NOTE: it proved impossible to communicate what OL coaches were like without swearing more than I usually would in a post not about backboards in the immediate aftermath of last year's Wisconsin game. Keep children and the mad away from this post.
Faced with a difficult choice between seeing the head coach give his stump speech and talk about defensive line coaching and Al Borges talking about creating a play sheet and Michigan's passing concepts, I split the difference: one hour each. If I'd known I was going to get an excellent event recap from the Hoke presentation in my inbox that night I would have gone 100% Borges, but better to have it 3/4ths covered than half.
The emailer's notes follow. I was in the room for the first half of this and will interject some asides where appropriate; first a few general impressions from me.
loafs = bad; offensive line coaches, basically
My first exposure to the football coaching subculture was sometimes fascinating, sometimes boring, and full of swearing.
To a certain extent all football coaches emphasize the same things, and they tell you about these things every time. I get it: "loafs" are not tolerated. They are to you as scrubs are to TLC. [blank stares] I would like to move on from this because I have never tried to teach anyone and do not understand that without relentless consistency you do not get the results you want. Football coaches know you would like to move on but the relentless consistency is so ingrained in their nature that they can't help themselves.
Hoke was the most explicit example of this amongst the coaches I've seen over the past couple weeks. His presentation is on proper defensive line technique* and he says "I respect guys who just get into football and won't do all that philosophy stuff," he does a large section on philosophy stuff, and then sort of apologizes for it—only sort of because Hoke has a friendly bravado to him. Very few coaches can escape it.
Most of those guys are offensive line coaches. In a field of insane, profanity-prone sticklers for detail, OL coaches stand out. Collectively they have an air of weary acceptance. The best way to communicate this: a couple of the guys who presented in Grand Rapids have their own OL-specific clinic. Their logo is a mushroom because they're "kept in the dark and eat shit all day."
Funk was the first OL coach I took in so I didn't know how much of an exception he was. He may be the most businesslike individual I've ever perceived. No jokes, no swearing, just explanations.
What Funk shares with the other guys is an arcane language that's half signing, half jargon, half grunting, and I know that adds up to more than 100%. Jets consultant Jim McNally spent an hour talking about where a center's first step should be against a one-technique. He'd put his foot somewhere, say that was horseshit, put his foot somewhere else that you could just perceive was different, and tell you that this would prevent the motherfucker lined up across from you from putting you in a world of shit as long as you did six dozen other things right. But then some other motherfucker would put you in a world of shit some other way so you had to STEP [GRUNT] in this other particular way. A ballet eventually emerged in this quarter-full room as McNally scribbled his hieroglyphics on an overhead projector: step, grunt, swear. Step, grunt, swear. And so on.
So… yeah. Offensive line coaches.
*[Again it's worth mentioning here that Hoke is an outlier amongst head coaches. He still coaches a position. Meanwhile, he seems to have relatively little input on the coordinator-level duties. He is high and low and nowhere in between.]
Brady Hoke commands a room. I'd been in The Presence once before, when The UM Club of Ann Arbor invited me to be a panelist for their season kickoff Q&A. He started off with the same call and response he gives the team:
Hoke: YEAR Team: 132 Hoke: CHAMPIONSHIPS Team: 42
He then jovially mocks you for being meek little things and asks you to do it again. It's probably the oldest motivational/attention gathering technique in the history of man. He did it to the infinite coaches in the room by saying "GOOD EVENING" until the response was involved enough for him to continue. He does this with the team, obviously.
Over the course of the hour I took in he grabbed a half-dozen people out of the crowd to demonstrate certain things, told everyone to get up and actually get in a stance—this did not work well since the room was packed—and used a former Ball State player he called by a stereotypically defensive line nickname I forget as a proficient dummy. He got his points across, kept attention to him, and tossed off laugh lines with the casual air of a guy in complete control of a room. Which he was. As I noodled on my phone in certain other talks, Hoke's charisma became a more notable thing.
A couple days later eight four-star recruits would agree.
Now on to the email report.
Last night I had the opportunity to hear Coach Hoke speak for 2 hours at a Glazier Clinic in Grand Rapids. Hoke took the first five minutes to talk a little program philosophy and motivational stuff, he then launched into a very detailed 110 minute talk about D-Line rules/technique/drills/responsibilities. I thought I would share some various bullets from the night.
Roh move. Although already mentioned on the Blog, Craig Roh is definitely moving to the 5 tech! Coach hit on this a couple times while discussing drills. Seemed to hint at Beyer and possibly Ryan moving to WDE?! [Hint means he mentioned these guys as he was discussing WDE position...again nothing for sure, but just passing along info.]
[ED: I assume Ryan isn't moving to WDE. He probably gets mentioned amongst them because the SLB has a lot of responsibilities similar to the WDE. At the previous clinic Mattison mentioned that M has a defense in which the SLB and WDE essentially swap responsibilities that they ran 80 times last year. As always, SLB and WDE in the 4-3 under aren't that different. Also Ryan was a DE in the even-front nickel package last year.]
Campbell. Big Will came in for a little praise for his size and strength and it sounds like he is a "tremendous" individual, but Hoke didn't make you feel great about Will's chances to contribute at a high level.
Jake Ryan. Came in for some high praise as Coach Hoke called him "an unorthodox football player" and also said he will be a key to the success of the defense here at Michigan. They showed the clip from the Sugar Bowl where Wilson tries to bounce at the goal line and runs 20 yards backwards then Ryan cleans up.
This was one of two late-season plays on which Ryan's shocking upfield acceleration resulted in a big loss. A Taylor Martinez zone read keeper that ended up a TFL was the other.]
Hoke smiles and says, "That's just fun, isn't it?" Hoke went on to tell a story about a connection to the Ryan family and that Jake was interested in SDSU, but Hoke and his staff there never offered. He then said something to the sound of, "times like this make you feel like a fool, glad we got him now!"
Obviously. Mike Martin and Ryan Van Bergen came in for high praise as men who worked hard and set the tone as important Seniors on team #132. RVB was credited as one of the smartest players on the team, Hoke then said, "Mike is really strong!" That received a roar of laughs. (Quick side note: Hoke is a great comedian and has a natural feel for comedic timing. [ED: It's true. He called a guy up to the front of the room to get in a stance, started adjusting him, and then asked if his feet were square. The demonstrator said "more or less"; Hoke repeated it in just the right way and got a roaring laugh from the room. Comedy without a punchline is hard.])
Hoke talked specifically about Martin not getting enough push earlier in the year and how, once he was attacking more, he was unblockable.
Nathan Brink got a lot of love from Coach Hoke. He said, "he is a limited athlete, but a tough sucker." Maybe he can add some valuable depth?
Desmond Morgan received some high praise. However, every time they showed D-Line clips from game film, Des seemed to be out of place or getting killed! Coach Hoke talked about his smarts, strength, and instinct.
[ED: Morgan fared better in the clips from the Mattison session. I figure the bad bits are freshman being freshmen and they expect he'll be a lot better this year. Morgan will not go easily into the night what with the new kids around.]
Quinton Washington got some love from Coach. He talked about his strength and good feet. The only set back for Quinton is he is a "pincher bug!" Meaning he doesn't get his hands inside and get extension. With three D-Line coaches on staff, you have to get technique right or you will not see the field. He said "we need Quinton to get this right before September 1st!"
Stories and Comments
Cross is boss
The McNabb game. Coach Hoke talked about the 98' Syracuse game and mentioned that, "you guys know a guy by the name of Donovan McNabb? He is just a little bit of good!" He went on to say, "I told Coach Carr that I take all responsibility for the loss." Hoke talked about the fact that he didn't prepare his linemen properly and he let them down. Some of this is coach speak, but he is so effectual with his speaking that I felt like he let me down too. It was salt in the wounds man, salt in the wounds.
[ED: This was presented in the context of returning nine starters from the 1997 defense, which you may remember as pretty good. Hoke was discussing the algorithm he has his players go through to get to the ball and how he thought his guys had it down after '97; now he teaches it every year without fail. Again we got back to coaches repeating everything for a reason.
Hall. He talked about James Hall (right) as having the best hands he has ever seen. He referenced this leading to a great NFL career, although he did mention that great speed/quickness helps!
Jabs. Hoke kept throwing out light hearted jabs at his assistants. Gave you the feeling that these guys really like each other and work well together.
[ED: as I tweeted out, Borges was talking about how few people were in his clinic and Hoke was telling him "no one cares about offense" before they went on. In actuality both sessions were packed to the gills.]
T-Bone. I was surprised by how detailed he was in all the drills/technique portion. One of his GAs from Ball State was in attendance, so he had "T-Bone" come up and be his personal dummy for the night. Hoke repeatedly gave this guy huge shots on every demonstrated punch and extension. T-Bone was tough, but by the end, he was grimacing each time. I only include this to show how much Hoke is still a D-Line guy at heart. He can't hold back and was working up a sweat demonstrating this.
[ED: T-Bone. Of course.]
Ohio. Following the clinic someone was asking him a question about the "Akron State Golden Bobcats" and this gentleman used the full given name of that said team. Quickly Hoke corrected him and said, "You mean Ohio?" questioning which team the man meant. I know it might seem played up with the whole "Ohio" thing, but that little interaction made me a bit more proud that he is our coach.
Tremendous. Overall, there were 11 counts of "tremendous."
I was very much on the fence about Coach Hoke until his introductory press conference. Then I remained skeptical throughout the summer and even fall. After getting to witness this talk on a Thursday night in February with a bunch of overweight D-Line coaches, I am thankful that he is our coach. You can see why Mattison wanted to coach with him.
"Ohio. Following the clinic someone was asking him a question about the "Akron State Golden Bobcats" and this gentleman used the full given name of that said team. Quickly Hoke corrected him and said, "You mean Ohio?" questioning which team the man meant. I know it might seem played up with the whole "Ohio" thing, but that little interaction made me a bit more proud that he is our coach.
That part reminded me of this scene from A Christmas Story."
University of Tom Brady, B.A. '10; University of Peyton Manning, J.D. '13.
Hoke really seems to have zero ego, and that is really refreshing in modern big time college sports. So many coaches are all about themselves - look at all the job jumping, etc. Throwing their own kids under the bus (Izzo) and everything else. Hoke still wants to be a D-Line coach. How many head coaches do you know who would demonstrate technique in front of a room until they started sweating? Can you picture Saban doing that? Or Meyer? Hoke seems great from afar, and I'm sure he is. He's a great representative of the university. And he's won (thus far). What more could you ask for?
"Over? Did you say, over? Nothing is over until we decide it is!"
...and people see it immediately and feed off it. No bullshit. This has to be VERY powerful with recruits and their parents. He's the real deal.
Adams Axiom: The major difference between something that might go wrong and something that can not possibly go wrong is that when a thing that can not possibly go wrong goes wrong it usually turns out to be impossible to get at or repair.
Actually I got more,how lucky are we to have him as coach?
I laugh when ohio fans get all cocky cause they got themselves an Urban Myth and think they're gonna dominate us and I can't wait till they see how wrong they are, I think Hoke is gonna whoop Urban way more than not.
Which makes it almost perfect that Ohio hired Urban Meyer, the fakest, most manufactured personality in coaching. The contradistinction is delicious and further proof that Michigan is the objective force of good in the rivalry. Each coach fits his school's soul to a tee.
"There was a time I could have been mistaken for Burt Reynolds. I had a moustache and so did he. But he was the number one star in the world, so there wasn't really much confusion."
I think the fact that Brandon spent half the Rodriguez firing press conference to talk about how Harbaugh wasn't coming to Michigan and was probably going to the NFL was a pretty good indication that he knew he wasn't getting the man.
Even without Harbaugh, I don't think that Hoke was #1 choice to begin with seeing that he interviewed him 2 or 3 days after firing Rodriguez . But I'm pretty sure he skyrocketed to the topafter the interview. Only Dave Brandon will know the truth, man knows his PR speak. So far? He's doing a great job. Just keep ads out of the Big House.
Noticed something awesome about Kovacs in that Sugar Bowl clip
I noticed something new (to me, anyway) in that clip of Jake Ryan making the huge TFL on David Wilson in the Sugar Bowl -- another reason to love Jordan Kovacs.
Watch Kovacs on the play -- he's reading, zeroing in on the ball-carrier along with everyone else as Wilson goes backwards. But then toward the end, as Ryan closes on Wilson w/several other defenders backing him up, what does Kovacs do? Recognizing Ryan's got plenty of immediate help, Kovacs turns right and starts heading toward the wide side of the field to get an angle, on the off-chance that Wilson manages to escape Ryan, spin away from the pursuit, and cut back across the field.
How many players are that heads-up, that instinctual? Kovacs is thinking ahead -- "What's the one thing that could still go wrong for us on this play?" -- and acting to foreclose that possibility.
It's a privilege to watch him play, and I can't wait to watch him in his senior year.
Curiosity from someone new to this coaching world.
When you say "Meanwhile, he seems to have relatively little input on the coordinator-level duties. He is high and low and nowhere in between." what does that mean exactly? How much input do head coaches usually have on the coordinator duties? Is it usually a 50% with OC 50% with DC thing? Or a preference to either OC/DC and shuttling the other to a coordinator? And if he's just being a D-line coach then what does he do as head coach? Isn't it bad if the head coach has no interest in anything except what one position group is playing?
This is from someone who is legitimately curious and not trying to start a flame/troll/whatever war.
Are great motivators and managers. If the guy you hired to do a job is doing it well, you leave him the hell alone. You provide guidance and advice as asked for, you lead the staff meetings, and you also spend time coaching a specific position so you keep in touch with the kids at the heart of your efforts.
Hire great people, set the goals out clearly, back them up, and turn them lose. That's how you get a team from 7-5 to 11-2 in one year.....
Interesting. It's like a mix of CEO/General/cheerleader with intimate knowledge of football and the ability to read the flow of a game? Is it possible to be have a good team if you have the best coordinators and not a good HC? For instance, the best OC would give the best offense in the country and the best DC would give the best defense in the country. And those coordinators would also have to be able to read the flow of the game for their particular side of the ball. Putting it together, it'd be an unstoppable team. Theoretically, couldn't even a bad HC still look good as a result? Or is there more to it than that?