October 8, 2012

Hoke liked effort from the start

Brady Hoke couldn't have imagined a better beginning to a football game: a defensive three-and-out, followed by a 17-play touchdown drive. That led to a solid afternoon of football, and an upbeat (if not satisfied) head coach on Monday.

"We're very pleased with the win," Hoke acknowledged, referencing the 44-13 blowout at Purdue. "It's great to win on the road, obviously. You look at this league on the road, and it's a tough place to play. We set a tone early, defensively, with the three-and-out. Offensively, a 17-play drive, almost nine minutes, really was what we needed to do.

"We play very good defense watching our offense out there on the field. That's a good deal."

Hoke watched his defense limit a team to 13 points for the third consecutive game, the last two on the road. He's liking what he's seeing in many ways, although he stressed the need for getting better pressure on quarterbacks, even to the point of potentially changing personnel groups in obvious passing situations.

One defensive player who has taken a step up is fifth-year senior middle linebacker Kenny Demens, Hoke noted. Demens appeared to be fighting for his job at times in non-conference play, with true freshman Joe Bolden seeing extensive time.

Demens remained front and center in Michigan's Big Ten opener, and Hoke stressed that he was ready to do so.

"He's played better football," Hoke said. "He's prepared better. That competition there, and having two guys … Joe has enough snap experience now that you feel good about when he's in the game also. It's great competition, and the mentality that Kenny's had … his preparation has been good."

The head coach also acknowledged what Michigan's defensive line is accomplishing in front of the linebackers has assisted in Michigan's success.

"It does help," Hoke noted. "Again, you've got some significant guys who have gotten real snaps, where they haven't had near as many before. There is a learning that they go through. I think it's better, and I think it helps. We're playing a little tighter on the offensive linemen, which means we're getting hands on a little more. That keeps the linebackers a little more clear."

Looking ahead, Hoke insisted Illinois is better than its 0-2 start to Big Ten play might indicate. He said healed up Illini quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase can make a real difference for the visitors.

"From a defensive standpoint, Scheelhaase is a guy that can be very dangerous," Hoke said. "He's very effective running the football. He's healthy. I don't think he was healthy earlier in the year. They played well deep into that game up in Wisconsin.

"Their defense is leading the league in third-down defense, which means they're getting offenses off the field. They've got playmakers - [linebacker Jonathan] Brown and [defensive lineman Michael] Buchanan are two of the playmakers. They've got a lot of weapons."

•••NOTEBOOK•••

• Hoke wasn't pleased with Michigan's kick coverage team against the Boilermakers. Nor was he satisfied with Michigan's kickoffs themselves at all times.

"The kickoff coverage wasn't good at all," he said. "We missed nine tackles, and we hit two kicks poorly, from a kicker's standpoint. When you miss nine tackles … the negative to that is, all of them but one are defensive players on that team. [Amara] Darboh is the only offensive player on the team.

"We've got to do a better job of running through guys. Too many guys reaching, and not enough guys running through tackles."

• Hoke has constantly stressed maturity with senior quarterback Denard Robinson, and certainly liked most of what he saw against Purdue. Robinson stepped out of bounds on long runs, rather than taking big hits, and didn't force difficult throws into traffic.

"Denard throwing the ball out of bounds on a critical third down - he's a competitor, and he wants to make something happen on every play," Hoke said. "But I thought that was really well done.

"Coach [Al] Borges' plan was what we wanted to do. It was a good plan and well executed."


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