October 8, 2012

Borton's Blog: Practicing perfection

Brady Hoke insists he doesn't know if Michigan's bye falling between the non-conference and conference schedules was good or not. He does know he liked what he saw immediately afterward.

That's not even including the 44-13 romp at Purdue, complete with more than 300 yards rushing, no interceptions, and a defensive effort looking more and more proficient with every snap.

Hoke loved the way Michigan prepared for that game. You could hear it in his voice during the week of preparation. You could hear it in his post-game assessment, and during his Monday rehash of the weekend.

He puts a lot on getting ready to play, and Michigan looked as ready as diet-ender awaiting a pizza delivery. Veteran defensive end Craig Roh insisted the Wolverines knew what was coming on almost every snap in West Lafayette, from personnel and alignments.

Nose tackle Will Campbell assured that he and his teammates were ready for anything Purdue offered. And it showed.

"We practiced well for the week," Hoke acknowledged. "We prepared well. I liked how our guys came to work every day, and we need to continue to do that.

"We know we're in a championship game every Saturday. So our mentality and our attitude needs to reflect that by our actions in practice. We had a good day yesterday, and hopefully, we can continue that."

It's easier, given the results, and maybe given the break in the schedule. Even then, teams sometimes slow up a half step with some time off.

That didn't happen in this case, Hoke insisted.

"When you like a practice, you like it for different reasons," Hoke mused. "I like it for assignment, execution and effort. We may be bad fundamentally - not step with the right foot, or something like that - but when they're playing with great effort, and they're playing with the toughness that goes along with it, and they're competing, and then the speed and tempo of how we're playing…

"I know we didn't lose the speed, and we may have gained some speed that we want to play with."

There are tougher weeks, and opponents, ahead. Younger players can sometimes hit the wall at around eight or nine weeks in.

But Hoke and his coaches will keep pushing, and see where it leads. Right now, he's got everybody on board, including Campbell, who insisted the readiness to hit the field is what he likes the best of anything right now.

"It's our preparation during the week," Campbell said. "We're communicating, watching our film, doing everything together. We know what's coming. We know what to expect, when we get out in our stance. That's the best part about what's helping us - our preparation and how we've been practicing."

Luck is the residue of design, Branch Rickey once said. Michigan is planning on becoming one very lucky team over the next seven weeks.

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