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March 20, 2012 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2012-03-20

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8 - Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Hoke carries hard-nosed mentality into spring

By STEPHENJ. NESBITT
Daily Sports Editor
Five young men clenched the
chain-link fence atop the bleach-
ers at Phyllis Ocker Field, home
to the Michigan field hockey
team, and peered through.
The bleachers are located
directly adjacent to the football
practice fields outside Al Glick
Field House, providing a per-
fect vantage point for the fans to
watch practice.
The Michigan football team
was running its first practice of
the spring season under the mid-
Saturday sun, and it had already
drawn a crowd.
"Oh man, they're hitting
already," one onlooker said.
"And they've got the pads on,
too," added another.
They weren't. And they didn't.
But from 200 yards away you
couldn't tell.
Since his arrival in Janu-
ary 2011, Michigan coach Brady
Hoke has incessantly preached
toughness and physicality.
Though the pads won't be on for
a few days or weeks yet, Hoke
has brought the same mentality
into his second year at the helm.
"For us, I don't know if you
look at ita whole lot differently,"
Hoke said last Friday. "You're
always trying to meet expecta-
tions of competitiveness, tough-
ness, leadership, development
(and) discipline."
So what's changed in the past
year? Just about everything.
Hoke and his staff rallied the
7-6 Michigan team it inherited
to a surprising 11-2 record and a
Sugar Bowl victory. The expec-
tations haven't just shifted -

team."
On the flip side, the players get
to learn a little bit more about
their coaches.
A year ago, during Hoke's first
spring, three concepts whipped
out of Schembechler Hall with
alarming consistency - get 11
hats to the ball, finish every play
and hear football.
The concepts alone are sim-
ple enough. But the players had
to learn them, and Hoke made
sure they did. If a ball is loose,
it's yours. If the whistle hasn't
blown, you're still moving. And
if your hits don't pop, you're not
hitting hard enough.
"You learn a
little bit more
about your
football team."
That's where the five onlook-
ers had it wrong.
The key was that you couldn't
hear football on Saturday. If you
couldn't hear it, there were no
hits. If there were no hits, there
were no pads.
With or without pads, Hoke
knows how to motivate.
Because, more than anything,
members of Michigan's 'Team
133' have learned what drives
Hoke crazy.
"A guy not playing with tough-
ness and a guy not running to the
football," Hoke said. "That will
drive me crazy."

Michigan coach Brady Hoke propelled the Michigan football team to a11-2 season and Sugar Bowl victory in his first season as head coach in Ann Arbor.

they've skyrocketed.
For the Wolverines, those
expectations cannot be met
without a stout defense that
shows marked improvement.
The defensive numbers were
Michigan's biggest surprise last
season, as the unit vaulted from
the 107th-best scoring defense to
No. 6 in the nation.
But the departures of three
starting defensive linemen -
Ryan Van Bergen, Mike Martin

and Will Heininger - have left
the defensive front depleted.
The veteran faces will be
replaced with fresh, unproven
ones.
Fortunately for Hoke, the
trenches are his specialty, and
he's adamant that the linemen
will set the tone for the defense.
"No question about it," Hoke
said. "Your expectations don't
go down. They better increase
because the bar is always going

to be set high here at Michigan
and should be. Those expecta-
tions are for the position, not the
person who plays the position."
Hoke also understands that
the pressure will be ratcheted
higher after a breakout first sea-
son as head coach. And with a
season opener against reigning-
national champion Alabama
staring Michigan down just five
months away, spring camp won't
be a cakewalk.

Because even after a year of
unexpected success, there are
plenty of unknowns.
"As far as this team, Team 133,
I think we have a lot of questions.
I know I do," Hoke said.
"... I think we've had a good
winter. You can see some guys
developing, you can see some
guys really working hard, but I
think you put the pads on, spring
football, those things, you learn a
little bit more about your football

WANT TO JOIN THE DAILY SPORTS STAFF?
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