The Wolverine

2014 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 7 of 275

6 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2014 FOOTBALL PREVIEW "The best way out is always through." — Robert Frost M ichigan's football program has been slogging through, ever since an 11‑2 joyride in Brady Hoke's first season kindled hopes of a quick and painless fix. Hoke quietly knew better, and so did his boss, athletics director David Brandon. They might have certified the feel‑good beginning with a Big Ten championship the following year. But a misplaced cleat on the elbow of Denard Robinson in Nebraska — a one‑in‑a‑million shot, they say — rendered his ulnar nerve and U‑M's title chances haywire. Last season, they hit transition nadir. The nearly assistance‑bereft offensive line recruit‑ ing classes of 2010 and 2011, some bad breaks and an inability to make the key play at crucial moments sank the season. Excuses? Some will insist it's so, as quickly as they'll write off Michigan's dearth of se‑ niors and preponderance of freshmen and sophomores in 2014. It's a bottom‑line busi‑ ness, and 7‑6 is as close to the bottom as Michigan ever wants to get. It's a hot poker in the pride of everyone prepping for what's ahead, especially the man in charge. "This is Michigan football," Hoke re‑ minded. "I'm not real patient. We've diligently gone to work in how we've recruited, how our guys have changed themselves from a physical standpoint. We have addressed the progression of what we want to be as a program. "Look, no one wants to hear about patience. No one wants to hear about being a youthful football team. But there were some things that we needed to change." They've changed the roster makeup, the defensive mindset, and most recently the of‑ fensive coordinator. Next up: the record, and the minds of those who see the Wolverines as less than a serious threat come fall. Those doubters include most prognostica‑ tors, who view Michigan as only the third‑ or fourth‑best team in its own division, much less the Big Ten overall. Those predictions drop the temperature around Ann Arbor a few de‑ grees, even after the worst winter in memory. If the Wolverines needed any more of a kick in the shins approaching kickoff on Aug. 30, they're getting it. "Nobody believes in us right now, except for us," wide receivers coach Jeff Hecklinski offered. "That's the way it should be. That's the way we want it. That challenge is there for us every day. That's the way I like it." "It's human to want to prove people wrong," noted offensive line coach Darrell Funk, whose crew gave up a Football Bowl Subdivision‑worst 114 tackles for loss last fall and drew an unrelentingly negative spotlight. "Anyone that says they don't want to shut someone up or prove someone wrong may be not telling the whole truth." Michigan's players aren't letting the chips fall where they may. They're stacking them into one gigantic chip on a shoulder pad, ready to give full vent to the opprobrium they've absorbed. Redshirt sophomore Erik Magnuson, part of what he reckons as the most criticized offen‑ sive line in the history of Michigan football, isn't willing to accept the narrative that a big leap remains out of reach. "Let them say what they want," Magnu‑ son challenged. "The thing about all those preseason rankings, they don't see the work behind closed doors. The work this team has put in when nobody is watching is something I've never seen before. "The criticism motivates some people, but I don't need it to motivate me. We look at last season. We try to forget as much as we can. Last season's gone. But we know what we did wrong." The list isn't insubstantial. Too many turn‑ overs early. Too few chains‑movers late. Too many big plays against a defense, when a big play by it would have won the game. Hoke made the tough call, bringing in Doug Nussmeier from Alabama to run the offense and coach the quarterbacks. He's rearranged the defensive staff, with an eye toward a more aggressive, pressure‑producing crew. He's established a leadership counsel in‑ cluding representatives throughout the classes. Now it's about coming together and turning losses by point totals of four, three, three and one into wins. Time to put up and shut up the clamor that builds when Michigan isn't, as Hoke himself says, Michigan. "Point the finger at ourselves first," Heck‑ linski stressed. "We're the ones that have to sit down and say, 'Okay, how do I do it dif‑ ferently to make sure those plays are made?' Not, 'Well, if we make four plays,' with all the what‑ifs that go into it. "No, it's 'How do I do it? From my posi‑ tion, how do I do it differently to make sure that when we're in that position again next year, those plays are made?'" The bottom line, he went on, turns on the ability to go from almost to all together. "We've got to look back, one by one, each individual, and say: 'Okay, we didn't make those plays,'" Hecklinski said. "We ended up 7‑6. We didn't play well in the bowl game. We don't have a lot of national confidence right now. So how do we get that? What am I going to do, every day, at my position to make sure my guys, when they hit that field against Appalachian State, walk out there knowing today's the day? Today's our day, and we're going to make it happen." The fifth‑year senior quarterback concedes nothing, even though he hears the talk. "Everybody knows nobody is talking about us," Devin Gardner said. "No player on our team is on a top‑player‑in‑the‑Big‑Ten list. That's big‑time motivation for everybody to just come out of nowhere and surprise everybody. "We're Michigan. We're never the under‑ dog. But maybe we're a pissed‑off, chip‑on‑ the‑shoulder type team." Maybe that attitude, along with the afore‑ mentioned changes and growing maturity, gets the Wolverines through. After the longest winter, they're more than ready to silence talk with action. ❑ Editor John Borton has been with The Wolverine since 1991. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @JB_Wolverine. wolverine WATCH BY JOHN BORTON Angry Wolverines Ready To Strike Back Michigan head coach Brady Hoke, the coach- es and the players are all eager to show on the field the result of all the hard work in the offseason. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL 6.Wolverine Watch.indd 6 6/19/14 11:18 AM

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of The Wolverine - 2014 Michigan Football Preview