I returned home from vacation today and was surprised to see that [DL Coach Jerry] Montgomery had gone to Oklahoma. This is surprising, because it really represents Hoke's first failure in the "always be closing Michigan" department. Let me explain.
Brian started the "Brady Hoke poops gold" meme in the first few months of the hire. I always thought that was an unnecessarily crude way of saying that the man is a walking intangible - people skills, emotional intelligence, command organization and structure, leadership - traits that can benefit a football coach more than running a whiz-bang offense. In fact, I believe the original intent of the meme was to be a backhanded way of praising the "Profiles in Cronyism" subject, but I digress...
The point is that Hoke is what he is, and what he is a Michigan salesman extraordinaire. His intangible attributes as a football coach also translate directly into recruiting, which is basically sales. This means he has had the opportunity to sell Michigan not just to 18 year old kids, but also to some already established targets. So far, here is who he has been able to close:
1 - Denard Robinson. For better or worse the decision was made to make sure Denard, stayed a Michigan man. The upside being roster continuity and a running game, the downside being the clumsy Power Spread N' Bland of the first half of last season. We all know how Molk and others affected the transition, but at the end of the day it has to come from the head coach. Hoke delivered. He was able to connect to Denard. He oversaw a transition almost free of malcontent by ensuring the biggest question mark became the biggest exclamation point.
2 - Greg Mattison. There are still some commenters who question Hoke's long term prospects at the helm; but praise for Mattison is universal. Though Mattison already had a history with the staff, and ties to the area, Hoke still had to seal the deal. Bringing in an established NFL D-Coordinator to oversee a worst-to-first one year turnaround is probably Brady Hoke's biggest off the field achievement yet.
3 - Morris, Greene, et al. Hoke, though he may not do it himself, has overseen three solid recruiting classes. The transition class didn't turn to mush, even with the huge change in styles; and the last two classes have been national top ten efforts. Not too much more to say here except for the fact that there is praise among all recruits regarding the staff's honesty and upfrontness. Again, organization culture is driven from the top down, tears or no.
4 - Taylor Lewan. This is the biggest player coup. Having a first round left tackle come back for his senior year is tremendous because obviously. (I always like to think about the possibilities that Lewan necessarily feels next year's team can achieve. He is the ultimate insider going all in.) While nobody knows the exact nature of the conversations between Hoke and Lewan, it must be assumed that Hoke was trying to get the stud left tackle to return. In the press conference, Hoke made mention of "the pride of the position" and that "they always seemed to come back for their senior years" (paraphrasing). That Hoke used the word pride is not surprising. What is noteworthy was that Hoke figured out which buttons to press, and was able to press them in a subtle enough way to not evoke an reaction opposite of that intended.
This is a master? Perhaps. He certainly sells well. Now we have the first "No". What does the departure mean? It means Montgomery is an up and coming coach who is a nationally recognized recruiter. The way I see it, tradition, prestige, program upside, likelihood of success, and even climate are all arguably a wash. Compensation was competitive. I think it means that Stoops was able to offer Montgomery something that Hoke could not. Maybe it was a promise of a promotion soon. Maybe it was the ability to recruit more better players due to Oklahoma being on one side of an imaginary line while Michigan is on the other.
Whatever the case, Montgomery would not be the first assistant to return if it works out that way; and I have faith in Hoke to find the next piece that will result in good things. Remember, the expectation is for the (assistant) position. Go Blue.