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July 28, 2014

News and Views: Hoke on Peppers, O-line and more

Michigan head coach Brady Hoke isn't feeling any pressure heading into his fourth year as U-M's head coach, he said Monday from Chicago at Big Ten Media Days. Hoke touched on a number of topics during his 15-minute session.

News: Freshman defensive back Jabrill Peppers might get a look at a number of positions (including offense), but the game plan hasn't changed with him.

Brady Hoke: "The plan hasn't changed. He will start competing at [nickel back]. We have to be careful about anointing freshmen. Let's anoint him when he does something, right? Let's see what he can do."

Views: By all early accounts, Peppers might well deserve it sooner than later. He's a freakish athlete with the potential to be a once-in-a-decade player who could play safety or corner. He's also posted pictures of his body's transformation in the last four weeks, and he's much more cut than he was (saying something).

SEC coaches have called Peppers the best player to come out of New Jersey in years. He should be a special one. That said, even Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson wasn't "Charles Woodson" in his first year wearing the winged helmet.

That said, we still expect an immediate impact. We just don't expect to hear much from him since Hoke said he'd be shielded from the media.

News The Michigan roster is now comprised almost fully of players Hoke and his staff recruited.

Hoke: "With hard work, a foundation has been laid over the last three years. The depth on this football team is there, and competitiveness is as good as I've been around.

"We had a very good year in 2011. We played in the Sugar Bowl. But because of depth, Mike Martin played 82 plays as a nose tackle. I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy, because that's playing a lot of snaps and that's taking a lot of hits. But if it was today, Mike Martin would play 50 plays. So that's what we have now."

Views: And now it's time to win.

People don't want to hear it (neither do we), but it's fact - the Wolverines are still young up front on the offensive line and might be short an experienced different maker or two. But they also play in a conference in which they have more talent than most teams on the schedule.

They need to play better on the road - like a Michigan team should, with a chip that they're going to take over the stadium - and regain control of the MSU series, and win their share against Ohio State.

Regardless, Hoke is not on the hot seat, and A.D. David Brandon said as much in a Detroit News interview today. Nor should he be despite last year's troubles. A coaching carousel is the last thing the program needs, and there have been plenty of positives, especially on the recruiting trail.

"I'm not troubled. I have a high level of confidence that the pieces are being put together for this program to be what we all want it to be," Brandon said. "I have to be patient because I know what's involved. I know what was here when coach Hoke arrived, in terms of how we needed to change.

We needed to get bigger. We went from one style (the spread offense under Rich Rodriguez) to a different style. You'd like to think you can snap your fingers and make that happen, but it takes time. So on the one hand, I have to be patient because I realistically know it takes some time, but on the other hand, I'm as impatient as anybody.

"I want to win, and my expectations haven't changed one iota. We want to be in that game in Indianapolis, we want to be competing for that championship. We have unfinished business and that's to get this program back where we want it. I'm confident that's going to happen.

And he doesn't plan to apply more pressure. It's not good for the team's psyche and it's not good for recruiting, which is obviously still going strong. There's no "must win so many games," he said.

"Every football coach in America lives under enormous pressure, so I don't need to apply any more," Brandon said. "We're the winningest program in the history of college football, we know what the expectations of our fan base is. Nobody has to tell Brady that. And I have all the confidence in the world that he's bringing in the right kids and that he continues to do the right thing in terms of getting his staff lined up. I'm convinced we're heading to a very, very good place."

It's time to show it, but the pieces are all in place, with one question mark - who are the upperclassman leaders on offense? We'll find out soon enough.

News: The offensive line still has its share of question marks and the competition won't be settled until midway through camp.

Hoke: "We'll start with a lineup we've come out of spring with, and that will be based some on what has been done during the course of the summer, when you see the work ethic and all those things. But a lot of it will be based on coming out spring football, obviously.

"We'll go through that lineup, but at the same time what will change it up every day a little bit to see where the pieces fit."

Views The only surprise here would be if someone other than redshirt junior Graham Glasgow emerged at center (after the first game, for which he's suspended) or redshirt sophomore Erik Magnuson wasn't at left tackle. Glasgow might be U-M's best lineman when healthy, and Magnuson is smart and capable on the left side.

The rest are penciled in. Redshirt sophomore Kyle Kalis should get the nod at right guard, but he needs to be more consistent. Redshirt sophomore Ben Braden is enormous and has all the tools, but can he "get it" and lock down the right tackle position? If not, true freshman Mason Cole can play there, not ideal given he's a first year.

There's competition at guard, too, with guys like sophomore Kyle Bosch and David Dawson battling it out. There's talent, but someone needs to step up and it needs to be consistent. Shuffling lines is no way to create stability and success on offense.

News: Hoke insists he doesn't really feel any pressure this year.

Hoke: "Why do you coach? Why do you really coach? If we're doing everything we can for 115 guys, sons on our roster - since we've been there, 69 of 69 seniors have graduated. That's important, because football's only going to last so long.

"The only pressure is, every day, preparing [players] for life after football. We're very proud of who we are, and we'll continue to be. We're proud of the young men, the student-athletes, we have at Michigan."

Views: But expectations at Michigan are high and should be, he added, and everyone who saw it first hand said there was an increased sense of urgency during the spring.

College football is still about winning. College football at Michigan is about doing it at an extremely high level, and Brandon has proven he'll make changes when necessary.

Hoke has confidence in his approach and his staff. He has the tools, and he's done it before. He had great success at San Diego State (relatively speaking) and he's got everything he needs now at U-M to succeed. It says here he will.

But 'no pressure?' at a job as high profile as Michigan? That's tough to fathom.

News: USC running back transfer Ty Isaac will report Aug. 3 but is still waiting to see if he'll be eligible this year.

Hoke: "As far as the hardship and everything, we don't know anything. We expect Ty to report on August 3rd, and we're still going through the hardship with compliance and all those things."

Views: From what we hear, though, Michigan has put together a compelling case. Isaac is outside the 100-mile limit but Ann Arbor is certainly within driving distance (his mother reportedly has a hard time flying due to a recent medical procedure).

This one bears watching closely. The running back depth is already outstanding and would be even better with Isaac in the fold.


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