ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Even if Brady Hoke had an offensive line resembling an NFL roster instead of one with three players starting at new positions and a defensive line starting four players at four new positions, the second-year Michigan coach would be concerned about who he was putting out there.
The reason is simple. When it comes to offensive and defensive line play, Hoke believes Michigan’s first opponent, defending national champion Alabama, is just that good.
“Believe me, we could have the Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line and defensive line and I would be concerned,” Hoke said. “Knowing the opponent we are going to play against and watching them, watching that offensive line, that’s as good of an offensive line I’ve seen in college football.”
Hoke also knows there is more attention on his team in his second year at Michigan than his first -- included as a No. 8 preseason ranking in the USA Today coaches’ poll, a potential Heisman Trophy candidate in senior quarterback Denard Robinson as well as being picked as a favorite in the Big Ten.
And sustaining that success of a 11-2 season in his first year is not an easy one, even if Hoke believes his team was ultimately a failure last season because it did not win the Big Ten title.
So keeping his team focused despite last season’s success, he said, shouldn’t be a huge issue.
“Remembering what the expectations are,” Hoke said. “Where did we fail and why did we fail. That’s a big part of it. As coaches, it’s on us first. It’s on me. We failed because I failed as a head coach. We have to do a better job of coaching and preparing those guys on a weekly basis for how we are going to play the game of football.”
It all starts with Alabama and for Hoke, it all starts on those two lines, where he still has major concerns -- no matter who he lines up there.
Moore the established tight end
Michigan has very little experience in terms of tight end, but what the Wolverines have returning in fifth-year senior Brandon Moore, tight ends coach Dan Ferrigno likes.
“He’s doing fine,” Ferrigno said. “Brandon is a good kid that works hard. He’s improved and I think he’s improved this spring and has shown improvement this fall.
“Just in his blocking and he’s catching the ball better than he did when we first got here. So I’m pleased with him.”
Ferrigno said he hasn’t been able to work with freshman tight ends Devin Funchess and A.J. Williams much because like most of Michigan’s freshmen, they are finishing up the high school to college bridge program.
He didn’t rule out freshmen playing this season, however that decision won’t come for at least two weeks.
Hoke said redshirt freshman defensive back Tamani Carter has left the team, the second defensive back to leave the Wolverines in the past four weeks, joining cornerback Terrence Talbott. ... Ricky Barnum, Joey Burzynski and Jack Miller have all been working at center, offensive line coach Darrell Funk said, although Barnum is the likely starter there.