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Posted on Sat, Aug 20, 2011 : 5:59 a.m.

3 things sure to be on Brady Hoke's mind during today's closed Michigan football scrimmage

By Kyle Meinke


Michigan football coach Brady Hoke hopes to have more of his two-deep roster figured out after today's closed scrimmage at Michigan Stadium.

Melanie Maxwell |

Two weeks of the Michigan football team's fall camp are in the books. Two weeks remain before its season opener against Western Michigan.

And we still don’t know much about this team, other than it’ll show up to play Sept. 3 with 11 guys who play offense and 11 guys who play defense. There just might be 11 players who play special teams, too, although we’re still waiting for comment on that one.

Yeah, it’s been one of those camps.

Michigan coach Brady Hoke has played this one tight to the vest — so much so that, although the Wolverines return nine starters on both offense and defense, he's announced only five starters: Denard Robinson at quarterback, Troy Woolfolk at cornerback (or possibly safety), Mike Martin at nose tackle, Jordan Kovacs at safety and Matt Wile on kickoffs.

None of those guys are exactly surprises.

Hoke said he still hasn’t determined his starters at most spots, and seems to mean it. He hopes to have a lot more figured out after today’s scrimmage, which marks the halfway point of camp.

It’s the first full-fledged scrap of the fall, and will be held at Michigan Stadium. Hoke said he would begin to pencil in his two-deep roster after seeing how players prepare for and react to the tilt, which is closed to the media and public.

“We’re treating it like a game day,” he said. “That doesn’t mean we’re going to kick off and do all that kind of stuff, but I want to see how they prepare for that scrimmage from a mental standpoint.

“We’ll be 14 days away (from the opener), and how you prepare mentally to play your best football, whether it is watching tape or it is your intensity that you have, thinking about your keys, your reactions from whatever it is from a defensive mindset, and then the same thing offensively, (is what we’re looking for).”

Players will look at the scrimmage as a proving ground for what they've learned since spring. They'll make their cases for playing time, especially younger guys such as Courtney Avery, Terrence Talbott, Nathan Brink, Frank Clark, Thomas Rawls and Stephen Hopkins, each of whom appears to be a contender to make the two-deep.

What is Hoke looking for in the scrimmage?

“If we’re finishing plays on both sides of the ball and we’re not having dumb penalties and we’re taking care of the football,” he said. “Now, the hard part is that we want to get the football back from a defensive perspective, but if we’re doing those things, I may be a little happier (tonight).”

Hoke will be a happy guy if some combination of these things happen:


The pocket presence of quarterback Denard Robinson (16) and the possible emergence of a feature back -- could it be Vincent Smith, right? -- are two of the things the Michigan coaching staff will be monitoring closely at today's scrimmage.

Melanie Maxwell |

A running back stands out

It’s become more or less obligatory for Hoke and offensive coordinator Al Borges to begin their news conferences with an update on how no one’s separated himself in the competition to become Michigan’s featured back.

Hoke said at the Big Ten media days in Chicago last month he wasn’t concerned no back emerged in the spring, but that he would be if he still didn’t have his guy after two weeks of camp.

We’re two weeks in, and he still doesn’t have his guy.

Robinson looks comfortable
in the pocket

By all accounts, the junior quarterback has adapted well to the new pro-style scheme, and has picked up the footwork and concepts quicker than expected. But the knocks on him remain his decision-making and poise in the pocket.

Where’s he at with two weeks to go? Coaches are pleased he’s completing more than 70 percent of his passes in practice, but today’s battle will give the staff its best idea yet where the quarterback is two weeks before everyone else finds out for themselves.

Someone steps up at defensive tackle

The favorites to play next to Martin appear to be junior Will Campbell and sophomore Nathan Brink, who are just about as opposite as two players can be.


Will Campbell

Campbell was a highly touted recruit with high expectations, weighs a robust 319 pounds (which is down from a ponderous 345 pounds) and has been criticized during his career for inconsistent play, focus and drive.

Brink is an unheralded walk-on who wasn’t even all-state honorable mention in high school, packed on 45 pounds to weigh an undersized 265 and has been lauded by the staff for his effort, focus, fundamentals and coachability.

It remains unclear if the coaching staff’s admiration of Brink is real, and he’s a legitimate player for a starting spot, or if this is a motivational stratagem to get Campbell to perform. Or some combination of the two.

Either way, there are clearly issues at defensive tackle right now.

Hoke and his staff will have a better idea where they stand after today’s scrimmage.

Just don’t expect them to tell you a whole lot about it.

Kyle Meinke covers Michigan football for He can be reached at 734-623-2588, by email at and followed on Twitter @kmeinke.



Mon, Aug 22, 2011 : 1:11 p.m.

Big ten championship the first year. Write it down. The D is good and the offense is great. That will be enough.


Sat, Aug 20, 2011 : 7:02 p.m.

He's a Michigan. Man, he gets the benefit of the doubt.


Sat, Aug 20, 2011 : 5:16 p.m.

Hoke is really a chubby Obi-Wan Kenobi. He says little but knows much. Or, changing eastern philosophy metaphors ... "Trust, Grasshopper ... trust."


Sat, Aug 20, 2011 : 5:07 p.m.

I think other than just adding my 2 cents worth just for the sake of doing so there is not to much to say. Coach isn't going to give up anything more and if he's not, the assist. coaches are for sure not. The only thing there is to look forward to is, "the game" which as I aforementioned is, western mich. and I for one am not looking past west. mch. I would gamble a guess that Brady knows what he's got and if he doesn't his assist. do and I'm sure they are whispering in coaches ear as we type. With this particular team I think western is the bench mark for who coach wants to field. He probably has a general plan but I'm betting he can't wait for that first game to really see what we (he) really has and even then that night game with ND is looming larger. This has got to be tough for anyone that does not know how to juggle.

Terry Star21

Sat, Aug 20, 2011 : 4:58 p.m.

"And we still don't know much about this team, other than it'll show up to play Sept. 3 with 11 guys who play offense and 11 guys who play defense. There just might be 11 players who play special teams, too, although we're still waiting for comment on that one". Kyle couldn't be more right on. This however, is why myself and 112,999 others will fill Michigan Stadium on September 3 - because all though we really don't know.......we really do know what we'll see, because we're Michigan Football Faithful. Here's best wishes to our team to staying healthy and injury free all season, that is all I can ask - the team will give us everything they have between the lines of that playing field. MgoblueforTiM........staying healthy, competent and wise all season


Sat, Aug 20, 2011 : 4:58 p.m.

One simple phrase: "Under commit and over perform." Why in the world would Hoke suggest great things are on deck for Michigan this year? Why in the world would he expose himself to disappointed expectations of his own making? Better, obviously -- and every single coach does this -- to downplay the potential for success. Then if it appears everyone is happy. The reverse is not true.

Chad Williams

Sat, Aug 20, 2011 : 5:10 p.m.

Coaches downplay success because its up to the PLAYERS to perform. Coaches can only put players in the right position to succeed but the player has to execute. Coaches dont score touchdowns, make fgs, or tackles. as MJ said in his hall of fame speech "Organizations dont win championships, the players do". In college is seems like the coach gets praised the money and the blame when they dont play one down of football.

Terry Star21

Sat, Aug 20, 2011 : 5:08 p.m.

Agree Don, Carr had a patent on 'no commenting'. Remember how he use to try to brush by the reporters at half time, etc. - I loved that !


Sat, Aug 20, 2011 : 3:52 p.m.

I believe the sober statements by Hoke and Mattison about the defense reflect what Larry Foote said last year after visiting a Michigan practice, being "stunned at the level of talent". Hoke has affirmed that the defense has no playmakers, and his obvious concern is based on a harsh reality. I know we expect to see improvements, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. The staff is trying its best to put lipstick on a pig, but the defense is still a pig. The best we can hope for is that with improved fundamentals the boys on D can play a little better. I will be thrilled if I see the first Michigan player to the ball make a one-man tackle.


Sat, Aug 20, 2011 : 3:15 p.m.

gee, "i bet thats the same thing you were thinking when cw was your coach. . ." lol. . . GO BLUE!!


Sat, Aug 20, 2011 : 2:09 p.m.

Fourth thing on hoke's mind: "gee, wonder what's for dinner tonight....." Lol


Sat, Aug 20, 2011 : 1:47 p.m.

Awesome post ole MEEEEEEANIE!!! Check this out, and think of MEEEEEEEEEANchigan football under COACH Hoke! Well, it's a brand new dance Yeah been sweepin' the nation I said a brand new dance A rock 'n' roll sensation Yeah I like it baby, I do it every night I got to do it 'cos I like it so much Oh honey believe it baby You see it's a crazed gyration of the rock generation It's my motivation to avoid the nauseation, frustration ------ of THEO and the MCC.

Terry Star21

Sat, Aug 20, 2011 : 5:06 p.m.

Okay, that was pretty poetic ! Good job,

Jim Nazium

Sat, Aug 20, 2011 : 12:30 p.m.

What an exciting time of year, I can't wait for the season to begin! It will be interesting to see who gets the nod to start at various positions and how well they do. I am Very confident in Mattison and have faith that Hoke will be a solid leader. The only thing that I need to see to be able to believe in would be Borges, any coordinator can sound good or look good on paper, it's how they run the scheme and make adjustments during the game that will show what we've got. He gets the benefit of the doubt and my full confidence like every other coach right off the bat, I just hope he can keep defenses off balance and get us some decent drives with creative play-calling. Of course this will be made easier if the players know and execute their assignments and all and of course it will take time and I'll be patient, just sayin'. Go BLUE!


Sat, Aug 20, 2011 : 4:08 p.m.

"Creative" play calling is WAY overrated. Execution is the key. Any type of play works if it is properly executed by all 11 players. Teaching, preaching, and practicing fundamentals is what leads to proper execution and, by extension, plays working whether they are considered 'creative' or not. Hoke and his staff understand this are are getting this team fundamentally prepared to effectively execute whatever plays they call, which will lead to those plays being successful. 'Creative', gimmicky plays are only necessary if a team is lacking in fundamentals, physicality, or other areas. 'Creative' playcalling led to a -32 turnover margin over the past three years. I'll take good, solid, fundamental football over that garbage any day of the week.


Sat, Aug 20, 2011 : 12:29 p.m.

C'mon, Dave; Do the right thing. Before it's too late' Rehire Our King! waaaaaaayyyyyyyyy too much focus on defense and leather-helmet lunkheadedness


Sat, Aug 20, 2011 : 5:10 p.m.

I believe I hear a broken record skipping ... skipping ... skipping ... "Our King" tried the exclusive focus on offense thing ... didn't work out too well. There was nothing in "Our King's" philosophy that suggested he even thought about defense ... except to the extent it had a bearing on when his beloved offense could get the ball back. So even had "Our King" stayed, we were looking at #50 or lower ranked defenses every year. (At WVU he was lucky -- he had a decent DC ... I credit that DC, not RR.) I don't care how explosive an offense is, you can't win consistently with a poor defense. You just can't. I repeat -- you just can't. No, you can't. You can't. You. Can't.

Terry Star21

Sat, Aug 20, 2011 : 5:03 p.m.

I don't think this is the same Theo from years ago, that person was the leader and number one Michigan Football Faithful on this board. I miss him.

Nic schweigert

Sat, Aug 20, 2011 : 3:16 p.m.

Too much focus on defense? Theo you need to wake up and smell the rotteness your former queen left us. Worst defense in the programs history the past three years. And it didn't start off the worse and got better, it started off bad and got worse. And a lot of good that did to help us win games huh? Ya remember that huge 52-something loss? Ya you think that would have happened with a good defense? Nope. And your queen might still have his job


Sat, Aug 20, 2011 : 12:16 p.m.

Saw in a previous post someone mention being satisfied with a 6-6 record this year. Those days are over (besides, why should we expect one fewer win than last season?). That's why we have a new coaching staff. Our expectations, and theirs, should never be "average." Michigan should start out 5-1, if not 6-0, this year with nothing BUT walk-ons (WMU, ND, EMU, SD State, Minnesota, NW). The last Hoke is going to do is say that the defense has totally turned the corner and to look for huge improvements. Every coach in the country is keeping expectations low right now. The only true gauge for this team comes in November.

Terry Star21

Sat, Aug 20, 2011 : 5:01 p.m.

Good luck to your team burton.

Chad Williams

Sat, Aug 20, 2011 : 5 p.m.

Totally agree burton... I think a lot of fans still believe that michigan means wins automatically. Not anymore reality is that when your strength which is the offense has questions marks coming into the season your not in good shape to win 10 games. The whole we are michigan doesnt me we are going to win. Its a difference between confidence and unearned arrogance. Before RR arrived this school won a half NC in 60 years where as florida won 3 in a 15 year span. They werent among the nations elite on the FIELD just by name.


Sat, Aug 20, 2011 : 12:50 p.m.

You might be referring to me, as I predicted UM will go 6-6 this year. I never said I would be "satisfied" with that record, that's just my prediction. You make some dubious claims:"Michigan should start out 5-1, if not 6-0, this year with nothing BUT walk-ons" Uhhh...huh? Here are the reasons I think UM will go 6-6: 1. It takes time for players to learn new schemes on both sides of the ball. Many of them have playing 3 years of RR's schemes, you don't learn new ones overnight 2. the players are more suited to RR's schemes...smaller, faster guys do not fit Hoke's schemes, especially on the OL and DL 3. talent level is not on par with the elite teams in the B10, and there is very little depth at the OL and DL positions. 4. If Denard Robinson should happen to get injured, his backups are inexperienced. 5. ND, Neb, OSU, MSU, Ill and NU are all games I can see us losing due to the reasons stated above. On what do you base your statement that UM "should" 6-0 to start the year? That they're Michigan and we should "expect" 6-0?


Sat, Aug 20, 2011 : 11:52 a.m.

I like how Hoke and Company are staying mum. I'm sure each week we will see a better Michigan team take the field than what we have in the last 3 years. Don't talk about it, just do it. GO BLUE! Tim!