The Michigan Wolverines' smooth ride through the offseason should breed success this fall.
In earning a less than flattering grade from coach Brady Hoke, the 8-5 Wolverines underachieved in 2012. After posting an 11-2 record in 2011, Hoke's first season, the popular thought was that the team would at least win 10 games.
This season, anything short of a Big Ten championship would be a monumental disappointment.
During previous offseasons, Hoke had to contend with player arrests and various negative interactions with the law, not to mention handling new duties as a head coach who’s supposed to save the program from the effects of the Rich Rodriguez era.
This offseason, his system is further ingrained, and he spent time dealing with standard personnel issues such as injuries, graduations and transfers.
No DUIs. No thefts. No changes in the staff.
Positive change has been an early trademark of Hoke’s head coaching career at Michigan.
Coaches at major programs will always be criticized for their disciplinary tactics. Some are stricter than others, but a fanbase such as Michigan’s expects a hard-nosed leader who will keep athletes on track and out of the headlines.
Hoke is such a coach.
In 2012, Frank Clark jeopardized his career. Then a sophomore, he was charged with felony home invasion. This past fall, after pleading guilty to the theft of a laptop computer from Stockwell Hall, Clark was sentenced to one year of probation.
Hoke’s take on Clark was firm, despite the felony charge. It seemed that Hoke—who suspended Clark for Week 1 against Alabama—saw beyond Clark’s transgressions. Hoke's actions toward Clark may have appeared lax, but he gambled in an attempt to reform Clark, who instead of being a problem is part of the solution.
He’s poised to have an excellent year at defensive end.
Clark learned from his mistakes.
Hoke did his job by allowing that process to take place.
In January of 2012, Darryl Stonum was dismissed from the team. After a tumultuous tenure in Ann Arbor, Stonum was presumably cut loose due to a string of bad behavior and arrests, which included charges of drunken driving.
Stonum didn’t learn his lesson, despite several chances from two head coaches to do so. He was let go.
Hoke did his job.
Major programs are under the microscope. Forget the standards, the rich tradition and the pride—programs such as Michigan are bound to have problems with non-compliant players. It happens everywhere, but Hoke has done a respectable job of minimizing misbehavior.
Keep It in Perspective
Entering his third season, Hoke’s learning period has expired. Results should soon follow.
Traditionally, Wolverines coaches find their stride by Year 3. Hoke is comfortable. He’s shooting for national titles, not just conference banners. Michigan State and Ohio State are once again top priorities. Recruiting is a priority.
Michigan is regaining its prestige.
National title contention remains at least two years away. But winning the Legends Division, beating the Spartans and Buckeyes, and qualifying for a BCS bowl are distinct possibilities. Great recruiting gives enough reason to believe that Michigan will compete for national championships starting in 2015.
In a best-case scenario, Team 134 would give Hoke his first Big Ten title.
Follow Bleacher Report’s Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81