File photo, since Heiko took pictures and then left the conference room to ask Hoke more questions
Heiko and I are in Chicago today and tomorrow for Big Ten Media Days. Here's the transcript from Brady Hoke's presser, with questions about the status of Fitzgerald Toussaint, Penn State transfers, Denard, and the non-conference schedule, as well as a little Sparty trolling at the end.
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Head Coach Brady Hoke.
COACH HOKE: Number one, thanks to everybody here for coming and traveling and supporting the Big Ten Conference. I can't tell you how excited we are as a team to be representing such a great league and to represent the University of Michigan is something that's very special to all of us.
We're excited about the upcoming year. We're excited because of the hard work that our kids have put through since the end of the Sugar Bowl and the things that they've done as a team.
I think the leadership is really what's important for us. Last year we had a group of seniors that came together and did a tremendous job of leading the football team. And I think at the same time those guys who were juniors or those guys who played a lot of football understand now it's the expectations are in their hands.
And we're excited about that. We had a disappointing year a year ago when you do not win the Big Ten championship. And at Michigan we've not won that championship since 2004.
So we have direct goals ahead of us and what we want to do and we're excited about that. Our schedule is one that is a great opportunity and a great challenge for us. We played 10 out of 12 teams that are Bowl teams. We play five of those teams on the road.
And so for us it's going to be a great challenge and a great opportunity. Our focus and how we approach each day and how we as a team have the work ethic and the commitment and the accountability and respect and the trust for each other, that's what will make us successful.
But we're glad to be here. Glad to see you, kind of. But we're glad you're here. So thanks.
THE MODERATOR: Questions?
Q. At least according to the media you're the favorite in the league after one year. You're perceived to be back. What do you think of that?
COACH HOKE: Not much, to be honest with you. I think we were picked fifth in our division a year ago. I think the 1997 team, I think pre-season was picked right inside the top 25 by a lot of people. And that ended up being a pretty good football team. We don't put too much stock in that. It's like anything in life, it's not where we start but where we finish.
Q. Leadership, who has stepped up so far at this point and who would you like to see step up a little bit more?
COACH HOKE: As a staff we don't have an opportunity to be with those guys all summer, because of the NCAA rules, and those kind of things. But I think you can see the three guys we brought are just a part of that with Denard and his development, and I think Jordan Kovacs is an amazing story, number one, but how his leadership has grown. And then Taylor Lewan, who is going to be a junior for us. But I think he's really taken a lot of responsibility.
Q. With two teams in the Leader's Division [not bowl eligible], possibility of Penn State taking a step back long term, is there a competitive balance issue, do you think, in the league? Is there a fairness issue consequently that needs to be rectified?
COACH HOKE: I think the only thing I can tell you is this is such an unbelievable circumstance. And I'm sure Commissioner Delany and everyone else, you wouldn't see this coming. But at the same time, life's not fair. And whether it's fair or not, it doesn't matter. We have a schedule to play. Our focus is on the University of Michigan, and that's what we're going to keep focused on.
Q. How have you and your staff reacted to the sudden availability of Penn State players?
COACH HOKE: To be honest with you, we kind of made a decision -- I'd be lying if I didn't say we didn't look at the roster to some degree -- but we've kind of made a decision that we're going to stay and recruit the guys and keep our business our business.
Q. Can you talk a little bit more about Jordan and what you expect of him in leading the defense coming up this season?
COACH HOKE: Well, you know, he's a guy who had to walk on twice to play at Michigan. And I think because of his love for his teammates, his love for the game of football, his intensity, how he approaches every day from a work ethic standpoint to being a great teammate, and that's what we talk about every day.
And he's truly one of those guys, terrific teammate, his development as a player, we're very fortunate, he's a very instinctive guy, a very smart football player, and I think his teammates see that.
Q. Have you made a determination as to whether Fitz Toussaint is going to play against Alabama or not?
COACH HOKE: No, both of those young men, they're-- obviously there's a standard of performance we expect at Michigan from an academic standpoint to a community standpoint and to an athletic, competition standpoint. And we have -- they're right now indefinitely suspended.
They're going to pay the price for poor judgments which a lot of 18 to 23-year-old kids make and then we'll make a decision down the road.
Q. What do you expect to see out of Denard Robinson this year?
COACH HOKE: I think when you look at it, and going through spring and just his overall concepts-wise when you look at the offense, I think that's much better. And from the point of our terminology and what we call things, and I think it's had an opportunity for Al Borges to maybe grow a little bit more within the offense. And I think from that point of it, and probably more specifically is how he has really become a guy you can count on when it comes to leadership and how his work ethic is and those things that he's done.
Q. You've spoken about this before but you decided to take your team or a good chunk of your team out to the West Coast to go through sort of a Navy Seals training session. What precipitated that decision? What did you see them get out of it?
COACH HOKE: Well, everybody wants to focus on that one four-day period or three-day period. That started in January. We do leadership seminars with our seniors, juniors, sophomores and freshmen. The seniors are a little more encompassing to some degree. And we did it at Ball State.
Our strength coach, Aaron Wellman, came to this after two years at Ball State and trying to grow our leadership and it's just part of that seminar or whatever you want to call it.
And with our guys it was something that they learned a lot about themselves, number one, individually, which is important. And, secondly, they learned about themselves as a senior class.
And when you talk about the team and the commitment to each other and the accountability, when they did the different things that the Seals put them through.
Q. We heard Urban Meyer say maybe the Big Ten lacks a little speed and athleticism in comparison to the SEC. I was curious, with Alabama on your schedule, what strengths do you think your team and maybe even the conference has on those top SEC teams?
COACH HOKE: I think it's a hard question, really, to even answer. Because I think everybody's different. I think when people make the mistake of lumping the conference in not having speed or whatever it might be. When we're playing the reigning national champion, they're a terrific football team and they've done terrific things. We're excited about the opportunity to go into a great venue, different venue, obviously, and go line up and see what happens.
Q. You mentioned Alabama. Talk a little bit more about your non-conference schedule?
COACH HOKE: I think obviously September 1st is a day that most people in this room understand that great game that we'll play down there and it's a real privilege to have Troy Calhoun and the Air Force Academy come into Ann Arbor because of the significance of those kids who are out there for Air Force and their duty to country.
I think UMASS is a moving up program and a new head coach and obviously the great national rivalry we have with Notre Dame playing them down in South Bend at night. So we're excited about the non-conference schedule.
Q. You were the beneficiary of the Bowl system last year; you didn't have to win the division to still go to a BCS Bowl. How would you feel if you were on the tail end of that at some point in time?
COACH HOKE: Probably not that good. But it was out of our control. We don't control that part of it. So I wouldn't feel very good about it.