ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Contact with players is minimal during the summer and since he can’t go on the road to recruit, Michigan football coach Brady Hoke is taking time to evaluate.
As the second-year coach begins to put together his plan for August’s preseason practice, he is looking at what worked and didn’t from last year’s 11-2 season that ended in a 23-20 win over Virginia Tech in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.
“You start with a big template of what you did a year ago,” Hoke said before the Griese/Hutchinson/Woodson golf outing Sunday. “There’s always changes in the course of that year. You go back and you write everything down and you look at it and say did it help you win and did it help you develop your team or didn’t it. You’re always looking for new ideas.”
While Hoke continues to look for innovation, he is also working on tweaking things to help his team perform better on the road. Michigan’s two losses last season were at Michigan State and at Iowa.
He liked how his team responded to those losses -- wins in the game following -- but he knows Michigan travels to Arlington, Texas for the season-opener against Alabama on Sept. 1.
“I don’t know if you can pinpoint anything but you focus on September first, obviously, because you’re playing in that arena, that stage,” Hoke said. “But at the same time you look at what you can do to get your players in that mindset so they don’t have the distractions and those things.”
Instead of treating the game against Alabama like a special event akin to a bowl game, he is approaching it as a season opener. In that way, he is hoping to limit any sort of letdown or overexcitement depending on the outcome.
He has experience with this at Michigan dealing with the first night game at Michigan against Notre Dame last season. Taking the season opener approach can help, win or lose.
“It’s how you handle it as a team and how your seniors handle it,” Hoke said. “We lost a pretty hard fought games at East Lansing and they came back. Then going to Iowa and getting beat and then going to Illinois and playing the way they played.”
Much of that is about leadership, which was critical for Michigan’s success last season. Hoke said he is happier now with his team’s leadership than he was last month, but there is still a ways to go until the start of fall camp.
Strength and conditioning coach Aaron Wellman, who is able to work with players during the summer, has been aiding that process along with seniors meeting weekly on their own to discuss any issues they may have.
That is progress.
“No question,” Hoke said. “The more they can get together by themselves and figure each other out, themselves out, the better off they’ll be.”
It was something the leaders on last season’s team -- David Molk, Mike Martin, Ryan Van Bergen and Kevin Koger -- worked on from the moment Hoke arrived before last season, be it through meetings, passionate speeches or trust-building activities.
This year’s group of seniors, Hoke said, is starting to find their place.
This and that
As of Sunday morning, this year’s Griese/Hutchinson/Woodson event raised $1.35 million with that number potentially still to rise. ... Hoke said he has not taken any time off yet but plans to escape work in July when he can. ... Hoke has also attended many banquets recently and said “there’s a lot of passion and people are excited” about Michigan. He is quick to remind them this year’s Michigan team hasn’t “done anything yet.”