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Posted on Sun, Dec 18, 2011 : 5:59 a.m.

Michigan football coach Brady Hoke will give his players freedom in New Orleans

By Kyle Meinke


Michigan football coach Brady Hoke says he expects players to police themselves when they visit Bourbon Street and the rest of New Orleans.

New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau

Brady Hoke has coached in eight bowls as an assistant and two more as a head coach.

He's 6-4 in those games and won his only BCS appearance, the 2000 Orange Bowl, when he was a Michigan football assistant.

Now that he's the Wolverines' head coach, there are a few lessons he has learned about bowl preparation. One of those is the importance of allowing the players to police themselves, even in a place with as many distractions as New Orleans.

"There’s obviously a lot of distractions in New Orleans on Bourbon Street and all those things," Hoke said before practice Friday. "We’ve got 18- to 23-year-olds, and how they handle themselves as a team, starting with the leadership of our seniors, is always an important factor when you take 114 or however many we’re taking on the trip.

"And then it’s the focus, and not being distracted by all the pats on the back and the stuff that really is immaterial to how you play in the game."

Michigan finished 10-2 this season, by far the most success any current player has had at the school. It will face No. 11 Virgina Tech in a prime-time Sugar Bowl matchup on Jan. 3 in New Orleans (8:30 p.m., ESPN).

How will players handle their success? And the national stage?

Michigan's only postseason game in the past four years was the Gator Bowl last season, when it was routed by Mississippi State. So, this kind of high-profile game is new ground for them.

Hoke, though, has experience in leading a team that is facing rising expectations. In fact, he said the best bowl prep he's ever been a part of was last year, when he took San Diego State to the Poinsettia Bowl, its first postseason berth in 12 years.

How did the Aztecs react? They jumped to a 14-0 first-quarter lead and coasted past Navy 35-14.

Hoke said the key to placating nerves, as well as not coming out flat after having more than a month between games, is to keep things fresh in bowl practices.

"I think we kept them fresh and at the same time challenged and competed enough with them," Hoke said of last year's bowl practices. "As you look at game planning, I think we got that to them early enough where they could really have a great understanding of it."

Michigan began implementing its bowl game plan Friday, and that will pick up during difficult, fully-padded practices Monday and Tuesday. The team will begin backing off on the intensity Wednesday and Thursday, then have a light practice Friday before breaking for Christmas.

The Wolverines will reconvene in New Orleans on Dec. 28 with a light workout. They will hold the bulk of their practices at Tulane University, and two more will be at the Superdome, site of the game.

The rest of the time, Hoke will give his guys some latitude to enjoy their Big Easy experience.

"It's a great city, and we're excited and all that," he said. "But there's a lot of things for them to do that aren't involved in football.

"You want them to enjoy it. It's a reward as much as it's a chance to compete again. You try to treat them like young men."

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


Squeek Eron

Mon, Dec 19, 2011 : 11:18 p.m.

Enjoy those "Lucky Dogs" boyz, but don't eat more than two a night. Don't wash 'em down with "Hurricanes" either.


Mon, Dec 19, 2011 : 10:36 p.m.

i'm from AA but currently live in NOLA. Hoke better make sure he keeps a close eye on the players when they come down here. especially on new years eve. the french quarter is most commonly known for sex and alcohol. what goes unreported a lot of times is all of the violence that goes on in the quarter. the intersection of canal and bourbon has been the scene of many shootings.


Mon, Dec 19, 2011 : 7:19 p.m.

There is NO doubt this coaching staff and Athletic Department has spent plenty of time telling, not discusing, TELLING these players; your grass and we're the lawn mower. You *censored* up.....WE'RE going to mow you down. You know someone is going to push that envelope, and get themselves in troub'ah. For sake of the team, I hope it isn't a senior or a game changer.... I have this fantasy....UM wins the Suguar Bowl....MS Whoo losses. The insanity of the Spartans will be worth watching and listening too....Baaaahaaa. UM inside the top 10, spanky with four far do they drop......Teeeheeee

Lorain Steelmen

Mon, Dec 19, 2011 : 3:57 p.m.

It all comes down to focus, pure and simple. If the kids can maintain their focus on the reason why they are there, then fine, let them relax and see the local area. If the kids are that easily distracted, then Hoke has the wrong kids. Here's my take. All year long, Hoke has preached that the kids need to respect each other, and that means behaving in a way, that will NOT put the teams chances of winning, at risk....UM will be fine. (It's not like these are Spartans or Buckeyes....there IS a difference.


Mon, Dec 19, 2011 : 4:20 p.m.

+1 ... exactly right.


Mon, Dec 19, 2011 : 3:08 p.m.

New Orleans is such a wonderful city. I hope the team can benefit from a sports point of view and from a cultural one. Use the old Boy Scout method of the "buddy system" to travel about and explore. AND ENJOY!!!


Mon, Dec 19, 2011 : 2:09 p.m.

The OSU- Your assessment is a bit off! I think that Hoke trusts his players as his players trust him! This leads to increased effort on and off the field. I am sure guys will be having fun in both aspects and I am sure (if it is allowed by the team) that some guys will go out to the bars down there. I have no other expectations now than I have during any other bowl game that Michigan has played in that players will be upstanding men. I quite frankly can not think of another situation where Michigan players have gotten in trouble, (besides trivial stuff like missing curfew). I dont remember any bar fights, DUI's, open intox's, MIP's, drug arrests, prostitution stings etc... which I am sure there have been, seeing how Michigan has gone to so many bowl games. None the less I expect Michigan to win this game by quite a bit. I think it could be similar to the Nebraska game. This gives Michigan great momentum into the next season with expectations even higher! Depending on how much Michigan wins by they could end up ranked as high as 5th and low as 10th and going into next season it puts them as a top 10 team. This will also help with recruiting in the final push to February! Garnett has narrowed his schools to 3: Michigan, Stanford, and ND. Diggs has Mich in his top 6. Banner has Mich leading the pack in his top 5. Wright has Mich in his top 3. I have also read rumors that Kiel was favoring Mich for a while after dumping Indiana (dont know if it is true or not). It should be a fun 2 months being a Michigan fan! Go Blue!!!


Mon, Dec 19, 2011 : 4:23 a.m.

Well, a few thoughts here: I was waiting to see how SDSU played in their Bowl Game this year. They shoulda won their game and didn't look close to being as well coached and organized as they were under Hoke last year. They looked like a machine last year, this year they looked mistake prone and not focused. This bodes well for us M Fans, having a coach who will know how to prepare for big games like this. Growing up and watching that 1st decade under Bo in Bowl Games was painful, always close and too conservative and we lost. The 80's started a much better era as we've won more than we've lost in Bowl Games despite mostly playing in the back yard of most of our opponents, many of whom were top 5 caliber teams. I feel we will win this game, agree that the beginning will be close but M will get better as the game wears on. We have Hoke, we have hope, Go Blue!!! P.S. DonAz, thanks for the great job you do buddy, great stats, I really appreciate you as an M fan, happy holidays to you my friend and everyone else as well.


Mon, Dec 19, 2011 : 4:49 a.m.

Hey Mick ... my pleasure. I'm a numbers geek. :-) Go Blue!


Sun, Dec 18, 2011 : 7:22 p.m.

As a Buckeye, decisions such as this reveal Hoke's character and decision-making process. Observation: He's willing to bet all-or-nothing when he feels the need. (This is neither a compliment or criticism, just a neutral statement.) If everything goes smoothly, Blue's players will have enjoyed their trip and that MIGHT transfer into some type of intangible benefit on the field. There won't be any positive PR about the matter because the media never covers "good behavior." (Actually, I hope their aren't any incidents. Thiis year has been a nightmare for college FB and has only been made worse by the episode in Penn State's locker room.) However, if some of Blue's players do "enjoy" the temptations of Bourbon Street or violence occurs (bar fight), then Hoke's decision will come back to haunt him for not keeping his players on a short leash.


Sun, Dec 18, 2011 : 9:13 p.m.

First ... we're in the post season, so all Big 10-ers are brothers. Go Buckeyes. Kick the pants off those arrogant Florida Gators. Ditto to MSU vs. Georgia. Second ... I'll take a slightly different tack on this. I think if some Michigan players do go astray it'll be a perfect teaching moment for Hoke. He's extending his trust and confidence in them to behave like "Michigan Men" ... and if they betray that trust there will be consequences. If it occurs before the game my very strong belief is Hoke will sit 'em down for the game. Even if Denard Robinson (who I doubt very much would fall prey to the temptations of New Orleans), he'll sit him. That's Hoke's message -- there are expectations of wearing the Winged Helmet and choices have consequences. That's exactly the kind of message Hoke is and has been sending, loud and clear. I have enormous faith in Hoke and the principles he espouses. I admire them as well. And I believe with all my heart there's an army of recruits who yearn to embrace the same.


Sun, Dec 18, 2011 : 9:02 p.m.

Very good assessment. I have a feeling he believes this team has character and is letting them know he trusts them to do the right thing. If they do slip up then the team will know they have let their coach down.


Sun, Dec 18, 2011 : 5:20 p.m.

Michigan's players will be fine. I predict we won't see one story about someone missing curfew, or someone getting into a bar fight or being arrested. My guess is the Michigan players are all-business right now. They win the game and there'll be plenty of partying back in Ann Arbor. Ann Arbor bars are every bit as good as Bourbon Street bars. Less touristy-campy.


Sun, Dec 18, 2011 : 4:08 p.m.

Bourbon street. Ouch. I don't know many 20 year olds who could avoid the trouble on that street. You don't have to find temptation- it comes to you. Coach Hoke better be careful. I don't know if he's ever coached a bowl game in the big easy. Go Blue.


Sun, Dec 18, 2011 : 3:34 p.m.

I'm sure Hoke is letting the boys know EXACTLY what he expects in New Orleans. If the first quarter is sloppy, it wont be because they players were out partying, it will be because of the 40 days between the Ohio St game and the bowl game. Only in college football. 40 days between games. I think Alabama will have closer to 50 days before their game with LSU. Almost 2 months between games???????


Sun, Dec 18, 2011 : 7:40 p.m.

must be Big 10 math...


Sun, Dec 18, 2011 : 12:45 p.m.

I think with Burbon Street, and its "distractions", that the Coach better be clear with the players about what is, and is not, permissable.


Sun, Dec 18, 2011 : 4:11 p.m.

But Burbon street is a unique environment. Anyone who has ever been there in their 20's looking back would be cautious.


Sun, Dec 18, 2011 : 3:42 p.m.

If the players don't already know how to properly "represent," it's too late to teach them now.


Sun, Dec 18, 2011 : 2:25 p.m.

Surely, behind closed doors he has said as much about what would be expected of a Michigan player in a BCS bowl.


Sun, Dec 18, 2011 : 12:22 p.m.

Hoke's Sugar Bowl Plan A: Win. Hoke's Sugar Bowl Plan B: Win Convincingly Hoke's Sugar Bowl Plan C: Win Spectacularly Trivia question: What, if anything, does Michigan pay Tulane for the use of their practice facilities? Is there a standard fee for such "favors?" Not So Trivial Questions: What are the relative sizes of the O and D lines on these two teams? What are rankings for the O and D units of these two teams? Who are the best players on each team and what are their stats? What are the relative "difficulty of schedule" ratings for these two teams in 2011?


Sun, Dec 18, 2011 : 9:17 p.m.

I've been digging around for the one tell-tale statistic that will predict this game, and frankly nothing has popped out. But these two stats are sticking in my mind ... Scoring Offense vs. AP Ranked VT - 104th, 6.5 pts/game MI - 23rd, 29.5 pts/game Total Defense vs. AP Ranked VT - 29th, 390.0 yards/game MI - 5th, 296.5 yards/game That's why I think Michigan will ultimately prevail. But a lot depends on (a) preparation, (b) attitude, and (c) mistakes. My sense is we'll learn a lot about Hoke going from his inaugural 10-2 season into his second. And the first taste for that will be this Sugar Bowl. Not so much a victory, per se -- a close fought game that ends in a loss is one thing, a sloppy game where Michigan appears ill-prepared is quite another. But I think Hoke will have his guys ready.


Sun, Dec 18, 2011 : 7:18 p.m.

You're the man Don! I myself, and I'm sure many others on these boards appreciate your researching efforts. I have a good friend who comes over and watches games on Saturdays. He just so happens to be a Va Tech fan first and then Michigan as a close second. I watched a few Hokies games with him so I've seen a little bit of what they are this year. Personally I believe we will win this one by 10 to 14 pts. I believe Michigan is the better team and will settle in from the second qtr on and out play them. The 1st qtr may be dicey for 2 reasons. The first is that Va Tech has players who are used to big stage BCS bowls as Beamer has done very well winning the ACC the last few years and taking them to Orange bowls. The second reason is because I think the Hokies will come out with a lot to prove having been blown out in there last game and hearing nothing but how they don't belong in this game for the last month. When all is said and done though, the Wolverines will settle in and pull away in the 4th qtr.


Sun, Dec 18, 2011 : 5:18 p.m.

Found the depth charts: VT O-line: 312, 307, 290, 281, 282 = average 294.4 VT D-line: 251, 299, 298, 253 = average 275.3 MI O-line: 294, 286, 288, 299, 306 = average 294.6 MI D-line: 255, 299, 283, 267 = average 276.0 Again ... if just weight was the issue then this is a close game.


Sun, Dec 18, 2011 : 5:08 p.m.

Relative sizes of O-line and D-line ... difficult, since I'm not sure who the starters are for Virginia Tech ... I'll keep digging. Rankings of O and D ... the stats above serve as a kind of proxy for that. I'd say on the whole they're relatively evenly matched. Best Players ... again, don't know VT well enough to say. Strength of Schedule ... very subjective (based on what's used in the comparison algorithm) ... one site: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> Michigan = 39th Virginia Tech = 51st


Sun, Dec 18, 2011 : 5:04 p.m.

Total Offense VT - 38th, 415.8 yards/game MI - 36th, 423.1 yards/game Total Offense vs. AP Ranked VT - 75th, 294.0 yards/game MI - 59th, 334.0 yards/game Scoring Offense VT - 55th, 28.5 pts/game MI - 22nd, 34.2 pts/game Scoring Offense vs. AP Ranked VT - 104th, 6.5 pts/game MI - 23rd, 29.5 pts/game Rushing Offense VT - 30th, 189.7 yards/game MI - 11th, 236.7 yards/game Rushing Offense vs. AP Ranked VT - 78th, 94.5 yards/game MI - 32nd, 160.0 yards/game Total Defense VT - 14th, 313.9 yards/game MI - 18th, 317.6 yards/game Total Defense vs. AP Ranked VT - 29th, 390.0 yards/game MI - 5th, 296.5 yards/game Scoring Defense VT - 7th, 17.2 pts/game MI - 7th, 17.2 pts/game Scoring Defense vs. AP Ranked VT - 33rd, 30.5 pts/game MI - 7th, 22.5 pts/game Rushing Defense VT - 17th, 107.8 yards/game MI - 35th, 129.1 yards/game Rushing Defense vs. AP Ranked VT - 44th, 168.0 yards/game MI - 48th, 175.5 yards/game Sacks VT - 6th, 2.92/game MI - 29th, 2.33/game Sacks vs. AP Ranked VT - 63rd, 1.00/game MI - 47th, 1.5/game Sacks Allowed VT - 25th, 1.15/game (15 in 13 games) MI - 25th, 1.25/game (15 in 12 games) Sacks Allowed vs. AP Ranked VT - 54th, 3.0/game MI - 72nd, 4.00 game 3rd Down Offense VT - 23rd, 46% MI - 12th, 48% 3rd Down Offense vs. AP Ranked VT - 69th, 34% MI - 70th, 33% 3rd Down Defense VT - 11th, 32% MI - 29th, 36% 3rd Down Defense vs. AP Ranked VT - 42nd, 42% MI - 23rd, 37%


Sun, Dec 18, 2011 : 3:36 p.m.

Don In AZ may help us with a few Of these answers later today. He's the stats man. : ) What's the verdict Don?

Jim Burdelski

Sun, Dec 18, 2011 : 3:21 p.m.

Freedom in New Orleans? Oh, Oh.