According to Dana Jacobson, her Morning Show co-host, Tiki Barber – a proud Virginia product – didn’t play for Michigan because it was too cold for him in Ann Arbor.
“I got snowed out of my visit!” Barber exclaimed.
“Well, I can believe that could happen, but we would’ve loved to (have had) him,” said Michigan coach Brady Hoke, who was then a defensive assistant for the Wolverines. “He was a nightmare, I can tell you.”
Hoke, incidentally, hopes to avoid a nightmare season this year. His last two seasons – 8-5 in 2012 and 7-6 in 2013 – haven’t been nightmares, but after an 11-2 campaign in his first season, they certainly qualify as bad dreams.
Hoke, however, doesn’t feel the pressure of the hot seat – even though many say he’s on it.
“The one thing I can tell you is that when I got into coaching, it was to help kids and enhance their lives and help them grow as people,” Hoke said. “That has never changed. Yeah, are we competitive? Do we have expectations of championships and all that stuff? No question. But we want to build champions for life. A lot of those guys have visions of playing at the next level – and we want them to have that – but we want them to have that Michigan degree so (that) when football’s over, they have an opportunity. So getting into coaching was to help kids. That’s the only pressure that you feel – is making sure you’re doing the right thing for those 115 sons every day.”
That all sounds good, but ultimately, Hoke will be judged by wins and losses – and if the wins aren’t there, Hoke won’t be there to help kids. It’s that simple.
“Well, I think the big thing (that) we’ve accomplished through recruiting (is) the character and the depth that we finally have now within our program,” Hoke said. “When we went to the Sugar Bowl, (Titans defensive end) Mike Martin – because we had such a lack of depth – had to play 84 plays that game. And so it really (has) come to a point now where the quality of the depth and the guys within this program (are up to par). (If) you take care of the social side of it and the academic side of it, the competitive side comes along with it.”
But has progress truly been made? Hoke, who is 26-13 at Michigan, has seen the wins decrease each season, from 11 to 8 to 7. Last year, the Wolverines closed the season with five losses in six games, and the one win came in triple-overtime against Northwestern.
It’s hard to see progression – and not regression – in the previous paragraph, but Hoke remains optimistic.
“Again, I think when you look at our depth across the board and the competition that we have now – we din’t have (that last year),” Hoke said. “A lot of young guys played last year – a lot of freshmen and redshirt freshmen. And to see the experience that they’ve gained – and I think how they’ve treated each other and the things they’ve done – we’re very excited and encouraged and love the qualities that we have as a football team.”
Looking at this season, quarterback Devin Gardner is the name that casual fans know, but Michigan will lean on its defense, particularly senior end Frank Clark and senior linebacker Jake Ryan.
“Defensively, there’s a lot of guys who have played a lot of football,” Hoke said. “They’re older, and I think the encouraging thing – and I’m going to go back to the same thing – is the depth that’s behind him. Frank Clark knows that if he doesn’t practice well (or) doesn’t play well, then he’s not going to be in there. Taco Charlton can step in and do a heck of a job for us. I think when you look at it from that perspective, (the improvement in depth has) been unbelievable.”