigger than he is and you  basically have to get in his way.  Are you willing to do that to help your team win?  That’s what it basically boils down to.  You can use technique and you can do all the other things, but at some point you’ve just got to say to yourself I’m not letting the guy get to the quarterback and that’s what pass protection is for a running back, because he’s never going to be bigger than the guy.”

Sam Webb:  A lot of fan uproar even some player disagreement on the following topic.  We talked to a couple of former players today, one being Marcus Ray asking him about Brady Hoke’s decision to name captains after the season.  Marcus liked the moved.  I like the fact that he is not just going to hand that out without a guy having earned it yet, without a guy having seen an example of what good leadership is.  Obviously, the coaches didn’t see it last year and they’re going to make them prove it on the football field.  Marcus liked that.  On the other hand, we talked to another captain in Jon Jansen, who said, hey, you know what, I think captains need to be named at the beginning of the season or before the season.  Where do you fall on that argument?

Leroy Hoard:  “It is a position that is earned.  A lot of times they give it to seniors or guys that have been around the program, but if the program needs leadership and the program needs somebody to show how it is done and there is nobody that has done it, put them on the field and make them earn it.  You don’t have to pick a captain to know who your leaders are.  So to me, it doesn’t matter who the captains are.  Because as you guys watch the game, as you guys talk to the players, you’re going to know who the leaders are on that team.  So the captain is just going to be a side note at some point during the season.  When it gets to the point where he names the captain, I promise you, you’re already going to know who they are.”

Sam Webb:  Outstanding commentary coming strong Leroy Hoard.  I’m going to put you on the spot, I’ve done it with all of your fellow former players and now I have to do it with you.  Forecast the season for me, how is it going to break down record wise for the Wolverines.  Are they going to benefit from what is going wrong at Notre Dame, from the injury to Braxton Miller, is that going to help Michigan at all this year?

Leroy Hoard:  “There two teams that have proven that they are elite in the Big Ten and that’s Ohio State and Michigan State for different reasons.  If you want to win the Big Ten you’re going to have to play the type of football that Michigan State plays.  That goes anywhere.  You play that brand of defense, when you’re that physical, when you run the ball well.  That type of football travels and so, I look for this team to be more physical and in the last few years that’s the one thing I can say that I give them a lot of credit because they haven’t been big guys.  The size is coming back.  They haven’t been very big in recent years, but they’ve played physical.  They’ve put it out there.  From that standpoint, I see them continuing towards a Big Ten Championship.  We don’t necessarily know how it is all going to play out, but just the way they’re going and the manner in which they are going about doing things is going to help them improve and contend.  I think regardless of what happens with the quarterback situation at Ohio State.  They’re going to be there because they have a lot of talent.  Regardless of what happens at Michigan State, they’re going to be there because over the past five years, the type of football that they played…you go back 20 years and every Big Ten coach would be proud of the way they play and you always have to look at Wisconsin and you have these up and coming teams.  But you know the teams that are going to be there.  Now if Michigan can compete, be physical, run the ball, now they have gotten more athletic.  Now if they can do those things, I think they’re going to be improved from last year and I think they are going to compete with Ohio State and Michigan State.”

Sam Webb:  What about a record man, can you give me a number?

Leroy Hoard:  “I would say 10-2.”

Sam Webb:  That was Leroy Hoard, one of the best ever to do it for the Maize and Blue and bringing it strong with the commentary today.  Leroy don’t be a stranger, we appreciate your insight around here. 

Leroy Hoard:  “Any time brother.”


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