Michigan Football 2011: 4 Changes You Can Expect To See Under Brady Hoke
For nearly 40 years Michigan football has been built around Bo Schembechler's style and sensibility.
It has existed for so long, in fact, that it managed to sustain a feat of longevity that is almost unheard of in sports today.
But Michigan fans, who are used to stasis, have had to endure two wrenching coaching changes in three years, and this has led to sense of uncertainty most are unaccustomed to feeling.
Brady Hoke has promised success, but the vision and talent he brings to the program will have to match his soaring rhetoric.
The direction he takes the program will be fundamental to that success.
The Utilization of Denard Robinson
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According to new offensive coordinator Al Borges, who coached under Brady Hoke at San Diego State, his new system will mandate that the quarterback should line up under center about half of the time.
He seems far more amenable to using the shotgun than Carr ever was but less so than Rodriguez; the degree to which the shotgun is used will probably resemble something more akin to Ohio State.
Borges is a disciple of Bill Walsh, the patriarch of the West Coast Offense. In 2001, Borges collaborated with his brother to write a book entitled "Coaching the West Coast Quarterback."
There is little from his history that suggests he is optimized to run anything similar to the Rodriguez offense.
In his time at Auburn, he used a modified version of the West Coast known as the "Gulf Coast Offense," which utilized quick reads, accurate passes and a somewhat mobile quarterback.
At Michigan, Borges' expertise and Robinson's style, which is more suited for a zone-read system, might make for an uneasy alliance.
If the coach finds a way to implement Robinson's talents, fans may rest easier.
But with Devin Gardner waiting in the wings, there is no obvious replacement if a different type of quarterback is needed.
The worst-case scenario is if Michigan slips into a constant state of rebuilding.
Borges, for his part, seems genuinely impressed with Robinson's passing ability. Michigan's success, however, will be contingent on Robinson's ability to grow.
If his running game is minimized, will he be as dangerous through the air?
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Borges describes his style as a downhill, power offense. His first principle seems clearly bent on minimizing the hits Denard Robinson takes.
Apart from Robinson, however, the running game has been somewhat underwhelming, since Michigan lacked any kind of transcendent figure at the running back position last year.
But Michigan has a large stable of running backs, and with any luck guys like Fitzgerald Toussaint and Stephen Hopkins will emerge, while Vincent Smith and Michael Shaw continue to grow.
The addition of Justice Hayes, who is known for his impressive agility, will pose an interesting problem for the coaches.
He could move to slot and work just fine in the Borges offense, or he could add some strength to his frame and maintain his current position.
All that, of course, will depend upon whether he redshirts.
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After years of endless change, Rodriguez was never able to settle on a defense he was entirely comfortable with.
By contrast, the installation of a 4-3 defense by Hoke, using either an under or over front, should bring much-needed stability.
Craig Roh is destined to remain stationed on the weakside end of the line, a position to which he is more accustomed, and the starting roster should take on more of an aura of permanence.
Even if Will Campbell fails to develop, this should be a competent defense in the next few years merely because everyone is a year older.
Under the auspices of Greg Mattison, hopefully the team is less prone to the kinds of errors and defensive misalignments that led to large gains by the opposition last season.
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The criticisms of Carr went well beyond his schemes. He also tended to flout what I would call evidence-based football.
Instead of calling a game in such a way that, over time, maximized Michigan's ability to win, he opted to be as cautious and low variance as possible.
That is why he punted from the 35-yard line against Ohio State in 2005. It can be argued that in his later years he was out-coached by those who were far better at dealing with risks and odds.
Bringing Rodriguez in was meant, in part, to mend Michigan's deeply intransigent and conservative culture that was inclined to play it safe.
Despite what some people claimed, it was not merely about scoring more points.
Hoke seems to derive from the same culture in which Carr also originated from and will likely veer back toward that direction.
Hopefully, however, he is a little more bold in his decision-making than Michigan is used to.