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October 29, 2012

Brady Hoke

BRADY HOKE:¬† Thanks for coming out.¬† I also want to thank Wolverines For Life and the transplant center for all they do, for Tucker who you heard from earlier.¬† We're glad to have you here and glad to be part of it.¬† It's something that we all‑‑ I know we've got a couple guys that are very involved that we're all part of.¬† So thanks for that.
As far as where we're at right now football‑wise, we need to do a better job from a coaching standpoint because it always starts there and it starts with me.¬† We need to play better football.¬† We need to play better in the red zone from an offensive standpoint, and part of that and most of that is you have to be able to run the football in the red zone.¬† That's an important place because in the throw game, it shrinks down there a little bit, your verticalness of what you can do.¬† Being able to run the football is a big part of it.
We didn't do that well, obviously, the other night, but that's something that we'll take a front seat and center during this week as we get ready to go to Minneapolis.
It's an important game for multiple reasons.  Number one, it's in our division.  It's an opportunity that we get back out on the field, which we need to go to, and the Brown Jug is part of that great rivalry and tradition and trophy that we'd like to keep here in Ann Arbor.

Q.¬† You always talk about championships being won in November.¬† Was yesterday maybe a good time to re‑emphasize that given the disappointment from Saturday?
BRADY HOKE:¬† Yeah.¬† You know, I think I probably didn't re‑emphasize that as much as the things that we did poorly, but I will.¬† Believe me, it will be addressed.¬† We've got a heck of a lot to play for, and there's four guarantees left, and we've got to play our best in each one of those four.

Q.  What's Denard Robinson's status right now?
BRADY HOKE:  He should be fine.  He should be ready to go on Saturday.

Q.  Is he going to be able to practice this week?
BRADY HOKE:  Well, he wouldn't play if he didn't practice.

Q.  Would he be able to practice the entire week?
BRADY HOKE:  I think so.

Q.  With Denard's elbow, how does that affect him?  Is it just something he can't grip the ball?
BRADY HOKE:¬† Yeah, I'm not a doctor.¬† I don't know if you knew that.¬† But there's a nerve that runs down your elbow, down your arm.¬† I think it's the ulnar.¬† Angelique knows; she is a doctor.¬† And it takes a while to‑‑ it gets numb and tingly.

Q.  Would you consider moving Devin to get more snaps this week at quarterback?
BRADY HOKE:  Well, we will do that as a precautionary thing, give him some more snaps, him and Russell both, which means you'll add a couple more plays to your script that you're working off of for practice.  But no, we'll do that.

Q.  Is there a point where you would taper that back during the week or even enhance that because Denard isn't progressing as well as you'd like?

Q.  When does that happen do you think?
BRADY HOKE:  Well, I don't want to speculate until it happens.

Q.¬† But in your head do you have like a day where that needs to‑‑
BRADY HOKE:  No, not really.

Q.  You've now had a chance to go back and look at how Russell played.  Where do you look and say, okay, if the situation were to arise again, we need him to be better here, we need to have him more prepared here versus something the rest of the team needs to do around him?
BRADY HOKE:¬† Well, I think a couple things.¬† I think, one, we've got to do a better job of picking up a couple blitzes that ‑ I'm trying to think of the right word‑ we were able to do.¬† It wasn't like it was one more‑‑ a plus one, one more guy coming that he couldn't block.¬† So we need to do that from the standpoint of an offensive line and running backs.
I think the experience that he gained going into that environment is a major help to anybody.  I think it's a great learning for him.  I know him and Al, when they review the film, I know how Al will go back through it or how he does and put him in those situations.

Q.  How is Gardner physically?  Is he back to 100 percent would you say?
BRADY HOKE:¬† Yeah, I think so.¬† I haven't seen him‑‑ he's practiced well.¬† He had a little bit of an ankle earlier, a little bit of a shoulder, but he hadn't missed any time.

Q.  And how much would you say he's thrown since the start of the season?
BRADY HOKE:  How much has he thrown?  You know, that's hard for me to calculate.  I think he's thrown enough.

Q.  You said Devin will get more reps this week at quarterback and so will Russ.  Will those guys compete now for that backup spot?
BRADY HOKE:  Well, the plan is if Denard is as well as we know he's going to be, then Devin is still going to play receiver.  And they'll compete.

Q.  Championship week, every game is a championship, your biggest championship game; I think I've got that right.  How important is that again this week, just so that these guys coming off a tough loss focus on knowing, okay, we've got four guarantees left and we're still in this thing if we approach it this way?
BRADY HOKE:¬† Well, there's no question, and that's what we talked about yesterday a little bit.¬† We'll talk more about it when the guys drop by today and then tomorrow.¬† But there's no doubt that there's a lot of season left.¬† I think the statement ‑ I think John said it ‑ November is when you win championships in this league.¬† I've always believed that, and I think that's an important thing for us to realize.¬† But we've got to correct the things we did poorly, and we did enough of them on both sides of the ball that we're ready from week to week in how you prepare.
And we've prepared pretty doggone well practice‑wise.¬† I like that about us.
Now, executing game day, that needs to be better.

Q.  Give me your impressions of Nelson, their quarterback.
BRADY HOKE:  I think he's done really a good job.  I haven't seen all their stuff yet, but from what I've seen, pretty poised, throws the ball well, can get out of trouble, good feet.  I have a lot of respect for Jerry Kill as a coach, and more importantly as a man.  Jerry obviously likes him, so I'd say he's a pretty good quarterback.

Q.  Is there anything preventative that can be done with Denard?  I know it's hard to pad up a quarterback's arm.
BRADY HOKE:¬† You know, that's a good question, and I think that's one that we're looking at.¬† I know Smitty and the doctors and everything, there may be something, a sleeve of some sort, and then you've got to‑‑ the guy has got to get used to it.

Q.  You said after the game it would be somewhat hypocritical for you to tell Denard that he should have ran out of bounds on that play.  Is that something he starts doing a little bit more now, now that it's more of an issue?
BRADY HOKE:  I don't know.  You'd have to ask him if he'll think about doing that.

Q.  Could Denard not practice and play?  Players have done that before because they've been in the offense long enough.
BRADY HOKE:  They don't do it too much under how I do things.

Q.  I just remember a couple players in the past didn't practice much.
BRADY HOKE:¬† Yeah, I think that's‑‑ everyone has a different philosophy towards it.¬† I think your preparation, I think you play like you practice, and I think at that position, look‑wise and what you're going to see is a little different than being a wide out or even to some degree being a running back or defensive lineman.

Q.  Is this an injury that can't completely heal until he can just take weeks off at a time?
BRADY HOKE:  That's out of my league.

Q.  I thought you were a doctor.
BRADY HOKE:  No, I pretend to be.

Q.  It looked like Mario Ojemudia injured something.
BRADY HOKE:  He should be okay.

Q.  What is his predicament?
BRADY HOKE:  Just things, stuff.

Q.  I know you expect more from the defense, but looking at it, do you give them any leeway, the fact that they were out there so much, that they were put in bad positions?
BRADY HOKE:  No.  No, because those guys are on scholarship to play defense.  If that team doesn't score, they don't win.  I mean, it's simple as that.  We talk to them that way all the time.  They understand the expectations.
No, I mean, they've got a job to do and they've got to do their job.

Q.  Can it be a rallying cry?  You have two consecutive drives start inside the 40 and they limited them to field goals?
BRADY HOKE:¬† Well, I think that's a positive.¬† Those sudden‑change situations are when a team gets the ball inside the 50, you're really working and striving to hold them to field goals.¬† Yeah, I mean, we pat them on the butt when they do that, but they're expected to do it all the time.

Q.¬† Are you disappointed at all that the running game wasn't better after Denard went out, or did it all kind of snowball into defense not‑‑
BRADY HOKE:  I was a little disappointed.  Even though we were doing okay, I think we ran 40 plays in the first half, and out of five possessions three of them were 10 plays or more.  We were doing okay, but I usually and generally am always disappointed in the running game if the numbers aren't there to a certain point.
I think the most frustrating thing for everybody is our red zone right now offensively not getting touchdowns, and when you can't run the ball, that's where it starts.  You've got to be able to run the football in the red zone.  People have too many different ways to take the throwing game away because of the field and the shrinkage of the field, the verticalness.

Q.  Do you start looking at Rawls at some point at tailback a bit more?
BRADY HOKE:¬† I don't know if you watched it enough, but Fitch ran hard.¬† I mean, Fitch, he was‑‑ he took on backers, he took on safeties.¬† I was happy how he played.¬† I know one thing:¬† We've got to block better.¬† I mean, that's‑‑ we didn't block, we didn't finish blocks the way we had the week before, and we didn't score touchdowns the week before, but we were finishing blocks better.¬† And that's the disappointing thing.

Q.  So would you say maybe his lack of production is maybe more of an offensive line issue at this point?
BRADY HOKE:¬† Yeah, I think that is always where it starts.¬† The team rushed the ball ‑‑ I don't know how many yards Nebraska was rushing the ball for and we came out of the end zone, but we didn't do a very good job against the rush, and that starts up front with the defensive line.¬† Our game is centered around those two positions.

Q.  Taylor has said that, hey, give us some credit, we are blocking for Denard, he's picking up a lot of yards.  But eight weeks in, can you put your finger on it?  It is such a dramatic difference between what Denard produces and what the rest of the running game does.
BRADY HOKE:  Exactly.

Q.¬† Do you know why that's‑‑
BRADY HOKE:¬† Well, I think part of it is Denard and our offense is quarterback‑running back, and the way you set things up and the guy doesn't take the read, the guy hesitates, we seal the backside, I mean, all those things are part of it.¬† The opponent early in the year the nose was coming too fast over the center and the backside runs were there for Denard.¬† They're not there for a tailback per se all the time because it's different.

Q.  Why do you think that is that they aren't there for a tailback?
BRADY HOKE:¬† Well, it's a whole different animal when you have Denard and some of the runs he's been able to make.¬† And it's a different‑‑ scheme‑wise it changes a little bit.

Q.¬† Is the issue more missed assignments or lack of‑‑
BRADY HOKE:  No, we need to finish blocks, period.

Q.¬† The last two years your turnovers per game are way up away from Ann Arbor, especially in road situations.¬† How important is it‑‑
BRADY HOKE:¬† Well, it's always critical.¬† The one interception Russ is getting, he throws it, the one to Vince, I don't know what that was exactly.¬† Is it possession, non‑possession?¬† I think there's some questions on that.
But he had one bad throw to be honest with you.

Q.¬† When Bellomy came in against Illinois his first couple passes were pretty easy‑to‑catch balls that were both dropped.¬† Against Nebraska there was a lot of drops again once he came in from normally reliable receivers.¬† Most receivers will say it doesn't matter who the quarterback is, but is there a difference, and what do you attribute to that?
BRADY HOKE:  I don't think there's a difference.  I just think we've got to concentrate and look the ball all the way in.

Q.  Where is Denard right now?  Have you talked to him?  Can he grip a ball right now?
BRADY HOKE:¬† Uh‑huh.

Q.  Could he play today if he had to play today?

Q.  You said on Saturday that you think play calling got predictable.  How limited is Borges' play calling when there's trouble establishing the run team on 1st down?
BRADY HOKE:  I don't understand your question.

Q.¬† When you're struggling like you did on Saturday, I think the team did on Saturday, running on 1st down, how limited‑‑
BRADY HOKE:  The first half we didn't at all.

Q.¬† In the second half, how limited was Al with what he could‑‑
BRADY HOKE:  Well, you have to limit it a little bit because your quarterback runs aren't as effective.

Q.  Were you afraid (inaudible) yesterday?

Q.  Do you expect him to be full go this week?

Q.  The officiating in the game, it had nothing to do with the outcome I'm sure, but the punt return with Gallon, you seemed pretty animated with the official.
BRADY HOKE:  I was just trying to clear up the rule.

Q.¬† Because it looked‑‑ did you win?¬† Obviously he didn't reverse it, but did you make your point?¬† Did they admit that they made an error there?
BRADY HOKE:  No, we just had a discussion.

Q.  Thoughts on Minnesota in general?
BRADY HOKE:¬† Well, I think they're vastly improved.¬† You know, I think Jerry Kill, and I said it up there, I think he's a very good football coach.¬† He's a hard‑nosed guy whose teams are going to play that way.¬† I think from a talent standpoint, they're playing faster when you watch the tape from the skill positions, but also I think they're playing faster as a team, defensively and offensively, and that's usually a good sign of knowing the schemes, feeling more comfortable in it.

Q.  Do you know him well?
BRADY HOKE:  Yeah, I got to know Jerry pretty well, Laura and I and his wife Rebecca.  They're great people.

Q.  Have you ever played up there before?
BRADY HOKE:  Not the new stadium.  Have not.  It'll be interesting.

Q.  Do you like a noon game better?
BRADY HOKE:  Yes.  We got home at 3:30 or something like that, and that's hard.  These are student athletes.  I don't care what you say.

Q.  The TV announcers on Saturday were dead certain that Nebraska's pace of play confused you fellows.
BRADY HOKE:  I think we had a couple communication letdowns, but we've played versus tempo already.  I think it was more of us not taking care of the details.

Q.¬† Is there a fine line between running a route and setting a pick?¬† You get into some gray areas down there, and that touchdown it seemed like there was maybe a little bit of‑‑
BRADY HOKE:  Yeah, you know, you've got to fight over it.  We probably should have also been pressed on the guy on the line of scrimmage.  It would have helped the other guy off.

Q.  You've talked a lot about Jerry Kill and a lot has been made over his health situation over the past couple years.  Have you reached out to him?
BRADY HOKE:¬† We talk.¬† I don't talk to a whole lot of people, period.¬† I mean, that's not one of my fun things to do.¬† But he's in great shape.¬† I mean, he's had‑‑ he's been battling some things, but he's in great shape.

Q.¬† Health and well‑being in general, what kind of concern is that for football coaches?¬† You're in a high stress, high profile environment.
BRADY HOKE:  I don't know.  I think I'm healthy.  I look it, don't I?

Q.  That's a good thing.
BRADY HOKE:  It's 115 boys.  It's fun.

Q.  That communication lapse on Nebraska's first touchdown drive, is that something that's inevitable, or is that something that wouldn't have happened had it been against a team that played at a slower pace?
BRADY HOKE:¬† No, no, I just think we didn't communicate the call‑through.

Q.  And that just happens sometimes?
BRADY HOKE:  It happens now and then.  You don't like it to.

Q.  Do you bring the jug in this week and talk about the history?
BRADY HOKE:  Oh, yeah, the jug is out.

Q.  The jug is in the locker room?
BRADY HOKE:  It's where it needs to be right now.

Q.  Team meeting room?
BRADY HOKE:  It's where it needs to be right now.

Q.  So you just talk about the history of it?
BRADY HOKE:  They know, but we'll have a discussion.

Q.  Well, freshmen.
BRADY HOKE:  They'll know.

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