Tag Archives: Brady Hoke

This Week in the Big Ten looks at early offers conundrum

This Week in Big Ten Football may or may not be weekly, but it is back with more thoughts and links about what’s going on around the conference lately…. 

At an otherwise typical spring press conference last Tuesday in Columbus, Urban Meyer touched on what is becoming a major issue in college football: early offers and commits.

As he has done a few times before, Meyer lamented the calendar has been pushed up to where more kids every year seem to wrap up their recruiting even before the end of their junior year. He’s not a fan of this for a few reasons.  Continue reading This Week in the Big Ten looks at early offers conundrum

On Jason Whitlock, Brady Hoke and Michigan football

This column from Jason Whitlock about the present and future of the Michigan football program is really interesting.

The Ohio State band performs Script Ohio at Michigan Stadium
The Ohio State band performs Script Ohio at Michigan Stadium

Maybe I shouldn’t have led with “Jason Whitlock” because I’m sure he is a divisive figure to some, but he often has an interesting perspective on a variety of sports topics whether you or I agree with him much. This piece on the Wolverines is unique because while Whitlock repeats something he’s never tried to hide – he loves Hoke and they have a personal relationship – he then proceeds to rip apart the state of the current Michigan team.

I agree with his observations about what is wrong with these Wolverines, though you probably won’t be surprised to learn I am far more skeptical about his ability to turn the program around than Whitlock. The author’s main justification is, “He’s Hoke,” which I guess could turn out to be all it takes but isn’t really based on what I’d call facts. Continue reading On Jason Whitlock, Brady Hoke and Michigan football

Random thoughts on Brady Hoke

A few random thoughts Michigan’s hiring of Brady Hoke as the 19th head coach in school history generated in my little football-loving brain:

• My recollection is those Michigan defensive lines of the Hoke era were nasty. Talented, tough and physical but plenty athletic, too. They certainly seemed to give Ohio State all it could handle every year, regardless of how good the Buckeye front was that season.

• From what I’ve gathered, Hoke is flexible with his offensive approach. That’s got to be a welcome change for Michigan fans, who suffered through Rich Rodriguez’s insistence on imposing his system on players that didn’t fit it. He threw away the 2008 season in order to get that process started, and that never really paid off if you measure the 2010 unit’s performance against teams that were, you know, good at defense.

I’m also of the opinion that the sheer shock of that first season, the worst in school history, burned some bridges beyond repair. That year he actually had some players on defense and a stud albeit injury-prone tailback. The lack of a running quarterback should have been the last clue he needed to keep things simple on offense, play ball control and try to squeeze out games, but that never got through his head and he continually paid the price from then on.

• I wrote in November that regardless of who coaches Michigan in 2011, he should consider moving Denard Robinson away from full-time quarterback. That was before Tate Forcier apparently flaked out, but I still feel that way.

Robinson put up a lot of numbers this season but he also left nearly every game with an injury. Rodriguez made the point his first year in Chicago for Big Ten media days that he didn’t worry that much about this quarterbacks running the ball a lot because most of the time they were on the edge being tackled by defensive backs, but last season that wasn’t necessarily the case. Robinson frequently ran up the middle or off tackle where there are plenty of big guys who got good shots at him on a regular basis. The offense presents an interesting conundrum because it offers both the chance to make big plays and to gain small chunks consistently, but I think there was a diminishing return on how often Robinson had to be the guy who went for the small chunks as opposed to how often he could make the big plays.

He’s explosive enough I think you could still get a lot of big plays out of him even if his touches were significantly reduced. I would suggest using Robinson as a “slash” type player the way the Steelers have utilized guys like Hines Ward and Antwan Randle-El. Brad Smith of the Jets comes to mind as well.

Will Robinson agree to that kind of role? I don’t know. But is Hoke capable of running the type of offense that utilizes his skills at quarterback? That’s a valid concern as well. Consider Ohio State’s fits and starts as it tries to have a quarterback shotgun running game. There is a difference between seeing it and putting it in and doing it right. For all his flaws, Rodriguez certainly has a gift for manipulating the spread with angles and counters and play action, and not just anyone can replicate what he does.

That said, an offense that balances spread and pro-style along with run and pass has come to be the better option as teams have adjusted to the spread by recruiting faster players and teaching them new techniques for dealing with it. I think there’s a certain muscle memory that comes with dealing with the bubbles and the options and all that, too. That didn’t exist when Rodriguez first hit the scene at WVU or when Vince Young was driving defenses crazy.

• Defensively, Michigan can’t get any worse but the talent must be upgraded significantly. The problems weren’t all about youth. Some of those young players just can’t play. But I’m going to give Hoke the benefit of the doubt he can improve the fundamentals at least somewhat. It’s conceivable if Michigan could tackle better and miss fewer assignments the unit could get a lot closer to middle-of-the-pack even before the calvary arrives with future classes.

• Looking at the ruins of the Rodriguez era, I see a long climb back to the top. This might look like the early John Cooper years at Ohio State. He arrived in Columbus and soon said he was surprised at how low the talent was, a realization likely awaiting Hoke in Ann Arbor.

Then there is the matter of the schedules for the next two seasons. There are plenty of softies in 2011, but there are four games Michigan can’t win: Notre Dame, Ohio State, Nebraska and Michigan State. In 2012, they add Alabama to the schedule along with those other four.

Wins are not going to be easy to come by, but there is reason to believe the team could be much more consistent than it was under Rodriguez, so Michigan figures to face an interesting dilemma in a few years. The team very likely could improve noticeably on the field without returning to the top fourth of the Big Ten before 2013.

How much time will Hoke get? He signed a six-year contract, but that hardly seems guaranteed, particularly if he takes a step back in 2012 in the Win column.

I’m not saying Michigan will fire him in two years, but what might that do for recruiting?

Should be an interesting next chapter in the rivalry.

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Brady Hoke’s Potential Trump Card

Maybe Brady Hoke’s timing is better than it first seems.

From the standpoint of existing personnel, Rich Rodriguez did Hoke no favors. Anyone who watched Michigan play last season knows a few bandaids aren’t going to get the Wolverines back on their feet this year or next.

Michigan’s former coach was not only recruiting poorly, he was recruiting the wrong kind of guys. The problems with the roster are by design. He wanted the types of misfits he won with at West Virginia in the Big East. He didn’t seem to understand that he actually had the ability to go after better players when he went to the better university in the better conference*. Hoke will pay up front for those mistakes, but he probably will receive more patience than Rodriguez did, so he figures to have the chance to overcome it.

For all the bluster about “Michigan Men”, let’s keep this in the forefront of our minds: Michigan football would be nothing without the state of Ohio. That should be on a billboard along U.S. 23 for everyone to see. Ohio State should consider the slogan for a splash page on its website during Michigan week because Wolverines have been imported from the Buckeye State for years. The very man who once declared, “A Michigan Man will coach Michigan!” was from Barberton, after all.

The problems Michigan now faces have a lot to do with Rodriguez being a bad coach, but the problems that led to the program being turned over to him have a lot to do with Ohio, specifically, Jim Tressel’s stranglehold on the state.

Michigan hasn’t been the same since a star-studded group left after 2003. That team was a legitimate top 5 team in terms of talent and experience.

The 2004 freshmen had some big names and started with a bang but fizzled as time went on (0-4 against Ohio State, 1-3 in bowl games). Why is that? I trace it back to Jim Tressel reducing the Michigan-Ohio talent pipeline to a mere trickle.

When the Ohio State head coach started signing almost all of the best kids in Ohio every year (beginning with a huge, talented 2002 class), Michigan had a big problem. The Wolverines kept recruiting well nationally in the later years of Lloyd Carr’s regime, but that came back to bite them eventually as they ended up having a remarkably high bust rate. I don’t consider that to be a coincidence. Recruiting too nationally – for any program – is dangerous. There’s less familiarity, less loyalty with the high school coaches because they don’t deal with you on a regular basis. It’s hard to know what you’re getting because you don’t know what type of competition those kids are facing, either.

(Rodriguez signed his share of Ohio kids but Ohio State wanted almost none of them.)

Brady Hoke, the new Michigan coach, is from Kettering, a suburb of Dayton in southwestern Ohio. His MAC coaching stop was not in Ohio, but he had good success luring prospects across the border to Ball State in Indiana. Of course he was never going head-to-head with the likes of Ohio State for those kids, but there are plenty of MAC schools in Ohio they could have gone to, not to mention Cincinnati. That means they liked what Hoke was selling better or he had a better sense on who was worth getting (probably a little bit of both).

Recruiting in the MAC and recruiting in the Big Ten are two different animals, but it stands to reason Hoke made a lot of contacts while he was at BSU and during the eight years he was defensive line coach at Michigan. Knowing where to look, knowing you can get in the door and knowing who you’re talking to are vital in recruiting.

Now remember how much consternation has arisen among Buckeye fans at what has gone on in Cincinnati in regards to recruiting during the Tressel era. Many folks are frustrated that Ohio State does poorly in Cincinnati compared to the rest of the state, but there are two sides to that coin.

Tressel has more coaches combing northeastern Ohio – his native land and a place he got to know well as head coach at Youngstown State in the late ’80s and all of the ’90s – than he does the southwestern corner of the state. Many more offers have gone out to the Cleveland, Youngstown and Akron-Canton areas than Cincinnati and Dayton, and often times it seems that if Tressel is going to take a chance on a kid, he’s more likely to be from his old stomping grounds.

Given how well he has generally done both in terms of recruiting stars and uncovering diamonds in the rough, Tressel obviously knows what he is doing, but the sands may be shifting under his feet.

The northeastern part of the state is dying. Columbus is the fastest growing of the three “Big Cs”, but the Cincinnati metro area is expanding, too. The latter passed the Cleveland area in the past decade in terms of population with one trending up and the other down.

As the population shifted, southwestern Ohio started popping out more highly rated recruits than it had in the past, too, and that leads me to wonder if Tressel will need to shift his focus in the coming years.

He’s already taken a more national view of recruiting in the past four years, something that has opened up a few more bona fide Big Ten-quality players for the rest of the conference, but he could be presented an interesting dilemma sooner or later.

Hoke’s last Ball State team had 29 Ohioans, including 15 from southwestern Ohio and 10 from the northeast. I’m sure he kept a few of those phone numbers of coaches in Dayton** and Cincinnati before he left for San Diego State.

If he digs in down there while Tressel remains more worried about the Cleveland area, could he get the drop on the Vest as the population shifts? There are plenty of variables and plenty of time, but that should be an interesting subplot to watch develop***.

Depending on how Tressel plays it, Hoke could be well positioned to move into the void if and when that day comes.

That can only be good news for Ohio State as kids growing up in their backyard are always going to be naturally inclined to be Buckeyes.

Part of me thinks Michigan can’t come back without Ohio State faltering first, but perhaps the growth of central Ohio changes that.

 

*I am not in the camp that believes Rodriguez got a raw deal, by the way. He was the wrong guy from Day 1 there. Other than being creative offensively, I’m not sure that he’s really proved he’s a good head coach. His teams did a lot of fundamental things poorly and did not play with much character. But the biggest reason ever hiring Rodriguez was a major error was that he brought a system that ignored the built-in recruiting advantage Michigan had as a name-brand school that doesn’t have to choose between recruiting small, fast guys or big, slow guys. The Wolverines could have the big, fast guys at one time, but Rodriguez pissed that away.

** I should note that Dayton and Cincinnati are not interchangeable. Anecdotally, I would say the percentage of Ohio State fans in and around Dayton is much higher than it is in Cincinnati. But Tressel’s emphasis on northeast Ohio could affect Dayton the same way it does the Queen City as BCS school descend on both in greater numbers than they used to.

***Columbus is a wild card, too. Cincinnati and Cleveland were light years ahead at the turn of the century, but as central Ohio grows, that figures to change. The gap has already begun to narrow, as evidenced by Hilliard-Davidson’s emergence on the scene and the success of programs such as Dublin Coffman and Pickerington Central.


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