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Posted on Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 5:58 a.m.

Michigan coach Brady Hoke explains why Thomas Gordon didn't play, regrets not getting him on field

By Kyle Meinke

Thomas Gordon is the Michigan football team's second-leading tackler. He's tied for the Big Ten lead with three fumble recoveries and second with two forced fumbles.

And that's after not playing last week.

The sophomore free safety has been terrific this year, but mysteriously did not play a defensive snap in last week's 24-16 loss to Iowa. Coach Brady Hoke explained why during his Monday news conference.


Michigan safety Thomas Gordon (30) brings down San Diego State wide receiver Dylan Denso earlier this season.

Angela J. Cesere |

It's simple: Fifth-year senior Troy Woolfolk, who moved to safety two weeks ago so freshman standout Blake Countess can start at cornerback, had a better week of practice. For Hoke, that was enough to keep Gordon on the bench.

"It all comes down to competition and where guys are," Hoke said. "(Woolfolk) had a better week. They'll compete like heck this week (to determine) who will be the guy."

Woolfolk made six tackles against Iowa, his second start at safety after playing in place of injured starter Jordan Kovacs two weeks ago. With Kovacs returning against the Hawkeyes, though, that left only one space for Woolfolk and Gordon.

Michigan went with Woolfolk, although it was somewhat surprising Gordon didn't get a look for at least a few snaps, especially on a defense that rotates frequently at most positions.

Hoke also indicated last week that Gordon could see time at nickel back. That did not happen.

He later lamented not getting Gordon in the game, at least to keep him sharp.

"I think we should have taken an opportunity to get him in a little bit, and just didn’t for one reason or another," Hoke said. "We just thought Troy was going to start the football game once Jordan came back. We were going to go with those two guys.

"It’s not like Thomas had made some mistakes.”

Hoke said he felt bad for Gordon, but it's also important to feel good for Woolfolk.

"There is no 'game player' -- that's a myth," Hoke said. "If you prepare, and you prepare the way that you're supposed to prepare, then you're going to play well."

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


Wally the Wolverine

Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 5:50 p.m.

I guess competing for playing time is good up to a point - like in the nonconference schedule. For defensive continuity sake, don't sit your starters unless they're injured or are getting schooled during the game. Leaving one of your leading tacklers on the bench seems just a little arbitrary and stubborn. How much you wanna bet Gordon gets the start this week even if so-and-so has a better week of practice?


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 5:02 p.m.

This answer from hoke sounds like BS to me. This is the kind of crap that causes 6 kids to leave the program early.


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 4:39 p.m.

The improvement on defense is amazing. Yet we'll likely finish with only 7 wins since the offense is like a LLoyd Carr offense on tranquilizers. Why not just have Denard wear 20 pound boots if Michigan has no willingness to use him in the "Nascar" offense until it's too late? I like what Hoke said about "winning now", but you have to coach the players you got. Don't sacrifice what's left of the season to the future. Morris doesn't arrive until 2013. Robinson and Gardner are what Michigan has for the next few years. What's that quote..'a foolish consistency is the sign of a humdrum mind". Don't be consistent to an offensive style you don't have the tools to run. I love the way Muhammad Ali fought but if I run into Mike Tyson in a dark alley I run. We lost to Iowa because of coaching on the offensive side of the ball.


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 2:40 p.m.

anyone see a problem that a safety is 2nd on the teams in tackles while only playing 8 of 9 games??????


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 4:39 p.m.

Anyone see a problem when Denard is afraid to run all game long?


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 2:18 p.m.

Our offense sucks really bad. Can we call RichRod in to run the offense/

Lorain Steelmen

Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 5:36 p.m.

BigSky..I think we actuallly agree on more than we disagree. Borges can't 'leave money on the table', and I think to a certain extent he is doing just that, if he reigns Robinson in. I understand the desire to make him a more of a 'pocket QB', just to keep him healthy. I'm just thinking DRob, needs to 'tuck it and go', when he sees an opportunity. I give you both Smith, and Pryor at osu, as recent examples, of 'game breakers'. On the other side of the ledger, Mattison's defense, given a injured Demens at Mike LB, and freshmen LB's, on the ends, just could NOT get off the field. There were not any turnovers, as we have seen earlier in the season. What bothers me as much as anything about that, is that Iowa was not fooling anybody. They are pretty vanilla in what they are doing, yet our D failed. I've always respected Ferentz as a coach, but even he, doesn't have the horses this year, that he has had recently. Frankly, I'm still 'bummed out', from saturday.


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 11:13 p.m.

@Lorain, You usually have such great insight and good posts, but this one is not one of them. I may be reading/understanding you wrong, but Borges is not "yielding" any points nor allowing any points. That is on Mattison. While I do wish Borges would do some things differently, I believe he is doing a good job. I would like to see some passes actually go to Denard when they bring in Gardner. What would that do to the opposing defenses? Is he just going to be a decoy, is he going to get the hand-off, is he going to run a slant? Hit him in stride with a linebacker trying to cover, I would like to see what would happen with that. The one thing that I like that Borges is doing is, for the most part, keeping Denard healthy. How many B1G games last year did Denard start and finish without coming out for one reason or another? I like the fact that Denard is running less in the beginning, that leaves him available for magic in the later part of the game. While the last 4 games will be a challenge, I do like our chances. So far Michigan has been in every game and if you're close, who knows what could happen. I remember last year, so many B1G games that they weren't even in the game anymore towards the end. Heads up everyone. Bowl eligible for 2 years now. A defense that has made great strides. An offense that can drive you crazy sometimes, but at others, making amazing plays. Coaches who, at the very least, are saying all the right things which gives me confidence that the team is pointed in the right direction. Go Blue!


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 4:42 p.m.

I agree. The offense was horrible. Borges might as well put Denard's legs in shackles and chains.


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 3:39 p.m.

122-40. In a real conference. 19-8 vs. Top 10 teams. That's the type of football we're trying to get back to. Unfortunatley it's taking some time because of what your guy did to the program. Go troll somewhere else.

Lorain Steelmen

Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 3:08 p.m.

Rich Rod is gone, and he ain't comin' back. We all knew the offense would deteriorate. I have SERIOUS reservations regarding Borges, but thats' why Hoke gets the big bucks. In the end, if Hoke makes the wrong decision on Borges, he'll suffer the same fate that RR suffered, when RR mis-played the defensive co-ordinator Greg Robinson. The Um defesne played 'OK', on sturday, but could NOT get off the field. In big games, yielding 24 points is NOT good enough to win. Don't look now, but there are four 'big' games remaining. And unless Borges has a 'change of heart', 24 points allowed, will get us 0-4, the rest of the way.


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 2:40 p.m.

The same offense that was 6-18 against B1G teams? Perish the thought.


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 1:57 p.m.

" was somewhat surprising Gordon didn't get a look for at least a few snaps, especially on a defense that rotates frequently at most positions." That's the issue. You mean to tell me that Woolfolk wouldn't have benefited from a rest every now and then? Bring in a fresh set of experienced legs and see what he can do. Everybody else, even Mike Martin, comes out for a play or two every now and then. Leaving Gordon on the bench seems a coaching oversight.


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 1:24 p.m.

That's the way you have to run a team. No guaranteed positions, you have to earn it every week. I was puzzled that Gordon didn't get any snaps at all though. I thought it was disciplinary at first. It's good that it was clarified.