Brady Hoke is entering his fourth year as the head coach of the Michigan Wolverines, and this year might make or break him. Hoke’s first season was a tremendous success with a Sugar Bowl victory against Virginia Tech and an overall record of 11-2. Since then, it’s gone all downhill. It’s kind of the opposite of what happened with Rich Rodriguez. Rodriguez went 3-9, 5-7, and 7-5 in his three years at the helm. Hoke, on the other hand, has gone 11-2, 8-5, and 7-6. I know, I really shouldn’t go there. And, no, I’m defending Rodriguez, nor do I regret the university for firing him, it was probably wrong to hire him in the first place, but his predecessor in Hoke was supposed to be a “match made in Heaven.” Hoke is a Michigan man, high character guy, with a passion of hard-nosed football and turning kids into men. Now, while that’s all great and what Hoke brings to the table is what Michigan should be about, but he’s missing something: a winning mentality.
The Wolverines have underachieved the last few years, at least based on star ratings and rankings from recruiting classes. They are getting high-profile, talented kids from all over the country, and filling needs along the way. So far, many of them haven’t panned out to their full potential. Should we put all of the blame on Hoke and the coaching staff? No, some needs to be put on the players, but based on the past few years, with an anemic offense, inconsistent defense, maybe the Wolverines were not put in a position to be successful. Has that changed? We’ll see.
After last year, Michigan fans, sports fan, and anyone who knows about College Football knew this Michigan team was being held back, a lot of it fell on the shoulders of Al Borges, and rightfully so. He was justifiably fired, which is an understatement. Now, with Doug Nussmeier calling the plays, things should look more balanced, more polished, and much better. I mean, let’s be honest, the offense couldn’t be much worse. I believe Nussmeier has what it takes to turn this offense around. He’s a proven winner, he’s worked with championship teams, and he excels in working with quarterbacks. However, if the spring game showed us anything, it was that the Wolverines don’t look very good, at all. But, we shouldn’t put much stock into it, we’re still three full moths from the season. However, if that’s any indication of what’s to come this coming fall, then it’s going to be a long season for the fans, and likely a very short one for Hoke and the rest of the coaching staff. But as a fan, I do believe this the year we will turn things around. Then again, I have said that the past two years, but I do feel more confident than I have the previous seasons. The question is, though, will it be enough? Well, that depends.
Michigan is bringing in a solid recruiting class led by Jabrill Peppers, some of which have already been on campus since January. This group of kids will contribute to a hungry team 135, as they try to prove that they can be a Michigan team of old. So, there should be no excuses this year if things fall short. We cannot blame it on youth, it’s been an excuse the whole time, and frankly it’s getting old. While this is a young team, they still know how to play football; it’s the coach’s job to make them better. We cannot blame it on the schedule, because every team that’s put out there against the Maize and Blue can be beaten, some of which should be beaten by a lot. If things don’t go right, the blame should and will be put on the staff.
For us Michigan fans, it’s been too long and too depressing to see the Wolverines struggle, especially with the group that they have, and continue to get in recruiting. There is no denying that Hoke is a good guy, he’s likable, he’s funny, he’s personable, but saying “we just didn’t execute” or “as a coaching staff, we need to do better.” Yes, you do, but instead of just saying it, why doesn’t it show?
If the Wolverines end with anything less than 9 wins, and or come out of the gate and struggle with, dare I say it, Appalachian State, than I would say it’s time to go back to square one of finding a new coach. And for those who say, “It’s just going to bring us back farther,” well, it’s not like we’re moving forward. This is a Big Ten Championship caliber team; it’s time to prove it.