CHICAGO – As the fourth season of the Brady Hoke era looms, the head coach himself will tell you there’s been failure in Ann Arbor. That’s because he judges success on whether Michigan wins the Big Ten. The Wolverines have not accomplished that feat for a decade.
The unrest is reaching Rodriguez-esque panic. Michigan is 15-11 the past two years and finished two games under .500 in the conference last season. If the numbers don’t change – and significantly – Michigan could be in line for a new head coach. And the luster for the tradition-rich program would officially start peeling away.
But the attitude is not doomsday. Devin Gardner returns with a year of starting experience, the offensive line should be improved and Greg Mattison’s defense isn’t expected to have a two-year dip.
“Our football team has come together this summer and worked really hard,” Hoke said Monday at Big Ten media days. “It’s as competitive a team that I’ve been around, at all positions. That’s exactly what Michigan, as leaders and the best, should have.”
- Hoke lauded new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier. He said Nussmeier comes in with a championship pedigree and credibility in molding quarterbacks. It instills confidence in how Gardner will progress.
- Jabrill Peppers, one of the nation’s most touted recruits, will start at nickelback, according to Hoke. He warned that Peppers shouldn’t be anointed. It’s not easy for true freshmen.
- On the East Division, Hoke says it’s going to be competitive. “As far as we’re concerned, we’re looking forward to it.” Michigan has rivals Ohio State and Michigan State to deal with.
- Last season ended in a tailspin for Hoke, but he doesn’t sense any added pressure. “Why do you coach?” he asked. Hoke said there’s pressure every single day coaching and preparing players for life. Nothing changes because Michigan lost a certain amount of games.
- Hoke said he and the rest of the Big Ten welcomes tough out-of-conference games. Michigan-ND, Michigan State-Oregon, Wisconsin-LSU, Ohio State-Virginia Tech, etc. “I think our conference is going to play very well in those games.”
- Michigan and Notre Dame will play for the final time this season. Hoke said there will be added emphasis, a shame that series won’t continue.
- Hoke said he’s happy Ohio State and Michigan will be in the same division this season and for the foreseeable future. Said the rivalry must live on.