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Hokeamania – Whatcha gonna do brotha?

January 24, 2011

It’s no secret I had some skepticism about the Brady Hoke hire.   It wasn’t that I didn’t think he could succeed, it was just that I thought we left a better option on the table in Miles.  And while we’ll never know that for sure, after two weeks of Hoke-a-mania, I’m ready to buy club seats on the Brady Hoke bandwagon.

As badly as the first 2 weeks of the Rich Rodriguez era went, which included an ugly departure from West Virginia, a lawsuit, allegations of paper shredding, and a lackluster opening press conference, the Brady Hoke era couldn’t be off to a better start.

It started at the opening press conference, where Brady seemed to be  the perfect mix of old school and new school.  As I mentioned to several people while watching it, he evoked plenty of memories of Bo, right down to his staccato sentences and the way he said “Michigan”.  But beyond the way he spoke, Brady also hit all the right notes with what he said:

  • In his opening remarks he reminded us that football is a “tough man’s game” and that Michigan would play with toughness
  • When asked about divisions within Michigan, Brady asked “how dare us divide what Michigan is”
  • And when he was asked if Michigan was still a top coaching job, Brady responded – “it’s Michigan for God’s sake!”

Sure, they are just words, and talk doesn’t matter on Saturdays in the fall.  But I think its important that Brady addressed the elephant in the room head-on.  He recognized that Michigan wasn’t tough enough, wasn’t united enough, and didn’t take enough pride in our tradition and history the last three years.  That’s not a knock on Rich Rod as much as an honest assessment of the program.

The other thing that was immediately apparent was that Brady Hoke was very comfortable standing in front of the Block M.  For the three years that Rich Rod was in Ann Arbor, no matter how many press conferences he gave, he never got comfortable in front of the Block M.  But Brady took to it like a duck to water; it wasn’t forced, it wasn’t contrived, it was just him.  If you haven’t watched the entire press conference, I encourage you to check it out.  It’s almost a full hour, but its at least worth watching a few minutes:

While Brady could have basked in the glory of a press conference that was lauded by fans, critics and media, he instead went right to work on his first major recruiting project – ensuring that Big Ten Player of the Year Denard Robinson would stay at Michigan.  To be honest, I never thought Denard was a huge risk to transfer.   Sure he loved the offense Rich Rod had created, but he also loved Michigan.  As long as Hoke was willing to let Denard continue at QB (and he’d be a fool not to), I expected he’d stay.  But his public announcement just a day later kept the Hoke train moving in the right direction.

I’ll be honest, at this point I was already pretty excited about what was going on at Schembechler Hall, but then Brady (with an assist from Dave Brandon) did something most of us couldn’t believe.  He managed to convince Baltimore Ravens Defensive Coordinator Greg Mattison to come back to Ann Arbor to lead our defense.  I’m sure the fact that Greg’s daughter lives in Ann Arbor and is due to give birth to his grandchild played a factor, but I cannot over exaggerate what a coup this is.

Nevermind the national buzz Michigan received when an NFL coordinator made an almost unprecedented move to take a college coordinator job – we got ourselves an incredible coach.  Greg Mattison’s resume includes college stops at Michigan, Notre Dame, and Florida.  At Michigan, he was the architect of our 1995 and 1996 defenses, and helped develop the vaunted 1997 National Championship defense, though he had moved on to Notre Dame by that point.  While his time at Notre Dame was solid but not remarkable, he went on to help coordinate the defense that won a BCS Title for Florida in 2006.  When he moved on to the NFL, he didn’t miss a beat as his Baltimore Ravens defense was in the Top 10 of the NFL in total defense in both his years as defensive coordinator.  In short, he is among the most respected defensive minds and developers of talent in all of football.   For a first hand account of Mattison’s philosophy, and his excitement about being back in Ann Arbor, make sure you take a look at this:

The other thing that I love about Greg Mattison is his ability to recruit.  He was always one of the top recruiters when he was here at Michigan, bringing in names like Marcus Ray, Jarrett Irons, and William Carr.  And now that he has coached in the NFL, he is even more dangerous on the recruiting trail.  The ability to tell high school seniors that he’s coached guys like Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs and Ed Reed will certainly resonate.  Considering that Greg Robinson was basically a negative on the recruiting trail because he was almost unwilling to do so, this is a major major upgrade.

Speaking of recruiting, one of the biggest concerns about Dave Brandon waiting so long to choose Hoke as the head coach is that he had crippled the 2011 recruiting class.  While this class won’t blow anyone away, Hoke and his staff are off to an excellent start.

The first official recruiting weekend was this past weekend, and Michigan picked up several commitments, including a badly needed kicker, a 4* cornerback/safety, as well as another defensive back and defensive end.  There are also rumblings about a 4* linebacker who is switching his commitment from Texas A&M to Michigan and two potential solid linebacker commits out of Ohio who things look good for.  Michigan has loaded up on recruits for this coming weekend as well with the #2 fullback in the country visiting, as well as a dual threat QB who might very well be a perfect replacement for Tate Forcier.   As you’ll notice, that may be more defensive recruiting done in the last 2 weeks than we’ve had in the last 2 years.

Given the short time frame this staff has had to get out there, and this is an extremely impressive effort that may end up salvaging this class.  And from what I’ve seen so far, what this staff has done in just over 2 weeks on the recruiting trail makes me downright giddy about the possibilities for the 2012 class.

So to recap, Brady passed the press conference with flying colors, gets an A+ for his defensive coordinator hire (I can’t imagine a better choice), and is already making great strides in recruiting.

I know it sounds like Brady Hoke broke through my wall dressed like this:

and force-fed me a giant glass of Maize and Blue Kool-Aid, but he’s pushing all the right buttons right now.  From the press conference, to the Mattison hire, to the recruiting, all the stars seem to be aligning for Michigan, which is the complete opposite of what happened 3 years ago.  2 weeks in, and things couldn’t be going smoother.

Will it last?  I have no idea.  What I can tell you is that you better get your Brady Hoke bandwagon seats now, as I’m getting the feeling there won’t be too many left come next fall.

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