Michigan Football: Best Quotes and Key Takeaways from Big Ten Media Days
Brady Hoke is quite familiar with the song and dance of Big Ten media days.
During the conference's big day on stage in Chicago, the Wolverines' fourth-year coach answered questions about rebounding from a 7-6 season, facing off against rivals Ohio State and Michigan State, the quarterback situation and Jabrill Peppers, Team 135's incoming super frosh.
This slideshow will cover all things Michigan-related that came out of the Windy City. And to get your motor revving, here's Hoke on Shane Morris, a sophomore, versus Devin Gardner, the senior incumbent, via MLive.com's Nick Baumgardner:
I think (Morris) has a legitimate chance (to win the job), but I would also say that Devin's done a nice job of working every day to try and solidify that. To some degree, we all need motivation.
But Devin did a nice job, in my opinion, of processing his performance from a year ago (from both a positive and negative standpoint).
Hoke touched on the subject but didn't say anything that would indicate that the job is anyone but Gardner's. Now in his second year, Morris should be competing for top reps. After all, he was one of the best quarterbacks of the 2013 class, not to mention one of Hoke's highest-rated signees.
Hoke Greets the Media
Thanks to The Michigan Daily, the university's student paper, there is a nice list of Hoke quotes to reference. Those things are going to get major play in this slideshow, so I figured that I'd go ahead and get the "thanks, guys" out of the way.
In an effort to break the ice, prior to answering a ton of questions, Hoke took a few moments to say hello to reporters with standard opening remarks:
We’re all excited for another season to get started and looking forward to the start of fall camp on Sunday. Our football team has come together this summer and worked very hard. I think they’ve worked hard, and I think a lot of that is the foundation that has been laid over the last three years and the depth that we have on our football team. It’s as competitive as a team that I’ve been around at all positions.
My take: Hoke is indeed excited. As a matter of fact, from what I was able to ascertain from the Sound Mind Sound Body camp in June, the entire coaching staff is beyond ready to get to football.
Now, his line of "It's as competitive as a team that I've been around at all positions" makes me believe that the only way to go is up for Team 135 (a nod to 135 years of Michigan football). There have been bumps along the road, but if everyone is truly battling at each position, 2014 should be a vast improvement from 2013.
Hoke on the Big Ten East Division
Via The Daily, Hoke dished on the conference's divisional alignment, specifically the East, which includes Indiana, Maryland, Michigan State, Ohio State and Penn State, along with Rutgers.
I think it’s a great, competitive division. How it shakes out, we’ll find out. But as far as the competitiveness of the division, and at the end of the day … we want to compete. We want to compete on every Saturday. So as far as we’re concerned, we’re looking forward to it.
For the second consecutive season, Michigan travels to East Lansing. Plus it has road work versus Ohio State this fall. Needless to say, the Wolverines face an uphill climb.
Road games at Notre Dame, at Michigan State and at Ohio State complicate Brady Hoke's task. Can this team win 8-9 games? #B1GMediaDay— Tom Dienhart (@BTNTomDienhart) July 28, 2014
Well, can the Wolverines win eight or nine? It doesn't matter. They have to. Anything short of 9-3 would be a disappointment, especially if those losses came to Michigan State and Ohio State. Don't forget Notre Dame, either. That'll be a tough one in South Bend for Hoke.
Taking care of business on the road should determine the fate of Michigan. With the exception of Penn State on Oct. 25, the Wolverines have a weak home schedule that features powerhouses such as Appalachian State, Miami (Ohio) and Big Ten newcomer Maryland.
Hoke on Jabrill Peppers
Matt Pargoff of Maize and Blue News also put together a transcript of the day's discussion, and his piece will also serve as a reference in this slideshow.
Of course, Jabrill Peppers, and his standing within the defense, was a hot topic. Peppers is starting as a nickelback, case closed.
“That hasn’t changed. The plan hasn’t changed. I think we’ve got to be careful about anointing any true freshman starting their college career, but that’s where he’ll start [at nickel].”
As for the latter part of the quote, I believe that Hoke is referencing the possibility of Peppers playing on both sides of the ball. Maybe the "anointing" line was a link to the Charles Woodson comparison. Only Hoke knows for sure.
"Anoint him when he does something. Right? Let's see what he can do," Hoke later added, per Pargoff's transcript.
And speaking of being sure, sounds like he's focused on Peppers being a defensive back over anything else, at least at the moment.
Hoke on Notre Dame
Well, it's over. It shouldn't be over, but it is. Maybe, one day down the line, Michigan and Notre Dame will agree to keep the rivalry alive. Until then, college football fans are left with nothing but memories of one of the game's great regional matchups.
Notre Dame vs. Michigan was more than a football game on a field; it was two classic institutions battling for bragging rights and control of the Midwest—and sometimes the national spotlight. Saturdays without winged helmets crashing against golden domes won't be the same. After this year, the NCAA's two winningest programs won't cross paths until both athletic departments strike a new deal.
Hoke addressed the importance of the final round with the Irish: “It definitely will be an emphasis simply because it’s a national rivalry. It’s a shame that series is over with because of the national rivalry that it carried along with it," he said, via Pargoff.
Michigan has won seven of the past 11, including four of the past five, and leads the series 24-16-1.
Hoke on Hoke's Job
Here's Hoke's answer, which doesn't differ from source to source:
You know, why do you coach? Why do you really coach? If we’re doing everything we can for 115 guys, sons on our roster. Since we’ve been there, 69 of 69 seniors have graduated. That’s important, because football’s only going to last so long. So the only pressure is every day preparing those guys for life after football. Competition, hard work and all that, that’s part of it. But socially and academically, that’s a big part of it.
So when you talk about that, that’s the only pressure as a coach that I’ve ever felt, making sure we’re doing it for those student-athletes.
It was a question that had to be asked. Hoke made his stance clear: He's thinking about more than winning football games.
Devin Gardner and Jake Ryan on Hoke's Job
When asked about his coach's potential hot seat, Gardner showed full support for Hoke, saying that he'll help shoulder the load and keep Hoke in Ann Arbor.
"Everybody's going to say whatever they want to say," said Gardner, who is the likely starting quarterback, via MLive.com's Brendan F. Quinn. "My job is to make sure he's not on the hot seat, and that's what I'm going to do. I'm going to make sure we win football games."
Jake Ryan, a senior linebacker, expressed his gratitude when asked about Hoke's influence.
"Coach Hoke is the greatest coach I’ve ever been with," Ryan said to Quinn. "He’s hard-nosed, he knows what he’s doing and he’s a tough guy. I love him.”
In all likelihood, Hoke appreciated the kind words from his seniors. His job status has been in question for the past two years, but it helps to have the support of two of the most respected guys on the team.
Frank Clark on College, Social Media
It's hard to believe, but Frank Clark's career is coming to an end. For the past three years, the 6'2", 277-pound defensive end has been one of Hoke's most dedicated, hardest-working players on the roster.
In true senior leader fashion, Clark discussed his final year and what it means to play for Michigan. He also took a moment to publicly support Hoke, via 247Sports:
If it doesn't motivate me, it should motivate the whole team to look out for Coach Hoke and our staff. When our four and five years are done, we want these coaches to be the ones here representing us. Coach Hoke and the hot seat talk is what it is. There are going to be demands and expectations now days are ridiculous. They want you to go undefeated every year. You're going to have seasons like last year when you struggle and are growing up. Coach Hoke isn't going anywhere.
Then, things got a little lighter. Clark went on an old-man rant, which should have been prefaced with, "Back in my day..." The moral of the story: Be careful when twittering and Facey Spaceying.
It's not like it was even when we were in high school. You got Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, some people use MySpace...I don't use MySpace anymore. With those distractions you start to bring in people to help you learn about that stuff. I'm thankful we have a great media group at Michigan that helps me learn and helps me teach the younger guys on what to do and what not to do in that regard.
Not to be forgotten, there was also Clark's Titanic reference; his heart will go on, despite a rough 2013:
We lost the will to play as a family and as a team. If you've ever played any kind of sport, you know that's the one thing you can't do. It's a team sport; it's not track. It's not an individual game. You have to be able to rely on your brothers; you have to be able to rely on the guy next to you. You have to do everything you can to win. That's the one thing we lost the will to do. We've had eight months to change that aspect of the program. I believe we have built that back up. Now we just have to make it stronger and make it the strongest foundation we can until it's unbreakable. We aren't the Titanic. We aren't going to sink.
Who Brought Up 'Little Brother'?!
A variety of questions and topics, both new and old, were brought up in Chicago.
The "little brother" comment made infamous by Mike Hart way back in 2007 was referenced by someone, and MLive's Mike Griffith quoted Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook's response (he doesn't like "little brother" talk):
Yeah, it pisses off the coaches, it pisses us off, it pisses me off as a player. Who hasn't seen that video (of Hart making the comment) a million times, and it just isn't right.
You don't say stuff like that, you don't talk to people like that. But that's Michigan ...
Especially the "but that's Michigan" part.
But wait, there's more. Cook, an Ohioan, was asked about beating Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game and how it feels to play Michigan. He's with the Spartans, but he's still from O-H-I-O. If anything, he has a double hatred for all things maize and blue.
I never really knew what it was like to beat Michigan until I played Ohio State because I'm from Ohio and that was a big rivalry for me, so being able to beat them, now I know how they (former Michigan high school players) feel for that rivalry game. The coaches are just constantly telling us ' Hey, what are you doing today to beat Michigan, do something today to beat Michigan'
We have a clock that runs throughout the entire year, two-hundred and some days until we play Michigan, seconds, hours, minutes, whatever. So it starts with the coaches, with Coach Dantonio Coach (Ken) Mannie, our strength coach, and it boils down to us as players, and we all realize how big of a game it is and how much it means to us and the fans of Spartan Nation, and we carry that with us wherever we go.
If there's one thing that needs to die, it's this whole "little brother" talk. It's a tired, tired conversation. But hey, when it gets brought up, guys aren't afraid to speak about it.
New rule: No more "little brother." Other than that, Cook gave valuable insight on how opponents view Michigan.
Other Odds and Ends
The major points have been addressed, so this slide will cover "honorable mention" material, starting with the accompanying video from Mark Rogers (@MarkRogersTV).
Questions about positions were answered. Per MLive.com's Nick Baumgardner, Hoke said that the team will look to more than just Dennis Norfleet to return kicks.
The speedster had bobble issues in 2013, so that's probably not a bad thing. But he's extremely talented, and I would be all-in for Norfleet on kickoffs and punts if the hands issue gets resolved.
More from Baumgardner's Twitter feed:
Graham Glasgow at center:
Hoke says Glasgow is going to play center. Sounded like his shuffling to other spots is going to slow down.— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) July 29, 2014
De'Veon Smith is ahead in the backfield:
Hoke says De'Veon Smith is probably entering camp as the No. 1 back. His pass-pro has pushed him ahead.— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) July 29, 2014
Jabrill Peppers won't be on offense (as of now):
Hoke asked again if Peppers will play offense this year. 'I wouldn't think so. We'll see.'— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) July 29, 2014
Other notable placements: Kenny Allen at kickoff, Will Hagerup at punter and Matt Wile at kicker.
Dantonio is comfortable with his advantage over the Wolverines, via Bleacher Report's David Luther:
Mark Dantonio on what keeps U-M rivalry intense after winning 5 of last 6: "I continue to live in Michigan. That oughta do it." #B1GMediaDay— David Luther (@davidrluther) July 29, 2014
Here's video of Hoke and more quotes from the podium, via SB Nation's Maize 'n Brew (video via 247Sports):
Video: Michigan's Brady Hoke Discusses Wolverines at 2014 Big Ten Media Day in Chicago http://t.co/GcLicZgDi3— Maize n Brew (@MaizenBrew) July 28, 2014
Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81