Michigan coach Brady Hoke took the stage at Big Ten media days to talk about the upcoming season on Wednesday, and though nothing he said was groundbreaking news, he did provide a few juicy tidbits.
Hoke hit on the backup quarterback position behind Devin Gardner, a surprisingly captivating battle between redshirt freshman Brian Cleary and true freshman Shane Morris. After the injury to Russel Bellomy, one of the two inexperienced quarterbacks might be one Gardner hit away from playing time.
He didn't say which one has the edge, but did assure the crowd that he feels good about both guys:
Hoke said Brian Cleary & Shane Morris are guys he feels good about. "It'll be one of those two guys" if Gardner went down.— Michael Rothstein (@mikerothstein) July 24, 2013
That said, Hoke also admitted that the team sought out transfer quarterbacks this offseason. But he and his staff never felt good enough to pull the trigger:
Hoke said Michigan sought QB transfers, "but we just didn't feel comfortable enough."— Kyle Meinke (@kmeinke) July 24, 2013
If Gardner stays healthy, though, the race behind him should stay moot. Hoke spoke often and glowingly about his new full-time quarterback, especially after his impressive late-season run last year.
Gardner started 2012 as a wide receiver before taking over for Denard Robinson and Russell Bellomy under center. That move seemed like a desperate position change to some, but Hoke said Wednesday that the plan was always to move him back to quarterback at some point:
Brady Hoke said the plan all along was for Devin Gardner to return to QB after playing some at WR before. #B1GMediaDay— Kevin McGuire (@KevinOnCFB) July 24, 2013
On the progress of linebacker Jake Ryan—an All-Big Ten performer last year who tore his ACL in the spring—Hoke reiterated the belief that he will be back in October:
#Michigan coach Brady Hoke "very excited" about Jake Ryan's progress thru rehab. October return expected for star LB.— Bruce Feldman (@BFeldmanCBS) July 24, 2013
Though that's an exceedingly idealistic timetable for his return, Hoke has maintained all along how impressive Ryan's rehab has been. It would also get him back in time for the Wolverines' two biggest rivalry games: Nov. 2 at Michigan State and, of course, Nov. 30 vs. Ohio State.
In a later interview, Hoke said that cornerback Blake Countess has been cleared to practice with the team. He was injured in the opener against Alabama last year, and though he has yet to receive his official redshirt, Hoke expects it to come through soon:
Hoke said Blake Countess has been cleared for practice. Not sure whether redshirt is official yet, but expects it before season.— Kyle Meinke (@kmeinke) July 24, 2013
Countess is applying to be granted a redshirt for last year's lost season. If/when it becomes official, he will be listed as a sophomore in 2013.
Other good moments included Hoke's continued support of Grant Reed, the cancer patient from Ohio who named his Tumor "Michigan" just so he could beat it. He reached out to Reed and offered him tickets to a game in Ann Arbor this past week, and on Wednesday said that—at least in this context—he was rooting for someone to beat Michigan:
Brady Hoke on kid who beat Michigan (and cancer): "In that context, we were all for him beating Michigan."— Mark Schlabach (@Mark_Schlabach) July 24, 2013
Hoke also said that he really likes his football team—something he assured fans wasn't merely trite, generic coach-speak, as it's not something he normally says:
#Michigan coach Brady Hoke: I like our football team. I usually don't say that.— Bruce Feldman (@BFeldmanCBS) July 24, 2013
He also deemed Michigan's 8-5 record from a year ago "unacceptable," something that rang true for almost everybody in Ann Arbor:
Michigan's Brady Hoke: "A year ago we were 8-5. That's unacceptable for Michigan"— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) July 24, 2013
Hoke understands the pressures of coaching at Michigan and the expectation that comes with it. But reaching his goals won't come easy.
As Big Ten Network's Tom Dienhart pointed out, it's been quite some time since Michigan has ruled the conference:
Wow and amaze your friends with this factoid: Michigan hasn't won the #B1G since 2004--when I still had hair.— Tom Dienhart (@BTNTomDienhart) July 24, 2013