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November 5, 2012

Brady Hoke

COACH HOKE:  I was obviously pleased with the win on the road.  Every week is a championship game, and we look at it that way, so going to Minneapolis and winning it was important.  Did we play our best, no, I don't think we did.
Kicking game, in a lot of areas we've gotta do a better job of kicking, putting, covering.  We had two dumb penalties with blocks in the back.  That obviously moves the ball back, puts you in worse position.
Defensively, I thought we kept ourselves in the game, and at the same time we need to do a better job against the run.  Didn't think we did as well a job against the rush, but that being said, kept us in the game.
Offensively, we talked afterwards, thought Devin did a nice job managing the offense.  Thought he made some plays, extended some plays and did a great job in that area.
The one pick is one that he'd like back, we'd all like back, but I think he learned from it and took care of the football, did a nice job.
This week we play a very good football team in Northwestern.  They're well coached, have a lot of respect for Pat and how he coaches and how his team plays.  They have some threats offensively, Venric Mark is an extremely shifty, quick runner, does a tremendous job.
Defensively, or overall as a team they're plus six in turnover margin which is a very good number.  And so from the defensive side they're doing a good job.  They've only thrown three interceptions on the year, and that's with both quarterbacks, Colter and Siemian in.  So they're doing a nice job of managing that part of it.  And then Tyler Scott on the defensive side is a guy who's very active, leads the Big 10 in sacks and forced fumbles.  So we got our work cut out for us.

Q.¬† Brady, see if you could expand on Devin a little bit having seen the film.¬† Did he do things that were above and beyond what you'd seen him doing in practice, and aside from ‑‑ on the other side, aside from the interception, what would you like to see him do better?
COACH HOKE:  You know, you've seen him do that in practice before.  You know, a lot of the things he did, I think some of the good things, extending plays out and then being productive with it, finding a place to push up in the pocket, delivering the ball.  He's always been a guy who has kept his eyes down the field when he is in those situations.  And he probably was in more of those than he'd like because we gotta do a better job of protecting.  I thought that was one of the things we didn't do well.
You know, there's some other things when you talk about the ball mechanics and those kind of things, we've gotta really clean up.

Q.  What is Denard's status?
COACH HOKE:  He'll practice.  He'll split some time there and we'll just see.  He's getting healthier.

Q.  When you say split time, could that transcend into the game or?
COACH HOKE:¬† Practice‑wise.¬† Practice‑wise.¬† That's the biggest point is to get them both status.

Q.  Is it fair to say he's questionable then for Saturday?
COACH HOKE:  He's just improving slowly.  I mean he gets better.  He was better yesterday, practiced yesterday, threw the ball yesterday and ran yesterday.  So we just want him to be healthy.

Q.  Brady, two for you.  Talking about Devin, how much does it help to know that he can do that now and almost like a security blanket if Denard is banged up anymore going forward here?
COACH HOKE:  I think you always like to have the depth in every position, you know, whether it be quarterback or your nose tackle.  And having guys who have done it before and shown you that they can do it and have done a good job, that's always a big part of it.
So I don't think that position is unique because of getting the ball every time.  So it makes you feel good that you have a good that's been in a game and started a game.

Q.  And my followup is when Denard comes back, if he's out there at quarterback, is Devin back at wide receiver or is he just going to take snaps as quarterback right now?
COACH HOKE:  I think we'll probably take him a little bit in both, but more quarterback than the wide out position.

Q.  So will we see him on the field still as wide receiver on a Saturday?
COACH HOKE:  Both, yeah.

Q.  Brady, are you more comfortable doing that, bringing Devin more to quarterback from what you've seen in wide receiver depth this season?  Are you more comfortable moving him back to quarterback a little bit because of that?
COACH HOKE:  You know, that's a really good question.  Probably doesn't have a whole lot to do with making the move.  I thought wide receiver guys, those guys stepped up last week, which was good to see.  You know, I think Roy had the two catches that were significant, the one where it was on the third down and Devin did a nice job stepping it up.  Roy caught it well with his hands, and then Jeremy had some plays.  And it was a great throw and great double.

Q.  Brady, if Denard's healthy, would you consider playing Denard and Devin in the same game at quarterback?
COACH HOKE:  Oh, I don't know.  I think that's too far down the road.  We'll definitely have a plan for whoever.

Q.  What is Russell's status, any update on that and what exactly is his standing?
COACH HOKE:  You know, I'm not going to address his condition.

Q.  You had some good production from both Fitz and Rawls Thomas this weekend.  Is that something you maybe try moving forward more and more?
COACH HOKE:  I think both of them, downhill running and some of the things out of the I backs, I thought they both ran hard.  I thought both of them saw things well, and you know, playing both of them has kind of been a plan to some degree.  We just haven't executed it well though.

Q.  I think you sort of answered this at the end, but you talk a lot about the expectation for the position and with the running back.  How much of that expectation are Thomas and Fitz sort of playing up to at this point?
COACH HOKE:¬† I think they're both ‑‑ and I'll be honest with you.¬† I think they both have done a pretty good job when they've gotten in there.¬† I think they both have ‑‑ when there's been times where there's been enough space, you know, they both have run hard and run downhill.
We may have missed two or three cuts last week, but I like how their attitude is running the football.

Q.  Did you say anything to your guys about focusing on what they can control?  You almost got help from Michigan State beating Nebraska.  Didn't get that.  Big 10 title you don't control your destiny even if you do win out.  Is that anything you address?
COACH HOKE:  We've always been a team, I think, of worrying about us, you know.  I don't know if we've been a team that's looked ahead.  I don't think we can really worry about things we can't control and that's kind of how we approach it.

Q.  You indicated with some of the running backs that some of the holes aren't there.  Are you concerned about the offensive line's production at this point?
COACH HOKE:  Yeah.  I am.  I think, you know, we had some protection breakdowns that we can't have last week.  We haven't had, to some degree.  And I think, you know, us moving the line of scrimmage.  I think we had, I'm not sure, 155 or something rushing, something near that number.  How much of that was scramble, you know, we'd like to get more from our backs, you know, run the football.  And I think those two guys for the most part read things right, ran downhill.  We gotta do a better job at the point of attack.

Q.  And with Will Hagerup, is it just a deal where he's out of rhythm for a game or so?
COACH HOKE:¬† There's a fundamental that every position has and a technique.¬† And I just think he before the game because I always check on them, see on you they're doing, go down.¬† I pretend to coach them.¬† I'm not a true punt coach.¬† But he just ‑‑ the one he kind of swung his leg across his body, which he doesn't do.¬† And the other one in my estimation where you set the ball, he had it outside and not down the middle.¬† And so it's a fundamental thing.

Q.  You mentioned pass protection a little bit.  It's been pretty good throughout the entire year, but how disappointing was it to see the breakdowns, especially early on?
COACH HOKE:¬† Well, yeah.¬† Early on and especially you got a guy starting his first game.¬† You'd like for him to get his feet on the ground a little bit and settled.¬† And you gotta give a couple of things, you give credit to Minnesota.¬† I mean they had a couple unique blitzes, you know, two that I can think of, that we picked up in the second half.¬† But getting beat one on one in a four‑man rush is something that that goes back to a fundamental and technique of how you want to play the position.

Q.  You did a lot of play calls for Devin to roll out to left or right.  Is that something we're going to see more with Denard, because it seems like it hasn't been something?
COACH HOKE:  Well, we were more under center with Devin, and part of that is all of the play action out of the outside stretch or the inside zone or the iso play, so a lot of those come because of underneath center.  We haven't been underneath as much with Denard in the football game because of the other elements he brings with the replay and the ride and all those things.

Q.  Is it something that in the future you do more of beyond this season because of maybe your all's comfort with doing that?
COACH HOKE:  Oh, no question.  No question.

Q.  I know you're just trying to get through the day or the week but has it always been the plan that Devin would go back to quarterback?

Q.¬† Devin said that he could have done a little bit more designed runs, but the quarterback depth wasn't exactly there.¬† How much more running‑‑
COACH HOKE:  The what?

Q.  The quarterback depth wasn't there.  How much more running, designed runs can he do if there's more depth?
COACH HOKE:  He can do all of them if we want him to.

Q.  Is that the plan, or under ideal circumstances would he be doing more running?
COACH HOKE:  We're going to do whatever it takes for us to win.

Q.  Last week obviously he had to really focus, but can you talk about the growth maybe in his preparation at that position?
COACH HOKE:¬† I think playing receiver has helped him immensely, because of how receivers practice.¬† And you know, they're running 40 yards every snap, and they're running back.¬† The way Heck coaches, it's ‑‑ they're hitting the sled.¬† I mean I think there's a maturity that we all go through.¬† I think there's a mentality that you develop, and so I think that's helped him.¬† And then take routes and coverage reads and all that and couple that with it, I think it's helped him.

Q.  What do you attribute the fact that your defense hasn't given up a point in the first quarter in the last seven weeks?  Is there anything about that?
COACH HOKE:¬† Why did you say that?¬† I really ‑‑ I think they're well prepared.¬† I think Coach Mattison and that staff do an excellent job, you know, of preparing them.¬† I think they do well at half time on both sides of the ball.¬† That's one thing I'm ‑‑ both sides do a great job of tweaking and adjusting.
I don't know what to attribute it to besides their preparation.

Q.  Keith Heitzman really seems to come around for you?

Q.  Can you talk about him a little bit?
COACH HOKE:  Yeah, it was good to see him make some plays.  He's a young guy who's kind of learning his way, to be honest with you, and getting some right action is going to do nothing but help him.  You know, he's got the right mentality and temperament you want in a defensive lineman.  He's going to get bigger, he's going to get stronger over the next three years.  So we're excited about him.

Q.  Would you say that the offense on Saturday looks a lot like you expected it to look starting the season?
COACH HOKE:  Well, it's more what we'll feature.  Let's put it that way, yeah.

Q. ¬†And how much do you guys actually practice some of that?¬† I mean I know you guys do some one‑back, two‑back stuff.
COACH HOKE:¬† We do a lot against each other.¬† You know, when we go at each other, full line drills and interior run stuff.¬† We always, you know, which is great about our offense because they help our defense out for those teams that want to get ‑‑ the Michigan States who want to play the fullback in the game.¬† And then our offense is diverse enough that you have some of the spread elements to it.

Q.  Right now who starts at quarterback today?
COACH HOKE:  Whoever comes out there Saturday at 12:01.

Q.  But today.
COACH HOKE:  Today, I don't know yet.

Q.¬† Do you have ‑‑
COACH HOKE:  I think they'll both, right now if Denard's healthy, he'd start.

Q.¬† When you say he's improving, I think you said improving slowly.¬† I mean what ‑‑
COACH HOKE:¬† Slower than he has from the last ‑‑

Q.  From the other.

Q.  So what is he able to do in practice?
COACH HOKE:  He was able to do everything last night.

Q.  Number of reps like normal?
COACH HOKE:  Reps, throw.

Q.  Normal number of reps, though?
COACH HOKE:  Yeah.  I mean we don't take a bunch on Sunday.

Q.  He seemed before the game like he was taking very few.  Was that just because of the knowledge that he wasn't being played?
COACH HOKE:  Yeah, that was most of it.

Q.  Okay.  It wasn't because it was going to affect him injury wise?

Q.  Is there any concern from the doctors, not necessarily you, that this could last the rest of the season, regular season?

Q.  Was there any possibility that he would play if he felt better in warmups Saturday?

Q.  He was doing some coaching after the interception with the tight end, I think.  Was the right route ran or could that tight end have helped better?
COACH HOKE:  You always want them to reduce a little bit.

Q.  Coach, it doesn't seem like you option much to the back side anymore.  You're doing more of your optioning to the front side where you pull the back side guard.  Is there a name you call that?
COACH HOKE:  It's a ride play.

Q.  You call it a ride?
COACH HOKE:  Yeah.  It's either the jet ride.  It's a big play that Nebraska ran.  They run a lot of it.  We've run a lot of it.  Illinois runs it.  You know, it's kind of the in vogue spread play.

Q.¬† I wonder if you've thought about blocking it without pulling the guard, just using ordinary ‑‑
COACH HOKE:  That would be the regular jet then, and a little bit of a jet breed.

Q.  You talked about Devin extending plays and making plays.  There was one time where he took a really big sack.  What's the balance there between extending plays to make a play?
COACH HOKE:  Not to take the sack.  That would be the balance.  Throw the ball out of bounds.

Q.  Did Jeremy Gallon go last night and practice?

Q.¬† Is he ‑‑
COACH HOKE:  A little bit.  He's just nursing an ankle.

Q.  So is he up in the air for Saturday at this point?

Q.  He's in, ready to go?
COACH HOKE:  He'll be all right.

Q.  What about Mario?
COACH HOKE:  I think he's closer.

Q.  What's his issue?
COACH HOKE:¬† Boo‑boo.

Q.  Did he practice last night?

Q.  He's up in the air then?

Q.  I know you don't want to discuss Russell, but is this something that will keep him out of the rest of the season?
COACH HOKE:  I don't know.

Q.  Seemed like Jerald Robinson got more time on Saturday with Devin's.
COACH HOKE:  I think with Devin going over, I think that adds to some depth.

Q.  What has he done to be the guy that steps up with Devin?
COACH HOKE:  Well, you know, I think his knowledge is probably ahead of some of the other guys a little bit, you know.  Being in the offense, Darboh, playing a lot on special teams, not much offensively yet.  So I think that's part of it.

Q.¬† You guys had quite a few tackles for loss, but not as many sacks.¬† Are you happy with the amount of penetration you're getting and the pressure on the quarterback, because you are pressuring quarterbacks, just not ‑‑
COACH HOKE:¬† Yeah.¬† I would say this, that we don't ‑‑ we haven't caused enough negative plays defensively.¬† We haven't forced enough turnovers from a defensive standpoint because you know, I don't know what our ‑‑ I think in all games we're minus, and I think Big 10 games we're like a plus two maybe.¬† I think that's what it is.¬† You know, I don't pore over stats, believe me.

Q.¬† When will you know about Devin's sixth year?¬† What is the process for ‑‑
COACH HOKE:  You know what, I've always been told the process was after the eligibility.  But I don't know if that's completely correct.  I don't know.  That's what I've been told.

Q.  Does Mark's emergence as running back, does his emergence change what they did last year?
COACH HOKE:¬† You know, you look at the two ‑‑ we got a five‑game breakdown.¬† We got a five‑game breakdown from this year, and then if you put the sixth in, you put us in.¬† There are some similarities, but I think the way he's running the football, you know, he's a real threat, you know, because he's ‑‑ he kind of reminds me of Abdul a little bit.¬† Not the biggest guy in the world, but he can really accelerate.

Q.  Hindsight being 20/20, you wish you would have gotten Devin some snaps so that you would have been comfortable to put him in at Nebraska?

Q.  Why?
COACH HOKE:  Because we did what we did.  Made that decision, felt really good about Russell.

Q.  Next play, think about the next play?  With the offensive line, is there anything you can do personnel wise to tweak it a little bit?
COACH HOKE:  We've talked about that a little bit, you know, with Joey, and Jack Miller and a couple guys, but you know, I think again, you gotta look at where we're at, because we've played well up there in games also.
I just think ‑‑ and the one thing you can't do is you gotta give the other team a little bit of credit.¬† I mean they're good coaches and they're going to have a good plan.

Q.  To follow up on the Devin question, have you guys started to explore that a little bit more now and is there any optimism that he might be looking at that fifth year?  Have you guys started to explore?
COACH HOKE:  We haven't yet, no.  There's a process that you go through.  And like I said, I was always told it was to end of eligibility.

Q.  So you wouldn't know whether or not you'd be optimistic or not during the process?

Q.¬† Does that change the way you prepare for next year when you look at it versus ‑‑
COACH HOKE:  I can't answer the question.  That's a long time away.

Q.  I'd like to follow up on the offensive line question, not correcting.  Patrick Omameh seems like a pretty cerebral guy.  What's he bring to the offense?
COACH HOKE:¬† You're always going to get Patrick's best.¬† I mean from a preparation standpoint to a leadership standpoint.¬† He's cerebral means smart; right?¬† He's very intelligent.¬† I've never been called that, so ‑‑ (laughs).
But he's really done ‑‑ he's truly what you want when you look at a guy who's a leader on your football team.

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