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Posted on Sun, Jul 29, 2012 : 5:58 a.m.

Brady Hoke unaffected by rising expectations for Michigan football team

By Kyle Meinke


Michigan football coach Brady Hoke addresses reporters Thursday near the Big Ten championship trophy he hopes to win in December.

Associated Press

CHICAGO -- The Michigan football team shocked the country last season, when it won 11 games and a Sugar Bowl title. But the Wolverines' return to national relevance brings with it a challenge they haven't faced in five years.


The Wolverines went 11-2 in coach Brady Hoke's debut season. With star senior quarterback Denard Robinson among the 15 starters who return from that squad, big things are expected this year.

Michigan was named the favorite to win the Big Ten championship in a recent media poll -- a nod of respect to the once-troubled program. What does Hoke think of it?

"Not much," he said this week at the Big Ten media days in Chicago. "I think we were picked fifth in our division a year ago. I think the 1997 team, I think preseason 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."

Hoke is facing the highest expectations of his career. At his first head coaching stop, he guided Ball State from the Mid-American Conference cellar to a 12-win season in 2008, but left for San Diego State before the bowl game.

He then guided the Aztecs from a 4-8 season in 2009 to 9-4 in 2010, the program's best record in 33 years, but promptly left for Michigan.

Like his previous two stops, Hook inherited a ravaged program and turned it into a winner. Now, though, he must protect it.

What changes in his approach?

"Nothing," Hoke said. "We're going to prepare how we always prepare. Everything else, that's for the media to talk about, that's for fans -- God bless 'em -- to talk about. But we're going to be physical, and we're going to be tough, and we're going to prepare every day to be physical and tough."

Michigan itself hasn't faced these kinds of expectations since 2007, the final season of the Lloyd Carr era. The former coach retired after that season, and was succeeded by Rich Rodriguez, whose tenure was a disaster.

Rodriguez went 3-9 in his first year, the worst record in program history, and was fired after his third season. Hoke replaced him in 2011, and expectations were tempered as the Wolverines, coming off the worst defensive season in school history, installed new schemes on both sides of the ball.

But Michigan proved to be ahead of the curve, winning games against rivals Notre Dame and Ohio State en route to the Sugar Bowl. It won that game 23-20 in overtime to punctuate its rebirth on the national stage.

Yet, it wasn't enough for Hoke, who adopted a Big-Ten-title-or-bust mantra in the preseason and never backed off it, even after exceeding everyone's expectations but his own.

"(The program is) never going to be where I want it to be -- ever," he said. "That’s just the expectations. You can't be satisfied with any part of it.

"That’s the way I think, and that’s the way we think."

The Wolverines aren't starting from scratch in their pursuit of that hardware. They will be one of the Big Ten's most experienced teams, a group that is led by the record-setting Robinson.

The defensive back seven remains intact, and 1,000-yard rusher Fitz Toussaint returns after a breakout sophomore year.

But there are challenges as well, including the recent suspension of Toussaint following an arrest last week for operating a vehicle while intoxicated. His status for the opener against Alabama is unknown, and he has yet to be cleared to practice when Michigan opens its preseason camp next week.

Michigan also has sustained five of its seven losses along its lines, positions that were devoid of depth anyway, and that concerns Hoke.

"Believe me, we’re a long way from being any good -- I can tell you that," Hoke said. "I thought we’ve done some good things in improving and those kinds of things, but I think we’re a long way (from) being the Michigan team that we have the expectations to be."

For Hoke, it's not good enough for Michigan just to be favored to win a Big Ten championship. He wants the real thing.

His players echo that sentiment.

"We want to be the Big Ten champs -- so now, we got to train to be the Big Ten champs, and we got to prepare to be the Big Ten champs," Robinson said. "We got to watch film to be the Big Ten champs.

"We're not the Big Ten champs, are we? We didn't win the title last year, so we still hungry."

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


Steve McQueen

Tue, Jul 31, 2012 : 11:13 a.m.

BTW for you Ohio, SEC and Sparty trolls who like to come by here and make fools of yourselves> Brady Hoke is 36-15 over the past 4 seasons, turning around 3 programs during that time, winning 2 bowls games, one of which was a BCS. By any standard...that is a fantastic run in college football and one that makes Brady one of the top CURRENT Head Coaches in college football today. and you know it.

Steve McQueen

Tue, Jul 31, 2012 : 11:04 a.m.

I would like to thank Rich Rodriguez for a few things that he did, which benefited Michigan football. First the Mealer family situation, with Brock and Elliot was handled first class by RR and his staff and now with Brandy and his staff. Im certainly pulling for number 57 to win that starting spot this senior year. Number two is Jordan Kovacs. Man that kid is tough. Thanks for taking him on as a walk on RR... then again, if it wasnt for your horrible defenses, he wouldnt have had to be thrown in there in his second game... lol...but that says more about your coaching RR... giving Kovacs a chance was your biggest contribution to the defense. Thank you RR. And finally there is Denard...what can you say about Denard that has not been written. A fantastic kid, lights out on the field, electrifying and one of the most defining college football players of the past 5 years in his era. Years from now, when people are talking college football of any era, the names will come up... and Denards name will be mentioned right up there. So thanks to RR for those couple things... but then again, Talent at Michigan is not some new phenomenon. For example, Glenn E. "Bo" Schembechler walked in to a situation in 1969 the year of my birth, and found himself stocked with future college all Americans such as Dan Dierdorf and Jim Mandich....thanks to Coach Elliot for leaving those top players behind....but anyway that is how it goes at Michigan...there is always great talent...but it takes a special Head Coach to pull it out on of those players on the field.


Sun, Jul 29, 2012 : 11:24 p.m.

There are always expectations at UM... realistic and unrealistic. I think most fans see the vulnerabilities in this team... wide receiver, defensive line and lack of depth on the offensive line. There is now also an issue at running back due to stupid decision making. Everything went right for Michigan last year at ND, VA TECH, etc. That might not happen this year.

Billy Bob Schwartz

Mon, Jul 30, 2012 : 1:57 a.m.

Woulda coulda shoulds, little bro. And if only......... Any other sweet little hypotheticals?


Mon, Jul 30, 2012 : 12:46 a.m.

Everything went right for MSU in 2010. The Spartans were a better team in 2011. They will be better yet in 2012. 26-6 in Big 10 play 2008-11 is BY FAR the best record in the BIG! Had Mike Hart not put your team on his shoulders to score 14 late, unanswered points in 2007 Dantonio would be a perfect 5-0. Your team hasn't shown any heart since. There is no threat!

Howard the Duck

Sun, Jul 29, 2012 : 4:48 p.m.

That's as close as Hoke will get to that trophy. Might as well go find the buffet table!


Sun, Jul 29, 2012 : 5:33 p.m.

Glad to see yet another lil brother troll that can't find anything interesting on the Spartan blog comes over to be the fly in the ointment on a Wolverine story. Don't worry Ducky, Michigan will show little brother how NOT to CHOKE in a B1G Championship game. No one ever accused Sparty of playing with discilpine so I'm sure no one was surprised when your special teams clown runs into the punter allowing Wisconsin to run out the clock and carry off that trophy that the B1G Coach of the Year is standing next to.


Sun, Jul 29, 2012 : 3:46 p.m.

I like this coach, the way he stresses fundamentals, his 'never satisfied' attitude, and the way he deals with the media (cagey and few words). Go Blue! Hail!


Sun, Jul 29, 2012 : 2:02 p.m.

Both BTN "experts" are picking UW and MSU to win their divisions. Last year one picked UNL and UW; the other picked MSU and UW. Not that it matters. Just sayin' MSU will do it's talking on the field on October 20th. BTN ran a replay of the October 15th massacre last night. MSU's defense was faster and FAR MORE ATHLETIC than the UM offense. Where are the athletes coming from in 2012 that will offset this HUGE MSU advantage? Rising expectations that! There is no threat!

Steve McQueen

Tue, Jul 31, 2012 : 6:36 a.m.

Thugston got owned by Taylor Lewan last year and all we saw from him were cheap shots...cause that is all he could get off. Look for that to happen again, x 11. Your team is going to be horrible this year. Mark it down.

Billy Bob Schwartz

Mon, Jul 30, 2012 : 1:54 a.m.

Tom...7718 and SEC are looking for some other kids to play with them. Maybe you should see them and find a time to get together. See you on the field. GO BLUE!


Mon, Jul 30, 2012 : 12:42 a.m.

AZ - Funny. UM is 34-26-2 vs. MSU during the post leather helmet era. Choke vs. the BADgers? Hardly. I'll settle for an aggressive special teams play as MSU has had PHENOMENAL special teams plays that have won 7 games over the past 2 seasons. ND, UW, Northwestern and Purdue in 2010. UW, Northwestern and UGA in 2011. Got a little Spartan envy, huh? There is no threat. Your team will fall on it's face in 2012. Why not answer the questions. Where are the athletes going to come from for Big Albert's offense to gain advantage vs. the OUTSTANDING MSU "D"? Where's the threat?


Sun, Jul 29, 2012 : 5:50 p.m.

Tom, Do you also troll Minnesota's blogs? Indiana's? How about Purdue's? I'll answer that for you. No. The reason you don't is because they are irrelevant...they are not a "threat." Why do you troll Michigan's site, then? I'll answer that for you as well: because Michigan IS a threat. Michigan is THE threat. MSU's 4 year blip is about to end and Michigan will put their foot on MSU's throat and crush them the way they've crushed them for all but the RR years of my lifetime. Where's the threat? At Michigan. And your constant presence proves that you know it good and well.


Sun, Jul 29, 2012 : 5:26 p.m.

It's so cute when little brother trolls, that have nothing better to do with their time than go to a Wolverine blog, pound their fist on the table to demand some respect for his beloved Spartans, that they feel everyone is ignoring. You hang in there Tommy boy.....someday your Spartans will be....wait, no they won't.....never mind. GO BLUE!!


Sun, Jul 29, 2012 : 2:40 p.m.

For a team that you say will do its talking on Oct 20th, you seem to have a lot to say on this website! A lot of unreasonable things at that.

Michael Gatto

Sun, Jul 29, 2012 : 2:37 p.m.

Gee, MSU fanboy thinks MSU is great..filing under "Why did i bother to read this?"


Sun, Jul 29, 2012 : 11:42 a.m.

Kyle, you say he took over a ravaged program here. The team had a winning season before he took over as coach and had an awful lot of returning starters ,as he does again this year. I believe the program was turning around before Hoke got here. Hoke has had better success in year two of his previous stops, I don't think anyone expects him to do the same here at Michigan, it will be difficult to match that. Last year also might turn out to be his best season ever at Michigan. We'll all have to just sit back and see how it unfolds.

Steve McQueen

Tue, Jul 31, 2012 : 6:33 a.m.

7718...beg to differ. The team that Coach Hoke rebuild, had just come off of major blowout losses vs the 6th place SEC West team... Ohio and Wisky... the program was in disarray...the defense was worse than Pop Warner ball. Just call it like it was man, its OK.


Tue, Jul 31, 2012 : 12:22 a.m.

You're going to need a bucket for that cold water you're throwing on us. Otherwise, you could become all wet.

Billy Bob Schwartz

Mon, Jul 30, 2012 : 1:52 a.m.

7718 and SEC...Why don't you little guys go off now and play with your own folks and let us tend to our own business? Have a nice day, and GO BLUE!


Sun, Jul 29, 2012 : 8:11 p.m.

@Tom...actually, he's a 0.527 head coach :-) although he has had a whopping 4 winning seasons as head coach. Of course, that's out of 10.


Sun, Jul 29, 2012 : 6:16 p.m.

Az, no factual basis of turning the program around? Each year the team got more wins. Did you really expect Nick Sheridan to carry that team to a Big 10 title? Did you expect a true freshman in Tate to carry them to a title? Those teams were almost all first year starters. Carr saw the writing on the wall and he got out, if Hoke has been such a great coach, then why didn't they hire I'm 4 years ago? He stepped into a perfect situation...a team loaded with returning players, a forgiving schedule, and an AD who will pay whatever it takes to get assistant coaches. You'll never convince me that experience doesn't matter playing Big 10 football. I'll take a team with returning starters over a group of kids right out of high school any day.


Sun, Jul 29, 2012 : 5:43 p.m.

From worst defense in program history to a top 10 defense in one year? That's coaching, 7718. Based on the regression of the defense EVERY YEAR of the RR era, there is no factual basis for saying "the program was turning around." You can't win without defense, and under RR, there was no defense and the only trend is that it was getting worse. Further, being unable to score against top foes (24 points in 3 years vs. OSU), unable to get tough yards (see: goal line against Illinois, five 4th and 1's against Miss St.), as well as no diversity to offense (see Miss St quotes BEFORE bowl game - said if they stop DR they stop UM offense, then proceeded to do it). Yeah, 7718...there were some good players here. They were just poorly coached and publicly criticized by the coach as being inadequate (see Brendan Gibbons). Hoke and his staff, as well as a group of players who finally got some proper guidance, are wholly responsible for digging UM out of the hole dug by RR. By the way, nursing a hangover or not, they will be far more ready than any of RR's teams.


Sun, Jul 29, 2012 : 2:45 p.m.

Burton163, will your team be ready to play while nursing a hangover?


Sun, Jul 29, 2012 : 2:38 p.m.

Rich Rod never really won the respect of the Michigan fan base, which is significant. Hoke has, for the most part, done just that. And only lost 2 games last year.


Sun, Jul 29, 2012 : 2:28 p.m.

Lol! Well said Burton! And tell me Tom, what has RR won that Hoke hasn't?


Sun, Jul 29, 2012 : 2:04 p.m.

Brady Hoke is a .500 head coach. He has never won anything that matters. DickRod has.


Sun, Jul 29, 2012 : 12:18 p.m.

Thank you for your comment, Coach Rodriguez. Let's see if Brady's team makes it to the Rose Bowl before yours does...