Sam Webb: Hey Brady, how are you doing this morning?
Brady Hoke: “Doing great. How are you?”
Sam Webb: Doing great. Well coach, let’s jump right in to it. You made these moves yesterday. You said you met with Greg Mattison and he determined it was of benefit for the defense for him to take over the linebackers… to coach the middle of the defense. Explain to us why. What was the thought process there?
Brady Hoke: “Well, like anything in life you evaluate everything that you’re doing. And we did that, and obviously we brought Doug Nussmeier in. Defensively we took time and thought about it. Then Greg and I obviously have an awful lot of respect for each other. We talked about what to do on the defensive side of the ball and really felt one of the things I felt (was important) was getting him back in the middle of the defense where when you’re doing your different drill work… your inside drill, your seven-on-seven… he’s got better eyes. Obviously we tape everything and we look at everything, but I think having your coordinator in a position in the middle of the defense… he’s coached linebackers for a lot of different years. In fact when we coached at Western Michigan he was in the inside linebacker coach and I was the d-line coach. I just feel for us as a staff for him as a coordinator it just makes more sense. We’re excited about it, the kids are excited about it, and we’re looking forward to it.”
Sam Webb: So Brady that obviously shifts some guys. First, that moves Mark Smith to the defensive line. He’s listed as a d-line coach. His experience there, kind of talk about that transition. But another thing that stuck out was I didn’t see your name as coaching a position. So what does that mean for you? Are you not coaching d-line any more, are you going to be moving around? What is Brady Hoke going to be coaching this year other than the team obviously?
Brady Hoke: “I’m still going to help out with the front. I’m not going to get away from it totally. I enjoy working with those kids every day and I like their mentality. We have some great kids in there who are working awful hard. Mark was a d-line coach for 16, 17 years, and that’s how I met work originally, working the Michigan camp. So for him it’s just going back home to another position. I know those guys are excited. Ernie Lawson will help him out and then I’m still going to be a guy that’s doing some things with those guys on a daily basis, so I’m not getting away with it. But at the same time it will also allow me to do some things that I need to.”
Sam Webb: So now Roy moves back to the secondary to coach corners. It’s not uncommon for a coach to coach a position that he has neither played nor coached before. But I’m curious about the challenges there. Kinda list those, and how do you speed up the learning curve, so to speak, when a coach is taking over a position that he hasn’t coached or played before.
Brady Hoke: “Well yeah, there’s no doubt. I’m sure some people are saying, ‘how do you do that?’ Look I was a linebacker and coached linebackers and became a defensive line coach. Roy, our first year as a graduate assistant, coached o-line. Then at Cincinnati he coached running backs. The number one thing is being a teacher and being able to communicate. In this day of age of football with the spread offenses and you’re having personnel in the game… nickels or dimes and all that kind of stuff… that’s a lot to take for one coach. I did some research on it and I talked to a lot of different coaches across the country about how they configure their secondary. Then you look at the national football league model and they have a corners coach and a safeties coach in most places. So I think this gives Roy a great opportunity. He’s such a good teacher and has great relationships with the kids and they have so much respect for him, I think this is going to be good for us as a defense and us as a team. Curt will handle the inside two guys in the back end, the two safeties. I think that allows him to do a great job because of the adjustments that those guys make. Really I think it’s a real plus for us. Jerry Milling who’s a graduate assistant will help Greg a little bit at the linebacker position because Greg will have all three of them. We’ve done that here before with a graduate assistant helping out with the SAM, and Jerry has done a great job for us.”
Sam Webb: I recall a couple years ago it really seemed like the secondary dynamic was a little similar. Not totally because obviously you didn’t have another secondary coach, but it really seemed like Aubrey (Pleasant) when he was here helped out with the corners. I remember talking to the guys and talking to (Mallory) about it back at that time. Having another guy to have some of that focus seemed to help. Is this kind of a return to that kind of dynamic?
Brady Hoke: “I really think Aubrey did, especially the second year he was with us. Aubrey being a little older and playing the position back, there were a lot of the mental pieces of the defense the first year. Then the second year I think Aubrey helped out and did a nice job. Talking to some of the National Football League guys, my brother being one of those guys, they’ve always had (two secondary coaches). When we was with the Texans and Chicago, there was always two guys in the back end. It just so happens he’s always been the corner guy. He’s been in town and spent some real quality time with Roy about different aspects about playing corner from ground up, A to Z, about the teaching and what you want to do.”
Sam Webb: So working with your brother that is huge I imagine. Is that a part of it? Is Roy going around to various clinics and doing the coaching thing with various coaches?
Brady Hoke: “He did that right after recruiting was over. He went to Indy then my brother came here. I know he and Aubrey have talked about some of the secondary play. We are excited about it and the guys are really excited about it. It’s going to be something that’s great for us as a program.”
Sam Webb: So coach, I remember last year coach Mattison saying, ‘hey, I want to be more aggressive in the secondary. I want be more aggressive on defense.’ Do these moves lend themselves to you looking or playing more like you did the first year you were here?
Brady Hoke: “Yeah I would say so, Sam. I think again, you go through a season that the expectations aren’t met that we have for this program and the kids in it. When you make these moves, they’re for the betterment of the program and for Michigan. I think having the opportunity to have some more specific time. Mal had the whole secondary, so your fundamental techniques work doesn’t get coached maybe as well as you’d like it to. Now I think that will all will be a big part of it and allow us to play more man coverage, some press man, some bail technique, some off-man and be a little more aggressive with what we’re doing with our players and the box per se, when you look at bringing that fifth or sixth guy. I think all that’s very good. We moved Jake to the MIKE linebacker, Jake Ryan. We did that because when he’s playing SAM, he’s one of your best players instinctively. But when he is playing that SAM and you get those detached formations, it gets him away from the action at times. Just think back to the Ohio game where we have a guy who’s a pretty dag-gone good football player, and he was out of the box not making plays. So this will give him the chance to be more prolific for us.”
Sam Webb: It’s going to be a very, very interesting spring. One of the things you mentioned when we got a chance to sit down with you, you talked about some injuries guys that were going to be limited. One of the guys you said at one time would be out then another time would be limited. I’m curious which is it with Ondre Pipkins, and where he stands… and any more injury updates on where those guys stand. Did Erik Magnuson have his surgery, what’s up with Chris Bryant right now?
Brady Hoke: “Well Chris, is going to take a medical. He had a shoulder surgery again. He’s had the knee, and he’s going to medical. He’ll be part of the program and it was a hard decision. It was a tough decision because he loves his teammates, he loves the game, and he loves Michigan. Mags is going to be out for most of spring, but he’ll start getting into some individual workout settings where he won’t get bumped around too much. His surgery went well. Jake Butt obviously is going to be out. Logan Tuley-Tillman had a hand surgery where a tendon was loose so they took care of that. So we’ll see when he gets back in and involved. Drake Johnson has come a long way. He’ll be able to do some things on a limited basis, but him and Darboh both are two guys who are getting back into it.”
Sam Webb: Alright, so Brady I know you have a meeting to get into so we’ll let you go, but you’re going to be a judge tomorrow at the Polar Plunge. I think there will be some people who are trying to come out and dress like you. If you want to come out like Brady Hoke, do you just come out with shirts no sleeves, some shorts? What’s the Brady Hoke costume? (Laughter)
Brady Hoke: “I’m a little disappointed it’s going to be warm because I wanted to see who has the intestinal fortitude to go out there sleeveless if it were cold. Because I know you will. I’m sure you’ll have a nice t-shirt on and that’s all, so I’m looking forward to seeing you.”
Sam Webb: That’s funny.
Brady Hoke: “You’ll have a nice polo on and you’ll look good. (Laughter) But it’s a great event as you know, Sam, and for a great cause. We look forward to being there and watching those people that are plunging. The outfits are always neat to see, but what a great event for a great cause.”
transcript by Eric Rutter