Oct. 24, 2011
By Leah Howard, MGoBlue.com
The Wolverines appreciated last week's bye. It came at a good point, midway through the season, and provided them an opportunity to take a break from the grind, rest and get a little healthier. But head coach Brady Hoke is quick to point out that isn't to say the Wolverines aren't hungry for the next game.
"I hope that we're doing a good job of keeping them on edge," said Hoke at Monday's press conference. "The big thing is establishing what we are going to do weeks and months before for the [bye] week. I think to get them away a little bit is important, and I think for them to get off their feet and to get off the grind a little bit is important. Now, in saying that, there are a lot of guys who were around that building. They were looking at Purdue. They were anxious to get back out there and play. So, I think you get a little bit of rest that is good both mentally and physically, but it's good to have kids who want to go back and play football."
According to Hoke, Michigan held high-tempo practices on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday that featured good instruction and teaching in the areas that he wants to see continued improvement, fundamentals like blocking and tackling. The coaches also took a closer look at the Wolverines' personnel, evaluating who might have earned more opportunities for playing time over the second half of the season.
"A guy like Brennen Beyer, who has played on special teams, played a little bit from the line of scrimmage," said Hoke, "he's a young kid, and he's going to be potentially a pretty good player. I think Frank Clark fits in that same mold. The guys in the back end, with Ray(mon Taylor) and Blake (Countess), I think there may be more opportunities."
Those opportunities could begin as early as Saturday (Oct. 29), when Michigan hosts Purdue at noon at Michigan Stadium. Hoke watched the Boilermakers knock off No. 23-ranked Illinois, 21-14, last weekend to improve to 4-3 on the season.
"I think offensively they're doing a nice job with the football," said Hoke. "I think they have a lot of skill players and a lot of guys that can make plays, from the backfield to wide receivers. I think the quarterback, Caleb TerBush, really did a nice job last week managing the offense. And then defensively, Illinois had a hard time, especially, the first three and a half quarters of the game. So, they've been active."
N O T E S
Much of the Wolverines' focus in the bye week centered on the Wolverines' play up front. Hoke would like to see more consistency on both sides of the ball.
"I would say that we're not where we need to be with the consistency of how we want to play," said Hoke. "I think there's been times from an offensive standpoint where we've blocked the line of scrimmage pretty well and created movement and the things that you want to do at the point of attack. Then I think there's times we haven't blocked it as well. And I would say the same thing on defense. I think Mike [Martin]'s been very consistent, and I think he's played better and better every week when you evaluate what he's done in the middle. I thought Will Heininger played a good football game a couple weeks ago, maybe one of his better games. But the consistency we need to have of all four guys is something that we've got to keep striving for."
Hoke also addressed the play of Denard Robinson, and the need to find a consistent running game around the junior quarterback.
"We're 6-1, and he's a lot reason why we're 6-1," said Hoke, "his athleticism and his ability to manage the offense. So, we're excited about him, happy with him. We've got to get more from our running game without Denard always being the featured guy. That goes to our backs; it goes to blocking at the line of scrimmage."
After failing to score in the opening quarter for the first three games of the season, Michigan has scored on its first offensive possession in each of the last four contests. It's a trend Hoke would like to continue.
"I wish I could answer how you start a team faster," said Hoke. "That's a hard one, to be honest with you. Does it help? I think it helps with your whole team's mental framework and your psyche if you can take the ball down the field and drive and score points. But I don't know if there's been any magical thing we've done besides the kids are doing a good job of executing and going out there."