CHICAGO -- While most will look at Brady Hoke’s first three seasons as head coach at Michigan as a failure or a perfect practice in regression year to year, Hoke and the Wolverines are instead taking a different view.
Following a dreadful 7-6 campaign in 2013, actually worse than their 8-5 mark in 2012 and a far cry from a magical 11-2 finish in 2011, the 2014 season promises to be pressure packed and anxiety filled as fans hope Michigan can right the ship and begin an upward trend.
According to Hoke, who met with media for roughly 45 minutes Monday on day one of Big Ten Media Days, there’s no sense of panic inside the newly updated confines of Schembechler Hall, nor is he feeling the stinging pain of a boiling hot seat.
“It’s always been about 115 sons, that’s what it’s always been, and that’s why I got into coaching,” Hoke said. “Do I love the game? Do I want to win? Do we want to compete? No question. But, some of the proudest moments I’ve had at Michigan obviously, have not been on the field.
“Denard (Robinson) and Devin (Gardner) graduating on the same day; 69 out of 69 seniors having the opportunity to graduate or graduating. I mean those are pretty powerful, and believe me, we’re not satisfied with anything but to worry about what other people think, I mean, I’ve never worried about what other people think in anything I’ve done.”
Win, and fans might have a greater appreciation for the off the field accomplishments; obviously a lot easier said than done especially in the high priced, expectation driven world that is currently college football.
But that’s precisely what Michigan is attempting to do this fall, and for a multitude of reasons, Hoke believes that’s very possible, mostly because 35 freshmen eligible players won’t be required to hit the field like they did a year ago, the most of any other team in the Big Ten conference.
During Hoke’s time in Ann Arbor, depth has always been an issue.
“We had a very good year in 2011, '11-12,” Hoke said. “We played in the Sugar Bowl. But because of depth, Mike Martin played 82 plays as a nose tackle.
“I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy, because that's playing a lot of snaps and that's taking a lot of hits. But if it was today, Mike Martin would play 50 plays. So that's what we have now.”
That is in part due to jam-packed recruiting classes dating back to 2012 and loads of underclassmen with enough reps under their belt to loosely be considered experienced players.
Now less than a week from officially taking the field for camp, Hoke is anticipating competition all over the field, specifically singling out the offensive line as one he and the coaching staff will monitor closely.
“I think we'll start camp with a lineup that we've come out of spring with, and that will be based some things on what has been done during the course of the summer and when you see the work ethic and all those things, but a lot of it will be based on coming out spring football obviously,” he said.
“So we'll go through that lineup, but at the same time what will change it up every day a little bit to see where the pieces fit. But I wouldn't say -- take two weeks maybe at the most.”
For those wondering what’s taking so long or even rightfully remaining pessimistic that Michigan will turn the corner sooner than later, Hoke maintains it’s not a perfect science, still confident this group can get the job done.
“I’ve done this at two schools, come in as a new coach and never put a timetable on any of them,” Hoke said. “Because you don’t know. You take a job, you really don’t know. You don’t know how the recruiting has been, you don’t know the character and integrity and discipline you may have in your program.
“You may not know about the academics or the football intelligence of your team so, there’s a lot of factors out there.
“So for me to say it’s taken or that we had a grand plan that it’d take this long, I would say it depends what long is to you. I know that the integrity and the character of the guys on the team, and believe me they’re not all angels, I can promise you that; we’ve got some knuckleheads.
“But I can tell you one thing, I like how they’ve handled themselves to this point through the spring and summer. Now, that doesn’t mean I like the team, we’ll find out, cause I got to have a great August.”