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November 27, 2013
News and Views: Hoke talks The Game
Another week, another good Tuesday of practice. Head coach Brady Hoke said his team doesn't feel like the underdog against Ohio State Saturday despite the Buckeyes' 11-0 record against U-M's 7-4.
Here are Hoke's comments and our reactions:
News: Linebackers Desmond Morgan and James Ross, as well as quarterback Devin Gardner, are expected to play after suffering injuries against Iowa.
Hoke: "Desmond was out running around, Ross was out there, Devin Gardner was out there throwing the football the whole practice. We all know what this week is, a great week to be a coach or play at the University of Michigan. They're doing everything. Des, I was more concerned with him and James than anybody, but he did a nice job."
Views: Ben Gedeon did a "nice job" in place of Morgan and he and Joe Bolden tackled well, Hoke said, but this defense absolutely needs Morgan and Ross to have a chance to upset Ohio State. The defense is going to have to hold OSU in check and the offense play above its head in order to win.
Hoke has said he expected guys to play on Saturday that haven't, but we expect all of them to go. This is "The Game," after all.
News: Michigan has lost momentum as a program with a tougher than expected season, including on the recruiting trail. This is a chance to get some of it back.
Hoke: "Any time you win you gain momentum. This couldn't be a better week because this week is such a great rivalry game. Your practices are always, that I can remember, a lot of competition and energy, a lot of fun because of the game. We've got 18 seniors that will play their last game up in that great stadium. We want to honor those guys with how we prepare and how we play."
Views: Win out and you finish strongly and not have to worry about a tumultuous offseason, bogus rumors about Hoke's job security, etc. Lose and it's a long offseason of worrying about a critical 2014 season with a brutal schedule.
You win with elite talents like Jabrill Peppers, etc. surrounded by very good players. Without those players the ceiling is lower, which it shouldn't be at a place like Michigan (and Hoke would be the first to say it). There's still plenty of young talent, so there's plenty to work with. The sooner they get it turned around, though, the better. The first opportunity comes Saturday.
News: Kyle Kalis and Erik Magnuson will get the starts at guard again this week.
Hoke: "Kyle responded and worked on technique, fundamentals better. He got to watch a little bit, and sometimes that's important. His work ethic, his personal pride, instead of feeling sorry for himself, which is easy - that's human nature. He went back to work.
"You measure it by production. Has he been more productive, yes. Is his technique better, yes."
Views: Remember, this is the guy who said "there will be blood, and it won't be mine" when OSU fans turned on him after he committed to Michigan. This is the kind of game in which he should thrive. Effort certainly won't be a problem, but it will be about concentration - not just for him, but all of the linemen - in picking up blitzes, etc.
"Guys get nervous, know what their set is but overset, which all of a sudden puts their body out of positions. The posture you need to play with at a lot of positions has to try and be the same. It's all fundamentals, reps and technique. I think you see that, combo blocks on the run being much more solid, movement."
It will all need to be even better than it's been for the Wolverines to move the ball consistently Saturday.
News: Derrick Green will get the first snaps Saturday.
Hoke: "Depending on the personnel group, he will be the first guy. Fitz [Toussaint] and De'Veon [Smith] will both play."
Views: Toussaint will get plenty of carries, though, as an Ohio senior in his last game. It wouldn't surprise if he got most of them.
And it would be great to see him factor into the passing game, as well.
News: Devin Gardner blamed himself for the loss at Iowa.
Hoke: No. 1, he's not alone out there. We took 70 guys on that trip. Eveybody's got a piece of it. Do you like a guy who feels personal about it yeah. At the same time, you've got to show him all the good things he's done, what he did in that game, what he's doing throughout this season. Emphasize those things, correct the things we didn't do as well.
"Yesterday, shoot, the first play, a throw, the timing of the route, his footwork, a little bit of pressure in his face, he did a good job stepping through it. Here, on State Street, it is really good."
Views: Gardner hasn't been perfect. Far from it. But there are times he's been the only reason the Wolverines have had a shot on offense, the way Denard Robinson was at times.
It will take a monumental game (Notre Dame-esque) from Gardner to win Saturday. He's got it in him, but he's not the same quarterback he was then. He's a bit shell-shocked.
News: Ohio State enters 11-0 Saturday.
Hoke: "Carlos Hyde, four veteran offensive linemen, seniors that played a lot of football. It's Ohio. They have talent like they should.
"Hyde is a force. Braxton Miller runs the whole show, but Hyde is the one you have to stop. They will take shots early down the field. Tempo will be what it will be early. We have to hang in defensively, get used to the speed, which is a little different. You can't simulate it. You've got to do a good job kind of playing catchup a little that first series or two with the speed things will happen."
Views: This will be the best team the Wolverines have played this year, by far. They get them at home, which helps, but they'll have to watch for the double moves on the deep routes (Michigan has given up way too many big passing plays against the Buckeyes over the past several years) and, somehow, stop the run.
But OSU is not unbeatable. A good start gives Michigan a chance to gain some confidence and make a game of it. This one will be closer than many people expect.