Monday Presser Transcript 10-3-11: Brady Hoke

Monday Presser Transcript 10-3-11: Brady Hoke

Submitted by Heiko on October 3rd, 2011 at 4:35 PM

Brady Hoke

News bullets and other important things:

  • Barnum is still day to day.
  • Woolfolk is fine, even though he may or may not have been limping at the end of the game.
  • Cam Gordon will practice more. Sounds like he has to fight for his job back.
  • McColgan should be back for Northwestern.
  • Hoke voted for Michigan to be in top 25.

Press Conference

Opening remarks: “It was good to start the Big Ten season winning the football game on Saturday. It was good to keep the Brown Jug. I think the score got painted on this morning at eleven. It’s good to have the Jug here in Ann Arbor.

"Everything gets tougher. Northwestern, they’re 2-2 as you all know. They lost a heartbreaker down in Champaign last week, but they have a football team that’s very well coached. Pat’s probably as good a coach as there is in the league and a guy that feels strongly about that program, being an alumnus of Northwestern and being a tremendous player there. I also think when you look at them from an offensive and defensive standpoint, they’re a team that’s going to play physical. They’re going to play 60 minutes of football. Defensively, they run very well to the ball. Offensively, Persa was back, played most of the game, was pretty productive. But Coulter is also a guy who’s moved them offensively and done a nice job. So when you look at it and playing away, we haven’t been away. It’ll be a little bit different for us because we’ve been fortunate enough to play five games in Michigan Stadium.”

Does being tied for second in the country in ppg allowed mean anything to you? Also, can you point to any tangible improvements in the defense between the spring and now? “Well, it’s like anything else. It doesn’t mean anything right now. I mean, none of those things matter. We’re 1-0 right now. I think when you look at our front the last two weeks, we’ve been a little more disruptive. That’s enabled the linebackers to do their job. I think we put a little bit more pressure at times on the quarterback. We still don’t blitz worth a dog, period. And that’s got to improve. Guys are playing together. I think they’re understanding the roles. I think the defensive staff has done a good job in preparation, and the guys are doing a good job preparing themselves.”

How did Denard look in the passing game on film? “I think mechanically he was better. I think the routes were better. I think the timing of the offense was better. There was a good tempo and good flow when you look at him and his footwork and all those things that are part of the mechanics of throwing. I think it was better. I thought it wasn’t bad versus Notre Dame, either. I think he’s a prideful guy, he’s a competitive guy … He wants to be good for his teammates.”

How do you work on timing in practice? “Well it’s just the routes and the timing, and if it’s five-step or three-step drop, from the gun or under center. Just the mechanics of that and when the ball should be thrown, on what step.”

(more after the jump around.)

Opponent Watch: Week 4

Opponent Watch: Week 4

Submitted by Heiko on September 29th, 2011 at 9:36 AM

(Fear scale: 0 = Bye week?; 1 = If Michigan loses to this team somebody’s going to get fired; 5 = 2010 Illinois; 8 = Best in conference/will play in a BCS bowl; 9 = National title contender; 10 = Hold me, TomVH.)

About last Saturday:

San Diego State 7, Michigan 28

This is how you get from “Rolling in the Deep” to “Someone Like You.”

The Road Ahead:

Minnesota (1-3)

Last game: North Dakota State 37, Minnesota 24 (L)

Recap: Minnesota lost to FCS North Dakota State last Saturday in a game where the Gophers were out-everythinged, which made coach Jerry Kill feel a lot of bad for a lot of people.

"Coach outcoached me, their team outplayed us and they deserved to win the game," Gophers coach Jerry Kill said, adding: "I feel bad for our students. I feel bad for the state of Minnesota. I feel bad for our fans, and I feel bad for our kids."

This didn’t make Brian’s This Week In Schadenfreude column probably because any decent human being would find it hard to derive any joy from Minnesota’s pain. They’ve lost to three FCS teams over the last five years. At this point you just feel bad for them.

If you insist on analyzing the game, you’ll see the key stat of the game is two turnovers -- both Gophers quarterbacks threw an interception each, and both interceptions were returned for touchdowns.

But it’s hard to see anything through the acrid smoke from the tire fire that was Michigan’s 2010 defense and is now Minnesota football.

The best part about Michigan playing a team in such pitiful state, however, is watching Hoke come up with reasons for why they’re a respectable opponent.

Reason 1:

Minnesota got beat by North Dakota State, which is as good a football team as -- you don’t want to schedule them, I can promise you that, because they are well coached and they are tough.

So they were beaten by a football team that is a football team. Fair. These things happen sometimes, I guess.

Reason 2:

“I think Marqueis Gray, their quarterback -- and they’re using two quarterbacks. I think he’s averaging right around a hundred [yards] rushing the football.”

And they have a quarterback controversy that involves a guy who can run. That’s probably cause for concern. For them.

Reason 3:

“I haven’t looked much at their defense yet. I know Royster, I think their safety -- what’s his name?” Kim Royston. “He’s a good football player. He sticks out. Linebacker 51 (Gary Tinsley) sticks out.”

He has no idea.

Right now they are as frightening as: Someone choking. A good, hard abdominal thrust might break a couple ribs, but ultimately it’s for their own good. Fear level = 2.

Michigan should worry about: Some average-to-good Big Ten team will inexplicably lose to them.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: It’ll probably be Iowa.

When Michigan plays them: Their coach’s health is a concern, and now Marqueis Gray stubbed his toe … We might finally get to see Devin Gardner play more than two snaps. Knock on wood.

Next game: at No. 19 Michigan

(more after the jump.)

Opponent Watch: Week 3

Opponent Watch: Week 3

Submitted by Heiko on September 22nd, 2011 at 11:53 AM

(Still tweaking, but I think I’m getting close to a winning formula. Again, fear scale: 0 = Bye week?; 1 = If Michigan loses to this team somebody’s going to get fired; 5 = 2010 Illinois; 8 = Best in conference/will play in a BCS bowl; 9 = National title contender; 10 = Hold me, TomVH.)

About last Saturday:

Eastern Michigan 3, Michigan 31

Yawn.

Ace and I played “Where’s Waldo/Brian?” from the press box.

Found him!

He’s so dreamy when he’s pixelated.

[Ed: I told you there was no one in my section.]

The Road Ahead:

San Diego State (3-0)

Last Game: Washington State 24, San Diego State 42 (W)

Recap: After escaping Army, San Diego State hosted Washington State and waited for the Cougars to lose, which they did. The Aztecs capitalized on three Washington State turnovers in the fourth quarter to turn what seemed like a tenuous lead into an 18-point cushion. San Diego State actually trailed for the entire first half and through most of the third quarter before Aztecs RB Ronnie Hillman converted a third-and-one at the goal line to finally put them ahead 28-24.

The Cougars, devastated by the loss of such a rare lead, imploded.

The play on which it happened should sound familiar. Seven plays into their next drive, the ball slipped out of Washington State QB Marshall Lobbestael’s hand a la Tommy Rees. On the following play for San Diego State, the Cougars defense allowed Hillman to break free for a 64-yard touchdown sprint. Game over. Lobbestael additionally tossed two interceptions to make sure his team fell well short of covering the four-point spread.

What we know about San Diego State is this: the defense has faced two mediocre offenses that are as one-dimensional as these dashes -- Army ran for 90% of their yards, and Washington State passed for 88% of their yards -- and has yielded on average three touchdowns and 400+ yards to each. (Cal Poly doesn’t count.) Rocky Long may have a funky scheme that’ll confuse some offenses, but as Ace points out, that defensive line is leedle. They are the bendiest of bendy defenses kept respectable by opponent turnovers, a significant number of which were just stupid. Yes, they’ve done enough in their previous two games to win. Against Michigan, they will need to do more.

The offense is a solid, well-rounded B+, good enough to attend a four-year college, marry a nice Christian girl, have three kids and a golden retriever named Chelsea, and also score multiple touchdowns against the Wolverines, which, miraculously, is a feat only Notre Dame has achieved so far. Think of the San Diego State offense as a less intimidating but less hilarious Irish offense. With a better quarterback. But worse wide receivers. And a running back who doesn’t fumble. But maybe a smaller offensive line?

Nevermind. Forget I said that.

Right now they are as frightening as: Their overall vibe strikes me as a well-coached Indiana. Fear level = 4.

Michigan should worry about: Containing Hillman. Michigan has enough talent on the defensive line to manage the trenches and keep inside runs to a minimal gain. Irresponsible linebacker play on the edge, however, will lead to 200+ yards for Hillman and a 20+ tackles for Jordan Kovacs. If Kovacs ends up being next week’s Alro Steel Ironman, you’ll know something went terribly, terribly wrong.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: Again, the scouting report. Knowing is half the battle.

If Michigan plays them next Saturday: The first quarter will be critical. Michigan will need to avoid falling behind early against a team that’s more talented than Western Michigan and more disciplined than Notre Dame. After the most sobering 31-3 victory ever, the Wolverines offense -- particularly the passing portion (particularly the Denard part of that passing portion) of the offense -- needs confidence that only a lead can provide. Also, the last thing the Wolverines can afford to give San Diego State is momentum, as they’re already playing with the following list of motivations:

  1. You stole our coach.
  2. He left us because he thinks you’re better than us.
  3. You think you’re better than us.
  4. You’re ranked, so everyone else thinks you’re better than us.
  5. He broke up with us via text message.

So. Let’s score some early points, yeah?

Next game: at No. 22 The University of Greener Pastures

(more after the jump)

2011 Opponents: Northwestern

2011 Opponents: Northwestern

Submitted by Tim on August 26th, 2011 at 6:42 PM

This is a personnel-oriented look at the season's opponents. The game-week previews will be more matchup based. Last year's stats are presented with projected starters in bold and departed players in italics.

The Offense

Northwestern Offense 2010
Category Raw Rank
Yards Per Game 391.08 48
Points Per Game 26.38 63
Yards Per Play 5.40 70
Yards Per Pass 7.94 29
Pass Efficiency 144.37 29
Yards Per Rush 3.64 91
Playcall Distribution 1.45 Rush:Pass

Northwestern's offense was a one-man show last season, with quarterback Dan Persa accounting for 61% of the Wildcats' total yardage... despite missing three games (Denard accounted for 67% of Michigan's yardage; Persa was accounting for 76% for the Cats before he went down). If Northwestern is going to have success this year, they need to find other playmakers in the backfield to spread the ball around a bit more, especially with Persa coming off a serious injury.

Adjusting for sacks, NU called a pass for every 1.35 rushes, and if Persa is to be kept healthy, he's going to have to either pass or rush less. He's unlikely to have the same escapability as last year.

Quarterback

We're really tying the Dan Persa theme together here, as he was probably the player in the Big Ten that was most important to his team - yes, even moreso than Denard Robinson to Michigan. Coming of an Achilles injury is not easy to do, especially after just 10 months. That could mean some serious reps for backup Evan Watkins, who started the final three games for Northwestern last year - all losses.

Northwestern QBs 2010
Name Comp Att % Yds Yds/Att TD Int
Dan Persa 222 302 73.51 2581 8.55 15 4
Evan Watkins 36 70 52.43 378 5.40 2 5
Kain Colter 3 9 33.33 38 4.22 0 1
Northwestern QBs Rushing 2010
Name Att Yds Yds/Att TD
Dan Persa 164 519 3.16 9
Kain Colter 29 143 4.93 2
Evan Watkins 23 61 2.65 2

Grade: 3.5/5. This grade is assuming non-full health for Dan Persa (Phil Steele give him that vote of confidence, naming Persa the league's 1st-Team selection at QB). His importance to Northwestern was magnified by exactly how bad his backups were in comparison. Since he's likely to be less of a rushing threat this year, it takes him down a notch. The experience from last year - unsuccessful though it may have been - is a positive going forward for the backups. If Persa was healthy, this would likely be a 5/5.

Running Back

Despite their general ineffectiveness, a ton of different Northwestern backs got some experience last year. Mike Trumpy got by far the most run (second-most used back, Arby Fields, was by far the least effective), so I'm guessing he'll start again this year. There are three returning backs with significant experience.

Northwestern RBs 2010
Name Att Yds Yds/Att TD
Mike Trumpy 116 530 4.57 4
Adonis Smith 41 196 4.78 0
Arby Fields 62 178 2.87 1
Jacob Schmidt 49 161 3.29 4
Stephen Simmons 41 154 3.76 0
Scott Concannon 5 21 4.20 0
Northwestern RBs Receiving 2009
Name Rec Yds Yds/Rec TD
Mike Trumpy 20 182 9.10 0
Jacob Schmidt 14 114 8.14 0
Arby Fields 4 27 6.75 0
Stephen Simmons 2 9 4.50 0

Grade: 3/5. Having this much talent returning is a bright sign for Northwestern, even if they didn't have a lot of success on the ground last year. Trumpy was just a freshman last year and Fields just a sophomore, so it's reasonable to expect those guys to improve.

Receivers

Jeremy Ebert was the Big Ten's most oft-deployed receiver, and turned that into the highest yardage total in the league as well. His #2, Sidney Stewart (younger brother of former Michigan DB Charles) is out the door, but plenty of Wildcats got game experience. Demetrius Fields should take over the #2 role, with Charles Brown stepping into a starting role. Drake Dunsmore got plenty of work (at "superback" in the NU offense) last year, but other than him, don't expect a ton out of tight ends.

Northwestern Receivers 2010
Name Rec Yds Yds/Rec TD
Jeremy Ebert 62 953 15.37 8
Sidney Stewart 40 454 11.35 0
Drake Dunsmore (TE) 40 381 9.53 5
Demetrius Fields 25 291 11.64 2
Charles Brown 16 198 12.38 0
Rashad Lawrence 12 178 14.83 0
Tony Jones 11 157 14.27 1
Venric Mark 5 43 8.60 0
Josh Rooks (TE) 5 24 4.80 1
Brendan Barber 2 17 8.50 0
Aaron Nagel (TE) 1 6 6.00 0
Northwestern Receivers Rushing 2009
Name Att Yds Yds/Att TD
Venric Mark 8 63 7.88 0
Jeremy Ebert 5 21 4.20 0
Charles Brown 1 3 3.00 0

Grade: 3/5. Losing the #2 receiver probably hurts, but Northwestern spread the ball around plenty last season, so the players that will be expected to step up aren't exactly green. With the Big Ten's most-prolific receiver in the fold (though Phil Steele only projects him to the All-Conference second team), the young guys should be more than capable of picking up the slack. The one question mark is a lack of serious downfield threats - partially a product of a screen-heavy NU offense.

Offensive Line

The Wildcats only lose right guard Keegan Grant from last year's starting lineup, but that may not be such a good thing, given how awful the front line was last year. NU gave up more sacks than any team in the conference, and they were in the "Minnesota-Indiana" cohort of rushing futility. NU should start three seniors this year, with Al Netter on the left side, Ben Burkett at center, and Doug Bartles taking over the RG position. Junior returning starters Brian Mulroe and Patrick Ward will play left guard and right tackle, respectively.

Grade: 3/5. The big hope for Northwestern fans here has to be that a line with very little personnel turnover will be able to build the chemistry to develop into a stronger unit. It really couldn't be a whole lot worse, as I shudder to think how terrible the line's performance could have been without Persa the whole year.

The Defense

Northwestern Defense 2009
Category Raw Rank
Yards Per Game 426.15 97
Points Per Game 29.00 77
Yards Per Play 5.94 94
Pass Yards Per Game 241.15 95
Pass Efficiency 128.98 61
Yards Per Pass 6.73 t-45
Sacks Per Game 1.23 104
Rush Yards Per Game 185.00 92
Yards Per Rush 5.15 110

So, oddly, despite Pat Fitzgerald's reputation as a hard-nosed defensive specialist and all that entails, the Wildcats' defense was pretty bad. It was probably around the same league as Michigan and Minnesota in several areas.

So, what is Northwestern going to do to improve that? Getting to the passer and stopping the run were the two major weaknesses of the D, so stepping it up along the defensive front and linebackers is of the utmost importance.

Defensive Line

The Wildcats' defensive line - weak though it may have been last year - returns three of four starters, and should have an opportunity for improvement. Vince Browne and Kevin Watt return for their senior seasons as bookends, and classmate Jack DiNardo will plug the middle. The only replacement is at the other defensive tackle spot, where Brian Arnfelt will replace Corbin Bryant. Northwestern also has a few players - most notably DEs Quentin Williams and Tyler Scott - who have a bit of experience and will play a role in the rotation.

Northwestern Defensive Line 2010
Name Tack TFL Sack
Vince Browne 58 15.5 7
Jack DiNardo 33 7 0.5
Kevin Watt 29 5.5 0
Corbin Bryant 25 8.5 1
Quentin Williams 18 3 0
Brian Arnfelt 14 1.5 0
Tyler Scott 12 3 0
Niko Mafuli 4 0 0
Davon Custis 2 0 0
Anthony Battle 1 0 0
Will Hampton 1 0 0

Grade: 3/5. It's hard to look past how bad Northwestern's run defense and sacking were last year when evaluating this unit. They should improve with three returning starters, but they have a long way to go to get out of the depths.

Linebacker

The Wildcats' top two tacklers from the linebacker position are out the door in Nate Williams and Quentin Davie, so there's some reshuffling to be done at the position. Bryce McNaul is the lone returning starter on the weakside. Junior David Nwabuisi is expected to fill the middle, while senior Ben Johnson will play the strongside. Sophomore Damien Proby is the only other player with significant experience anywhere other than special teams. Roderick Goodlow is coming off a mid-career redshirt thanks to a knee injury last year, as well.

Northwestern Linebackers 2010
Name Tack TFL Sack Int
Nate Williams 96 9.5 2 0
Quentin Davie 68 6 1.5 3
Bryce McNaul 62 5 1 0
David Nwabuisi 26 2 0 1
Ben Johnson 21 1.5 1 1
Damien Proby 20 1 1 0
Tim Riley 2 0 0 0
Will Studlein 1 0 0 0
Timmy Vernon 1 0 0 0
Bo Cisek 1 0 0 0

Grade: 2/5. The linebackers weren't blameless for the issues I pinned on the DL, so losing the two most productive players from a weak unit isn't going to solve anything for Northwestern. The depth is also lacking in a big way. Any injuries could spell more doom (than already exists) for Northwestern.

Defensive Backs

Justan Vaughn is the only departing DB for the Wildcats, so there's a good chance the performance along the back is improved this season. Senior Jeravin Matthews should slide in to take his spot, with 4-year starter Jordan Mabin on the other side. The situation is a little murkier at safety, with Brian Peters a lock to start at one position, but three reasonable options at the other spot. I'm guessing Hunter Bates will play FS, allowing the enormous Peters (6-4, 215) to play closer to the line of scrimmage. David Arnold and Jared Carpenter both have a bit of starting experience, and could slot in at safety, as well.

Northwestern Defensive Backs 2010
Name Tack TFL Int
Brian Peters (SS) 60 4 3
Jordan Mabin (CB) 63 0 1
Justan Vaughn 57 0 1
Hunter Bates (FS) 45 2 2
David Arnold 42 0.5 1
Jared Carpenter 27 1.5 0
Jeravin Matthews (CB) 15 0 0
Mike Bolden 15 1 0
Demetrius Dugar 10 0 0
Davion Fleming 5 0 0
Ricky Weina 5 0 0

Grade: 4/5. This is easily the strongest unit on Northwestern's entire team, with Phil Steele picking Peters to his 2nd-Team All-Conference defense and Mabin on the fourth team (though he was a 3rd-team performer in the Big Ten last year). There's also a few combinations that would result in four senior starters. Pass D was one of the few bright spots on NU's defense last year, and with even more experience, it could improve further in '11.

Special Teams

Stefan Demos - a recipient of the Brooks Bollinger Memorial Eighth Year Senior Award - has finally moved on, meaning that redshirt sophomore Jeff Budzien should become the new placekicker. Redshirt sophomore Brandon Williams will return for a second year as the starting punter.

Northwestern Kicking 2010
Name FGM FGA % Long XPM XPA %
Stefan Demos 16 23 69.57 47 34 38 89.47
Jeff Budzien 0 0 - - 1 1 100
Northwestern Punting 2010
Name Att Yds Yds/Att
Brandon Williams 61 2439 39.98

Grade: 2/5. Demos was never a superb kicker, so Budzien's inability to unseat him doesn't speak to any big upgrade there. In the punting department, Williams was steady last year, but not really very good. This should be an iffy unit.