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Michigan Football: Hoke Unifies Team by Rotating Captains

Michigan head coach Brady Hoke answers reporters' questions at a news conference during the NCAA college football team's preseason media day, Sunday, Aug. 10, 2014, in Ann Arbor, Mich. (AP Photo/Tony Ding)
Tony Ding/Associated Press
Phil CallihanContributor IOctober 16, 2016

The turbulence of last season's 7-6 record has resulted in a new offensive coordinator, a shake-up of the defensive staff and now the ditching of a longtime tradition.

Head coach Brady Hoke has confirmed that he will not name team captains for the season until after the Ohio State game. Captains for each game will be selected on a weekly basis from among his upperclassmen.

"We've had unbelievable leadership throughout the team," said Hoke. "We've talked about if you're good enough, you're old enough."

Seniors Jake Ryan and Devin Gardner
Seniors Jake Ryan and Devin GardnerTony Ding/Associated Press

Hoke stressed that his decision was not intended as a slight toward his seniors.

"We've got great leadership in our senior class, especially on the defensive side of the ball," said Hoke. "Devin [Gardner] has been absolutely fantastic."

The move recognizes the talent and growing influence of Michigan's freshman and sophomore classes while closing a fissure that developed last season.

An undercurrent of discontent developed among younger players as Michigan collapsed during 1-4 stretch last November. 

It appeared that some of the seniors had developed a sense of entitlement. The most visible example was offensive tackle and team captain Taylor Lewan, who narrowly averted penalties for unsportsmanlike behavior and was involved in some off-the-field situations that resulted in unneeded distractions.

Brady Hoke and Jabrill Peppers
Brady Hoke and Jabrill PeppersTony Ding/Associated Press

After sifting through the debris of last season, Hoke decided to remove some of the perks of being a senior—including preseason voting on captains and canceling the annual leadership retreat with the Navy SEALs. He also instituted a leadership council of players from every class to help promote team communication.

The dismantling of senior privilege opens up opportunities for freshmen like Jabrill Peppers, Mason Cole and Freddy Canteen to seize the spotlight once reserved for upperclassmen.

When former coach Rich Rodriguez made a similar decision to name captains after the season, fans howled with disapproval. The reaction to Hoke's announcement has been muted.

After six mostly disappointing seasons, fans are now much more concerned about the overall state of the program than how and when captains are picked. 

According to Hoke his freshman and sophomore classes "have a little bit more of an edge."

He's counting on that edge and greater team unity to bring Michigan back to national prominence.

  

Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations in this article were obtained via press conferences or in person.

Follow @PSCallihan

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