What a difference a regime makes. Rich Rodriguez was a marked man before he ever arrived in Ann Arbor. Whether it was his promise to stay at West Virginia, or the fact that he wasn’t even Michigan’s second choice, the pundits were restless, to say the least.
When you expected that things couldn’t get worse, they did. Player defections, key injuries and, of course, an NCAA investigation led to one of the most tumultuous periods in Michigan history.
After the Rodriguez exit, Brady Hoke arrived after Michigan unsuccessfully courted Jim Harbaugh and Les Miles.
Hoke took the Michigan job after resurrecting programs at Ball State and San Diego State. He brought with him the title of “Michigan Man” since he was a Wolverine assistant earlier in his career.
What he didn’t bring was baggage. Even the folks in California wished him well. To Hoke it was his dream job, and thus far, he’s treated it as such.
Will he be successful? The Ann Arbor faithful believe so, and they’re willing to give the time he needs. No one is demanding a Big Ten championship in his first season. The expectations are realistic. It actually looks like Hoke is in an excellent situation.
Let’s take a look at how Hoke might establish some goals for his first year, modest as they may seem.
There are currently several excellent quarterbacks with their eyes on Michigan. It’s not out of the question for Hoke to land one of these.
Zeke Pike, Gunner Kiel, Maty Mauk and Bart Houston are a few that come to mind.
Of course, stud receivers like to follow the best quarterbacks. Often the two can be high school teammates. Remember Elvis Grbac and Desmond Howard? Both played their high school ball at Cleveland St. Joseph’s.
At 6’6”, 225 lbs., Pike has already drawn comparisons to Tim Tebow, which ain’t bad.
Troy Woolfolk and Terrelle Pryor
With the help of defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, Hoke’s defense should be better than the one that allowed 35.2 points and 450.8 yards per game last season.
The return of injured cornerbacks Troy Woolfolk and J.T. Floyd should help considerably. And if the Wolverines can develop a decent pass rush, the secondary might even play a little more man coverage. On second thought, let’s not get carried away.
It would also be nice to see improved play from DT William Campbell, who won't be switched back and forth from offense to defense. A highly touted recruit from Detroit Cass Tech, Campbell's potential has yet to be seen.
Hoke has said repeatedly that one of his goals is to recruit heavily in Michigan. That specifically includes keeping the pipeline open to Cass Tech in Detroit, other Public School League powers and parochial schools like Catholic Central and Brother Rice.
"We talk about it every day, about those legacies, those teams," Brady Hoke said recently. "That's why it's important for us as a staff to be down here in Detroit. That's part of the legacy Michigan has, part of the tradition Michigan has.
"We want to be part of what happens."
It also helps that former Wolverines Tom Seabron. Harlan Huckleby, Curtis Greer and Clarence Williams all began their careers at Cass Tech, and all wound up in the National Football League.
Watch for linebacker prospect Royce Jenkins-Stone to possibly follow in their footsteps.
Hoke will be in the national spotlight for the first time this season when Michigan hosts Notre Dame September 10. The first night game in Big House history will also welcome a national television audience.
Notre Dame is definitely not pleased with how Michigan "stole" the last two games in this storied rivalry. The Wolverines won both games in their last possession, winning 38-34 in 2009 and 28-24 in 2010.
As if the upcoming game needs another subplot, the Irish are certainly feeling their oats from a late-season surge. Notre Dame completed the 2010 season with four straight victories, including a 20-16 victory over Southern Cal, and a convincing 33-17 win over Miami in the Sun Bowl.
Hoke will be facing his former team when San Diego State visits Ann Arbor in the final tuneup before the start of Michigan’s conference season. The Aztecs (9-4, 5-3), completed the 2010 campaign with a resounding 35-14 Poinsettia Bowl victory over Navy.
San Diego State will surely test Michigan’s revamped defense. Senior quarterback Ryan Lindley will return this fall with quite a resume. In 2010, the 6’4”, 215 lb. senior threw 28 touchdown passes, while totaling 295 passing yards per game.
If Michigan is truly going to run a downhill power offense, it would be beneficial to have a legitimate fullback on the roster. At the moment, Stephen Hopkins is the only scholarship fullback who’s actually carried the ball.
True, you can run a power offense by spreading the field, but it's beneficial to have a lead blocker at the point of attack.
This predicament will test Hoke this season, but it shouldn’t be a problem in the future.
Michael Hart being chased by "little brother"
It wouldn’t be unreasonable for Michigan to beat its “little brother.” A win over Michigan State would bring back some of the Wolverines arrogance, if not the swagger.
After all, Michigan’s basketball team swept a pair this season from Tom Izzo’s team, and we all remember what happened to the Spartan hockey team at the Big Chill.
The Michigan State game better be a red-letter date on Hoke’s calendar. Not only would it help recruiting, it would undoubtedly bring some relief to Michael Hart.
When Brady Hoke became Michigan’s new coach, he announced that a pro-style offense was coming with him from San Diego.
Many expected Denard Robinson to be on the next plane out, with his read-option playbook secure under his throwing arm. But Hoke, in his first magical moment, convinced Robinson to stay, promising he would incorporate Robinson’s talents in the new offense.
Robinson would be throwing more, and running less.
As of today, Robinson has bought into Hoke’s sales pitch. New offensive coordinator Al Borges agrees that keeping his Heisman Trophy candidate happy is important.
Let’s see if Robinson is still smiling in November.
Quarterback Taylor Martinez
The Nebraska Cornhuskers join the Big Ten this season, and like Michigan, will compete in the Legends Division. Iowa, Michigan State, Minnesota and Northwestern fill out the group.
There’s no question Hoke would like to see Michigan stay in contention for the division crown, at least until the Nebraska game. Let’s not get into a discussion that the Cornhuskers began the 2010 season 9-1 before dropping three of their last four games. We also won’t discuss the fact that there is a quarterback controversy brewing in Lincoln.
For a nice change, football might be fun again in November.
It would be nice for Michigan to at least be competitive with Ohio State. The Buckeyes have won the last seven games in the series, and have outscored Michigan 100-24 in the last three.
This will not be a vintage Ohio State team. The Buckeyes, because of a scandal stemming from players trading merchandise for tattoos, will start the season minus five players and their head coach for the first five games.
While quarterback Terrelle Pryor is also included in the “tat-five,” it might be coach Jim Tressel who’s in the most trouble. Apparently Tressel hadn’t informed the NCAA exactly when he knew of the infractions.
If the situation in Columbus becomes even worse, Michigan might be in position for an upset, or even be favored.