Michigan Football: 3 Things Brady Hoke Needs to Prove by the End of 2013

Adam Biggers@@AdamBiggers81Senior Analyst IINovember 5, 2013

Brady Hoke faces an uphill, but not impossible, climb.
Brady Hoke faces an uphill, but not impossible, climb.Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

A shocking 29-6 tossing at the hands of Michigan State this past Saturday should have been enough for Michigan coach Brady Hoke to realize that he needs to work on a few things. 

Obviously, showing determination and confidence during pivotal games—especially ones against in-state rivals—would be a great starting point.

It certainly wouldn't hurt Hoke to place an emphasis on the development of the defensive line, one of the least-talked-about causes of Team 134's current problems. Sure, the offensive line needs attention, but the front of Greg Mattison's defense hasn't been Mike Tyson vs. Glass Joe, either. 

The secondary, well, that needs to be revamped as well. Once thought to be a strength, the set of defensive backs have become more of a liability than a pillar of reliability during the past few weeks. 

Work. It needs to be done.

Hoke. He needs to get cracking.

Development Is Key

Shane Morris needs to see meaningful, late-game action in order to develop.
Shane Morris needs to see meaningful, late-game action in order to develop.Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Remember all of those great big-name recruits who were supposedly primed to fill the "empty" shelves in Hoke's cupboard? 

Some, such as offensive linemen Kyle Kalis and Kyle Bosch, have gotten their feet wet. Others, such as freshman running back Derrick Green and quarterback Shane Morris, haven't had much time to prove themselves. 

Part of that is because Michigan can't afford to experiment with more youth—it's already doing so on the O-line, and it's safe to say that things aren't working out in Hoke's favor. 

Depending on how this Saturday's game versus Nebraska (6-2, 3-1) unfolds, Hoke, along with offensive coordinator Al Borges, may plug in Morris during late stages. 

The way the game unfolds is the important part of the equation: If it's a blowout, like last year's 23-9 beating, Morris could be used purely as a body. The Wolverines will need someone to stand in for Devin Gardner—you know, in case he's put out in the same way Denard Robinson was in 2012.

Or—and this is a big "or"—Morris could rest assured during the final minutes knowing that his clean-up snaps are the prequel to a victory. Easy in, easy out. That'd be wonderful for his confidence, wouldn't it?

Nebraska vs. Michigan (6-2, 2-2) was supposed to be a late-season brawl for it all. Well, one of them. It was obvious from the start of the fall that the race for the Legends Division would be settled in November. Michigan State (8-1, 5-0) sits securely in the driver's seat.

The Huskers and Wolverines are scrapping for the slightest glimmer of hope—and they're probably hoping that the Spartans completely fall apart before end of the month. 

Winning, yeah, that's important. But will it really put Michigan in better position? Probably not.

Dreams of a Big Ten title aren't realistic at this juncture. Might as well get the youngsters some quality playing time and continue grooming Devin Funchess and Jehu Chesson. 

Put some stress on the D-linemen. 

They're going to need it next year.

Passion Oozes in Ann Arbor

Sep 7, 2013; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines former player Braylon Edwards takes a picture with fans during the fourth quarter against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Michigan Stadium. Michigan Wolverines defeated Notre Dame Fighting Irish 41-30.
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan fans are among the most active on social media and the Internet. Good for them. Because of the loyal Maize and Blue followers, Michigan, whether or not it's a good team, is one of the most discussed programs in the nation on a year-in, year-out basis. 

That's passion. The fans love their team through the good times and the bad. 

That's dedication.

Hoke has that in him. He showed it during his introductory press conference, gushing with pride while publicly accepting the job he always wanted. 

Showing fight during the final month of the year is necessary. Hoke can't let Mark Dantonio beat him more than once. The loss to the Spartans can't be the root of a loss this Saturday, and it can't be viewed as the breaking point of the season.

Athletic director Dave Brandon recently said that Hoke was the "right guy" for Michigan (per MLive.com's Nick Baumgardner, per the Associated Press). 

Was that an attempt to settle the masses? Were Brandon's words simply hollow—the run-of-the-mill "we're OK" talk during halftime of a catastrophic loss-to-be? 

If Hoke is indeed the "right guy," he needs to prop up his team, dust if off, and get it ready to play the brand of football that Michigan fans were promised in 2011: Michigan football. 

Hoke can't lose his followers. He has to prove that he's worthy of the job and capable of delivering the goods.

Doing that on, oh, Nov. 30 would be ideal.

Put Coaches in Prime Position

As noted by the post from LostLettermen.com, Borges' play-calling tactics have become a running joke in the world of college football pundits.

Thus far, everyone from offensive coordinator Al Borges to offensive line coach Darrell Funk has been targeted by fans. Eager for improvement, those who religiously follow Team 134 continually question moves made by the coaching staff. 

Even Mattison, the defensive darling, has come under scrutiny. 

Let's straighten out a few things: Other than a so-so line, the defense has improved leaps and bounds under Mattison. Let's not forget the No. 118 ranking under the previous regime. Under Mattison, the Wolverines have built a top-25 worthy defense in a short period of time. 

Defense is the key to winning—just ask Michigan State. Bailing on Mattison would be a mistake. Fans need to have faith in the man who once orchestrated top-tier Baltimore Ravens defenses. 

Hoke has close ties to everyone on his staff, with some relationships stemming back to the way-back years. If he values their contributions, he'll do what's necessary in order for them to get their rightful recognition.

For instance, if the secondary delivers a knockout, it'll be important for Hoke to acknowledge Curt Mallory. So on and so forth.

In perhaps the issue of all issues, Hoke needs to help legitimize Borges, whose offensive genius seems to have gone M.I.A. this fall. The Wolverines entered Saturday averaging 42 points but failed to score a touchdown for the second straight year against the Spartans, who haven't allowed a six-point score in three weeks.

Gardner was supposed to a be a mobile-pro hybrid, one who could bridge the gap from Shoelace to pocket passing. Results are in, and they're not good, and Gardner hasn't been either. Throwing 13 touchdowns compared to 11 picks is hardly efficient.

He had 11 touchdown passes and five picks during a five-game span in 2012. You remember that run; it's the one Gardner's hype was built upon. In hindsight, that "solid foundation" was constructed on a bed of quicksand.

Team 134 was supposed to be the arrival of Michigan Football v.2: The Hoke Era.

He has yet to live up to those standards.

Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81


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