|Hoke roundup: Thursday’s most interesting moments|
|Written by Matt Pargoff|
Michigan head coach Brady Hoke was at the ESPN studio on Thursday, where he toured through the various television and radio programs as a speaking guest. We’ve posted the complete transcripts from those talks, but read on for a quick roundup of the highlights.
• One of the most interesting discussions from Hoke was on the linebacker position, where he talked about the state of affairs at both the inside and outside spots.
On the interior, junior Desmond Morgan moved during the spring from weakside linebacker into the open middle positions, which was held by Kenny Demens last fall. At the weakside spot, sophomore James Ross III stepped up during the spring to work with the starting unit.
What was surprising about Hoke’s comments on Thursday was that he discussed that alignment without mention of sophomore Joe Bolden. Last season, Bolden saw significant action as Demens’ primary backup, even unseating the veteran linebacker in key moments early in the season. While one might expect him to still be thoroughly in the mix of the competition, given the interchangeability of the two inside spots, his head coach focused on just the two players.
“Des is a guy that has played a lot of football for us,” Hoke noted. “We moved him to the MIKE position where Kenny Demens was. And James Ross is a guy we feel is a good instinctive linebacker, football player and a smart guy. Both those guys are on the inside.”
Discussing the strong outside linebacker position, Hoke continued to show optimism on a return for junior Jake Ryan “sometime in October.” While there is still some uncertainty around that matter, as recovery from injury does not always follow a strict schedule, the Michigan head coach expressed optimism in his backups.
“Cameron Gordon was a safety when he first came to Michigan, has really developed into a really good strong side SAM linebacker,” Hoke stated. “Brennen Beyer is a young man that has played multiple positions that we really like.”
• Aside from that discussion, another interesting moment came on The Herd show with Colin Cowherd, when Hoke was asked who the potential game breakers were on the Michigan squad. While discussion of Jeremy Gallon and Fitzgerald Toussaint was to be expected, it was surprising that Hoke started the discussion off with a player that has yet to see the game field.
“I think there’s a couple guys when you look at it offensively,” he noted. “One of the surprise dark horse guys will be a young man we redshirted a year ago, a wide receiver, a young man out of St. Louis, Jehu Chesson. He’s a 6-4 wide receiver, a track guy, can catch it, works hard.
“Gallon finished the year really well. At running back, Fitz comes back. Drake Johnson is a young guy we redshirted, who we really liked during bowl practices. Justice Hayes had a tremendous spring.”
•While there has been a lot of positive talk about quarterback Devin Gardner of late, following his appearance in Chicago at the Big Ten Media Days, Hoke made mention of his 3-2 record as a starter in multiple interviews. He also talked up Gardner’s maturation as a leader and potential, but the repeated mention of his record could point to a desire to keep the junior signal caller grounded.
In addition, Hoke mentioned on several occasions that Gardner was recruited to play in the spread offense, and that his skills as a runner will allow Michigan to throw more than just a pro-style attack at opponents.
“Devin has the skills to run the spread,” he explained. “With his feet, he can make plays. But he also has great skills under center, play-action pass … We’re going to use [the spread]. It’s going to be still part of our offense.”
•Asked how he would feel if additional restrictions were placed on early recruiting, Hoke said that he would be fine with it. However, he used that discussion to mildly advocate for earlier official visits, so that Michigan could play on a more level field in recruiting with southern schools.
“Having an official visit date in June would help football,” Hoke stated. “I know some of our friends in the Pac 12 and the SEC probably don’t want the young man and his family coming up to Michigan during the first two weeks in June, because they’re hoping it’s 10 below zero when those official visits take place.”
•Team leadership was a common area of discussion with Hoke’s ESPN tour on Thursday. He repeatedly discussed the role that Taylor Lewan has had in that area, both as a vocal leader, and by setting a strong example in conditioning. However, Lewan was not the only player to earn praise.
“I think Thomas Gordon on defense, Jibreel Black, both of those guys have been really instrumental. I think Devin [Gardner] continues to grow. And we’ve got a receiver, Drew Dileo, who is too slow to play, too short to play, but he just plays. From his examples, I think that’s all been a real positive.
“I’ve got to hand it to the senior class. They’ve done a nice job.”
•Since his return to Ann Arbor, some Michigan fans have wondered why Hoke does not wear a headset on the sideline. He has discussed this matter in the past, but once again addressed the topic on the SVP and Russillo show on ESPN Radio.“I wear a headset when I need to wear a headset,” he noted. “We’ve got two great coordinators in Al Borges and Greg Mattison, I coach the two interior guys on defense, very up to speed in what we’re doing there. They look at a lot more film of an opponent than I have an opportunity to. Al and I meet a couple times a day, a couple times a week on what our plan is and what we’re trying to accomplish. Nd the other part of it is if the game warrants situationally, then I’ll be on the headset.”