The Wolverine

2014 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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THE WOLVERINE 2014 FOOTBALL PREVIEW ■ 39 "This gives Greg an opportunity to be at both places at times," Hoke said. "It's impor- tant that they see him in those different spots. "Mark Smith was a D-line coach for 16 years before he started coaching linebackers. He's done a tremendous job with the guys up front." Hoke's own change should have an effect as well, he offered. He'll still work on oc- casion with Michigan's interior defensive linemen. But he's freed himself up to roam a little more and be involved to a greater degree on the offensive side. "The guys on offense have an opportunity to see me, instead me of being with the de- fense the whole time or running the scout team for the defense the whole time," he said. "I'll probably run the scout team for the defense one period and for the offense a period. To be more of a guy who can help coach at a lot of different levels and help the confidence of guys out there playing is important." Digging In On Defense The present Rose Bowl champions (Mich- igan State) came off a 7-6 season in 2012 in which they played in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl and faced all sorts of question marks, especially on offense. Of course, all of that does not directly relate to Michigan at this point, other than to demonstrate quick turnarounds are not impossible. The Spartans did it with defense, while a laughingstock offense last September grew better throughout the year. Whether the Wol- verines are prepared to make a strong surge forward on the defensive side of the ball re- mains to be seen, following a step backward last fall. At the very least, Hoke believes he's got the weapons to begin turning up the heat on defense, and that's what the Wolverines are aiming to accomplish. "Personnel prompts change, with the ability to play man coverage," Hoke said. "Recruiting corners over the last three years, there are more of those guys who are equipped and getting more fundamentally sound in playing a little bit of man, a little bit of bump, a little bit of off, depending upon what we want to do. "That enables you to be more of a pres- sure defense in situations, with run-down pressures or pass-down pressures. It opens up more of the playbook." One by one, he lists the cornerbacks who took a strong step forward in the spring. From senior Raymon Taylor to redshirt ju- nior Blake Countess to sophomores Jour- dan Lewis and Channing Stribling, and with redshirt sophomore Terry Richardson, Hoke likes how the cornerbacks are stacking up. He believes they've come along to the point of being able to perform well in man- to-man situations. Out of that could flow a much different defensive look. "A year ago, we didn't feel we could do that as well," Hoke said. "What we've seen through the spring is we've got more of a chance to be more of a pressure-type defense. "You see the competition level, and you see the amount of work guys are putting into it. It's really been fun to watch those guys. Let's face it — kids like playing man coverage, which is great. We love that they like playing it. We've got to make sure that, fundamentally, they're playing the way we want them to play." In other words, everyone likes to see de- fensive backs right in the grill of a receiver at the line of scrimmage. Nobody, though, appreciates seeing the taillights of said wide- out 10 yards in the clear down the sidelines. "That's where your corners have to have short memories," Hoke noted. "At the same time, they have to be extremely confident in what they're doing, extremely fundamen- tally and technique sound. They've got to be highly disciplined with their feet and their eyes. We've got a group who, throughout the spring, you could see the improvements." A number of components separated 7-6 from 10 wins or more, Hoke has maintained. He talks passionately about attention to de- tail, preparedness, soundness in fundamen- tals and techniques, recognizing formations, making the right read at the right time, pick- ing up blitzes. It all goes back to preparation, he insisted. That's on the coaches as well as the players, Hoke noted. Looking For Leaders While he's pleased with a number of ways in which the program has developed over the past three years — particularly with re- gard to restocking a depleted roster — Hoke stressed there is work to do on the leadership side of the ledger. He's hoping the changes made afford more from the players' side. "The most work is to be done on the lead- ership and determining where that's going to come from, whether it's coach-driven or player-driven," Hoke said. "It's always better when it's player-driven." He's not as worried about the leadership on defense, where the veteran cornerbacks have seen plenty of action, and where se- niors such as linebackers Jake Ryan, Bren- "Now is a critical time for how we come together as a team. We can't accept where we are right now. They can't accept where they are individually as players, and we can't as coaches." HEAD COACH BRADY HOKE Much of the leadership role on offense falls to fifth-year senior quarterback Devin Gardner (98), but he will get some help from players such as junior wide receiver Devin Funchess (87). PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL 36-41.Brady Hoke.indd 39 6/18/14 3:33 PM

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