Rittenberg: Why Brady Hoke needs to win in Year 1

Submitted by ILwolverine on July 21st, 2011 at 5:52 PM

I thought this was a good read.  Might bring some people back down to Earth and lead to some good discussion.

Link: http://espn.go.com/blog/bigten/post/_/id/29455/why-brady-hoke-needs-to-win-in-year-1

Brandon will be patient with Hoke. He hired Hoke, after all. And Michigan doesn't want to start shuffling through coaches every few seasons. 

But there's a need to show significant progress in Year 1. Here's why: the schedule in Year 2. It's brutal.



July 21st, 2011 at 6:07 PM ^

 Denard will have a year in the system, as will Borges have a year with Denard. 

Also, our D has a year in system with Mattison. 

Finally, our incoming freshman class has a potential to make a significant increase in the ability and athleticism of our special teams. 


Im pumped.  Then again, im on my 5th cup of coffee today, so everything is getting me jazzed up.

SC Wolverine

July 21st, 2011 at 6:52 PM ^

I am with you on this.  I think the wild card for this year will be Denard's ability to adjust to a modified pro-style.  If he doesn't -- and plays terribly in a bad loss to ND, for instance -- we have the potential for a DR/DG QB controversy.  DR is the heart and soul of the team, but it is just possible that DG is considerably better under center.  If that happens, Hoke's leadership will be challenged to do the unpopular right thing and sell it to everyone or to stick with popular wrong option and pray that it works out.  The good news is that Denard is such a great guy that he can probably be persuaded to do whatever the team needs. The other good thing is that it looks like Borges is smart enough to run an offense in which Denard can be pretty successful.  Unless he does, then Denard is probably in the pros as a Percy Harvey slot guy after this year.

Mr Miggle

July 21st, 2011 at 9:00 PM ^

Your scenario will not happen. Brandon said he had a long talk before hiring Hoke about adapting his offense to suit Denard's skills. There's no way he gives up on that after two games.

The only way I can see Denard losing his job is by injury causing him to miss a few games. It's possible that DG could come in and be so good that a controversy starts when Denard is ready to return.

SC Wolverine

July 21st, 2011 at 9:10 PM ^

I certainly do not want that scenario to happen.  I wouldn't expect DR to be replaced after two games.  I am just worried about a QB controversy beginning after ND.  I confess to being worried about the ND game: hungry, rising Irish, new system for Denard and our offense.  I think it will be hard for us to win.  But given our hoped for defensive improvement, the increased experience of virtually every starter, and the comparatively easy schedule, I find only Denard's adjustment to be a cause for worry about the season as a whole.

Despite these concerns, and having failed to secure OSU tickets on Monday, I am preparing to pay scalpers prices for me and my two boys so that we can fly up for Brady Hoke's first beatdown of OSU.  


July 21st, 2011 at 7:50 PM ^

I seriously commend you for having to say that around here. 

It may sound crazy to some, but you may be correct.  If Denard does not adjust to the pro-style game, it is not out of the realm that DG - who is probably a better fit - could pass him as QB.  That said, Borges seems willing to be flexible and run a system that will incorporate Denard's speed.

If Devin does pass Denard, it is always possible that he moves to the role of WR/RB/punt returner.  He is way too athletic to keep off the field, but at the same time, if QB doesn't fit, he could play the Breaston role nicely.  (I know - he is a QB - but we are talking "if he is not the starting QB.") 


July 21st, 2011 at 8:00 PM ^

If injuries didn't exist, I think that would probably work really well.  Think about a situation where DG is the QB and have Roundtree and Denard to throw to.  Think about Denard running an end-around.  DG doesn't have the wheels Denard has but is still a major running threat and with all of that our running lanes would be wide open for our RBs with the OL that we have. 

The only problem is what happens if DG goes down.  Do you move Denard back to QB?  Then you have a QB who hasn't been practicing the O at QB and you lose your top WR.  If you put Bellomy in, you have a kid with no experience starting at QB and NO ONE but walk-ons behind him.  If we had a solid QB in the 2012 class, maybe an EE, it would be a lot more feasible, but it doesn't look like that's going to happen.


July 22nd, 2011 at 2:56 AM ^

 That was'nt the case at all in spring practice. The coaches actually said Devin was doing great under center. I have faith in Denard tho , after last years practices and hearing Denard was ahead as the starting QB, I could'nt help but think either A. the coaches where smoking something or Tate must have been doing something terribly wrong. Then I saw Denard play and he looked like a different player from the 09 season. If Denard progesses 10-20% of what he did from 09 to 10 as a passer , we're in for one incredible season.


 Notre Dame will not beat Michigan this year, If they are hungry they can eat USC tacos, but they will not beat Michigan in 2011. Every team ND played last year that had a mobile QB beat ND. After the lights go out on the first night game , the University of Michigan wolverines will be 2-0 mark it down.


July 21st, 2011 at 6:10 PM ^

If Michigan doesn't make a big jump this fall, it could have a tough time doing so in 2012. The Wolverines could be a better team, a more well-adjusted team, and not have the record to show for it. Two middling seasons would mean two more years of Michigan lingering outside the upper crust. Questions about whether or not Hoke can restore Michigan among the Big Ten's elite likely would surface.


Durham Blue

July 21st, 2011 at 10:55 PM ^

Because RR accomplished that record in 2010 with an arguably more difficult schedule, an awful DC, and essentially the same starters (20 starters returning from last year) except those guys were a year younger.  I think most fans will be at least a little upset and a little worried going into 2012 if Michigan goes 6-6 or worse this season.


July 21st, 2011 at 6:10 PM ^

The first half of the season is cupcake.  Granted it gets tough after that, but I'm expecting a reasonably good bowl invitation.

I will be pissed off if it ends up that we fired Rodriguez just because Brandon had a power trip.  I am sure most UM fans are not going to be patient.

Wiith that said -- Go Blue!


July 21st, 2011 at 6:23 PM ^

Now is not the time to worry about the 2012 season.  Trust in the football IQ of this awesome football staff that Coach Hoke has assembled.

This article sounds like something Drew "not-so-Sharp" would write. That's it he has infected ESPN!


July 21st, 2011 at 6:26 PM ^

Expect a big drop-off from Martin and Van Bergen. Losing Woolfolk could be a big deal too.  Offensively, Molk, Huyge, and the WR departures should be filled in terms of starters, but depth will be a serious problem.

Many returning starters and 2nd year in the system will help, but the difference in schedule difficulty is staggering.

2011: 3 hardest games at home (ND, OSU, Neb)

2012: 4 hardest games away (Alabama, ND, OSU, Neb)



July 21st, 2011 at 6:38 PM ^

I agree that RVB and MM will be the biggest losses, and it sucks that they're in the same position group.  However, I think a DL of Wilkins, Q, BWC and Roh would be pretty strong, with guys like Jibreel Black, Ash, and others getting time in there as well.  We might even start Black at SDE in place of Wilkins, and though we'd be giving up some size, Jibreel Black is a player and should be looking really good by his junior year.  Guys like Pipkins and/or Wormley might be able to play right away too.

I'm not as worried about Woolfolk, he's a solid player but I like Avery and one of our young CBs will pick up for TW.  Losing Molk hurts, Huyge not so much unless we start having injuries.  We lose some receivers, but we return good ones as well so that loss will be light. 

Altogether, we'll have a slightly worse DL, but every other position group should improve from 2011 to 2012. 


July 21st, 2011 at 7:02 PM ^

However, that's a lot of uncertainty.  Personally, I think Campbell is a dud, and that replacing NT is a HUGE issue.  I expect whoever they land in the '12 class to play a big role, and potentially start beside Washington.  The good thing is that we have numbers, so it's reasonable to think that someone from the talented trio of Ash/Washington/Campbell will respond to the coaching staff and step up.  Regardless, it's going to be an area for concern.

On the outside, I like Roh and Black and hope Black can make the transition to SDE.  Otherwise, again, we're looking at a true freshman or unknown like Wilkins.

All of the above is why I'd be happy to see the coaches use 6 or 7 spots in the '12 class on DL...We'll need help.

Calling the DL 'slightly worse' is overestimating the situation dramatically.  The dropoff from Martin (likely all conference) to guys who may or not be viable Big10 players is staggering.  Moreso even than Donavon Warren to last years Talbott/Floyd/Christian fiasco.


As for CB, I too like Avery, but even 2 CBs isn't enough.  We'll be relying on youth once again.


Think you're underplaying the OL situation.  If all goes right the starting lineup looks strong (Schofield/Barnum/Khoury/Omameh/Lewan), but after that you're crossing your fingers.  We can all be excited about Bryant, Kalis, etc. but the hit rate on OL recruits, even in good times, is close to 50/50.


WR - I actually agree that won't be a problem because I think Roundtree plus whoever steps up between Stokes/Jackson/Dileo/Robinson will make for a fine set of starting WR with decent depth.  I'm not too worried about that, just noting that its a slight downgrade from having 3 solid seniors (well, just 2 w/o Stonum) plus Roundtree.


July 21st, 2011 at 7:28 PM ^

With the DL, we need two of BWC, Washington, Wilkins, Ash, and Talbott to step up and be starters on the inside for us.  One of BWC and QW will start this year, so we just need one more.  If that doesn't happen, we're relying on true frosh and I agree that isn't a good thing.  If Black can start at SDE we're good, and I think one of Rock and Heitzman can play a solid back-up after a redshirt yet.  I say slightly worse because we still return 2 of 4 starters and likely a lot of rotation guys, plus a very good freshman group.

We won't be relying on youth nearly as much as before.  Maybe JT Floyd is there, maybe not.  If he's not, we still have Avery and Talbott as juniors, and Countess, Taylor, Hollowell and Brown as sophomores.  Corners don't need to be upperclassmen to be good, so as long as you aren't relying on true frosh, you're good.  We'll likely start one JR and one SO, and the back-ups will either be other SO/JRs or a stud frosh.

On the OL, you can't ask for much more than a very good starting five.  If we have multiple injuries, it's a problem, but in 2012 both Pace and Bryant should be solid back-ups, maybe even Posada and Miller. Any team relies on youth in their OL 2-deep.

We're on the same page with WR, plus we'll have a frosh or two, and WR is a spot a freshman can contribute.


July 21st, 2011 at 8:20 PM ^

I'll agree that Roh and Black should form a solid duo at DE (whether they both start or not).  However, considering DL in general, and DT in particular, require a lot of rotation, I'd say 2 is the bare minimum we need on the interior of the line.  I'm not sure Wilkins is an interior player (to me he's a DT in the same way that Graham was - for motivation and education - read DL technique).  As for the other 4 you've named, I'd consider us lucky if 2 of the 4 turn into quality Big10 starters.  Early returns are...early, but...not encouraging.

I think we have an above average, potentially elite, Big10 Dline in 2011 and well-below-average in 2012.  The wildcard could be freshman.  Normally I'd discount that, but with the numbers and talent, they could potentially help right away.  Pipkins is critical.  There's just no way that what we have returning is coming close to Martin/RVB.


As for DB, yeah, the situation is way better than 'before'.  That doesn't mean it's good.  Avery will be a true junior.  Good player, but not yet proven as a reliable Big10 caliber starter.  Everyone else you named is an incoming freshman (besides Talbott and Floyd, who look well below average, at least so far).  I like the reports about Countess and all, but last summer this same conversation was projecting people like Turner and Christian to be players.  Again, there is much uncertainity here and we're probably below-average for the conference here, as a unit.


So add it up and you have a lot of question marks and position units that look to be inferior to the upper half of the Big10.  Maybe the returning LB corps (Demens, Gordon, Ryan, +?) and veteran safeties (Kovacs, Johnson, Furman, Robinson) can make up for that but eh....its optimistic IMO.


OL - the reality is there will be injuries.  There always are.  Furthermore, lets remember that that strong starting 5 assumes no attrition (i.e. a best case scenario).  A more realistic scenario has someone like Miller or Pace being forced into action.The problems of recruiting numbers since '09 will become evident.  The OL you named haven't played a down, and other than Bryant aren't well regarded (not real meaningful for OL but still).  This is a year where a guy like Kalis could see immediate time. 


Agree with WR.  Decent shot for a true freshman, especially a big target, to play right away here.  That said, I'm irrationally optimistic about Jackson/Dileo.  I like having a diverse set of WR who bring different skills to the table.


July 22nd, 2011 at 12:23 AM ^

I agree with that for the most part, but the bottom line is that 2012 is a full season away and of course some of the guys we'll be counting on then are somewhat unknowns now.  Wilkins, Terry Talbott and Richard Ash all redshirted last year, but that doesn't mean they won't be good.  At one point no one knew a think about RVB and then as a redshirt soph he was a starter and he looked good.  We don't need that from all the guys, just a couple of them. 

And of course we won't have all-Big Ten guys at every spot, but that's normal too.  Roh and Black and the BWC/QW combo will be challenging for honors and the other guys will be the filler guys waiting their turn.  With the talent in the 2012 recruiting class, depth should be decent at least.

Same situation with CB.  Yeah, we don't know a lot about Countess or Taylor or the other guys, but one of them will step up, and one of Avery, Floyd and Talbott will be good.  Probably Avery, but just because Talbott didn't look great as a true frosh doesn't mean he won't as a junior.  And he didn't look that bad. 

And as you said, those two spots just won't be our strengths, but we'll have those at LB and S.  Not many teams are equally strong at every group.  We'll be solid.


July 21st, 2011 at 7:38 PM ^

the drop off from van bergen is not that significant. We have ends on the roster right now that i believe given the time of this season will produce more than RVB ever did. And i am sorry the loss of woolfolk in my mind by that time will be more of a blessing than anything. I think people forget we recruited a guy named blake countess who i expect to be a very good corner better than woolfolk. And by 2012 without even putting any of the haul of linebackers we got for the class of 2012 on the field our backers will be better. Poole, ryan, gordon, lets not forget about kellen jones he will have a year in the system. Our defense in 2012 will be a top 30 defense and our offense should be really good. I am not saying the schedule is not tough but i think we will have an excellent team. A football team that feed the rock with rawls and cox and a defense that can flat stop people. And 2013 there is no telling how good we could be. This year may have some bumps in the road but it will be an 8 win season. GO BLUE