Wolverines Q&A: Hoke on Minnesota, Rutgers
Brady Hoke
Sept. 29, 2014

By Steve Kornacki

Michigan football coach Brady Hoke and Steve Kornacki will talk Michigan football each week on MGoBlue.com. On Sunday night (Sept. 28), the two discussed the 30-14 loss to Minnesota and the upcoming Saturday night (Oct. 4) game at Big Ten Conference newcomer Rutgers.

Q. What is your quarterback situation moving forward, with Saturday starter Shane Morris and Devin Gardner, who started the first four games?

A. Well, number one, we would never put a quarterback who was hurt (in there). That would never happen. As far as where we're at with it, we usually don't talk about injuries and stay away from them. But this has kind of become an issue to some degree, and Shane Morris has got a leg injury, and that's why we pulled him from the game. We'll see where he's at.

On the down where Devin's helmet came off, there was a discussion about the timeout with the referee that I wanted to take to buy him back into the game. When I talked to the referee -- because he kind of came to the sideline -- and he said, 'No.' So, a couple seconds later the line judge comes up and says, 'Now, you can buy a timeout.' But by that time, Shane was already back in the football game.

(Shane) was on the bench and (senior football athletic trainer) Paul Schmidt was looking at his leg, and (reserve quarterback) Russell (Bellomy) was there. Russell is signaling in, him and the other quarterbacks. And when Shane heard his name, the medical staff said, 'Yeah, he can go.' And he went out on the field. We'd never put a kid out there who wasn't capable. He was medically cleared to go in on that play.

Q. What did your viewing of game film reveal to you?

A. Number one, from the defensive side of the ball, we didn't keep leverage on the football a couple of times. And we didn't have gap integrity -- which you have to have -- getting off blocks, and we tackled as bad as we've tackled all year. It's a fundamentals and techniques issue. So, that as much as anything. And second-down defense -- we were pretty good on third-down defense. But second-and-long, after getting a good stop on first down, and they'd hit a couple second downs to keep drives going. And that is something that you have to look at where the breakdowns were, and why on second down.

Q. What's mind-boggling is that your defense has done those things well all season. How does that happen in one week?

A. Well, this was the team that was going to make you be patient. They were going to run the football. They had 47 carries and that's more. And in saying that, at the same time, we've got to get off blocks better. We've got to fit the run better and make sure we leverage things.

Q. With 7:27 remaining in the fourth quarter, you were down by 16 points and decided to kick off deep. How much thought did you give to an on-side kick at that point?

A. Well, we had two timeouts left at that time. And we had faith in our defense getting a three-and-out down there. And we'd get a short field, hopefully. Go into the two-minute drill and for two points (after a touchdown). And on the next kickoff, we'd go on-side (with the kickoff) and still have two timeouts left.

Q. De'Veon Smith is averaging 6.8 yards per carry and had a 10-yard touchdown run two plays after a 28-yard run against Minnesota. Talk about what he's giving you as a running back with his second effort.

A. I think De'Veon's vision is good, and he's done a nice job of breaking some tackles. He's a hard guy to bring down; he can move the pile. And as he progresses, sometimes he gets better as the game goes on. Plus, he's strong. There's no question his strength and endurance are factors. And he's doing better on his (pass) protections, and that's something that in the offense you have to be able to do. But I thought De'Veon gave us some good runs in there.

Q. Going on the road can be a good thing for teams in terms of causing them to pull even closer together. Can you talk about how you approach that with the team?

A. We know how to prepare. We've been on the road enough, and I think we prepare well together. And our travel has been consistent. I think even when you are at home, all of those things -- how you meet, how you walk-through (practice), how you do everything is good. And it's a great opportunity to go on the road, it's a Big Ten game, and most of the people in the stadium are going to be cheering against us. But there will be a good contingent of Maize and Blue fans who are from the New York area, the East Coast Wolverines, who will be there for us. And we're excited to go.

Q. You believe this team is resilient. Could you share with us why you believe that is the case?

A. It's just, for example, how they practiced tonight. We went out and had a good hour of fundamentals and techniques, and that's what it comes back to on both sides of the ball, every position. We fundamentally, at times like (center) Jack (Miller) said last night, we were playing 10-man football. You know, 10 men doing it right, and one guy has an assignment or a technique or mental mistake.

Q. Are those fundamentals and techniques drills something you always do on Sundays or did you do them because of some of the breakdowns you saw on Saturday?

A. We typically, on Sundays, get players good one-on-one time with their position coaches. You try to work some techniques and fundamentals, and that is always a priority. But it was a little different today because we gave even more time to it -- the attention to details, the corrections. And that's important because with Rutgers we'll see some of the same runs. We'll see some of the same defenses. They're going to cheat off of what somebody else does, and especially if it's successful. And so, we're cleaning up those communication things and making sure you're leveraging the ball. I think that's important.

Q. You had free safety Jarrod Wilson and cornerback Raymon Taylor back for Saturday's game. What did you see from them?

A. Number one, it gives us experience back there and great leadership. Jarrod has always been kind of the quarterback back there, and having them both back on the field was something that was good for us. And when you talk about giving guys a blow out there, it helps you because your numbers are better (depth-wise). And, hopefully, we'll get a couple more guys back this week.

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