December 3, 2012

Hoke: Gamecocks are a big test

Brady Hoke knows the task won't be easy, when it comes time to take on South Carolina and head coach Steve Spurrier in the Outback Bowl. Hoke addressed that challenge today.

"It's an opportunity to play a very good football team in South Carolina," Hoke said. "They're 10-2, and Coach Spurrier is one of the iconic coaches in this country. He's laid a great foundation and has done a great job at South Carolina. He really did a great job in Florida, when he was the head ball coach down there.

"It's going to be a great football game, one that we're excited to be a part of, against a great opponent."

Any team that plays defense has Hoke's attention, and the Gamecocks certainly fit the bill there.

"I know they've got a really good front, from a defensive perspective," Hoke said. "They gave up 17 points a game. They're very athletic. They lost at Florida and at LSU. Their two losses were on the road against two pretty good football teams."

The Gamecocks lost star running back Marcus Lattimore to a dislocated knee against Tennessee, but still have some weapons, Hoke cautioned.

"Offensively, the quarterback has done a nice job," Hoke said. "Coach is a hard guy to please at that position. Obviously, Lattimore won't play, and that's a shame. He's one of the great football players in this country."

It's a bit far down the road to get a scouting report from Jon Hoke, Brady's brother, who served as Spurrier's defensive coordinator his last three years at Florida. But the Michigan coach noted that both Spurrier and his wife are nice people.

"They treated my brother well - he and Jon talk back and forth," Hoke said. "It will be a fun football game to be a part of."

Certainly, one of the biggest individual match-ups in the game features Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year Taylor Lewan, Michigan's redshirt junior left tackle, and South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. Hoke will simply advise Lewan to embrace the moment.

"If you're truly a competitor, I think it would be a tremendous, fun opportunity," Hoke said.

•••NOTEBOOK•••

• A Michigan athletic department representative announced prior to Hoke's entrance that junior fullback Stephen Hopkins has left the football program. Hoke responded to one inquiry about why, noting that question is best directed to Hopkins. Hoke then ignored, for the most part, attempts at follow-ups.

• Hoke acknowledged that junior quarterback Devin Gardner came out of the Ohio State game with "a little bit of an ankle [injury]," but insisted Gardner will be fine when the Wolverines begin workouts on Friday.

• Michigan will leave for Tampa on Dec. 23. Hoke noted the Wolverines will have most of their game-planning for the Outback Bowl completed by then.

"That's always a positive," he said. "We'll judge where we're at from health, from the mindset of where we are and what we'll do.

"We're going [to practice] Friday-Saturday this weekend and Friday-Saturday next weekend. We've got finals coming up. Those will be more of the fundamentals, the basics, kind of getting back to it for everyone. We'll use a lot of that time to help develop those young guys.

"As we go through the bowl practices, we'll devote some time to those young guys and what we want to get accomplished."

• Hoke noted he doesn't think teams get tangibly rewarded for playing tough schedules like the one Michigan fought through this season. At the same time, the Wolverines gained much from the experience, he insisted.

"I think there's always a benefit when you play good football teams, whether you win or lose," Hoke said. "You learn how you have to play. You learn we've got to do a better job of taking care of the football. You've got to run the football better. You've got to get the ball back for your offense at the end of the game to give them an opportunity to score.

"Those are all things you take out of the last game, that we didn't do."


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