THE MODERATOR: We’ll go ahead and get started with coach Brady Hoke, Michigan head coach.
Coach, just a few thoughts on how your preparations have gone for the game, and we’ll open the floor for questions.
COACH HOKE: Well, first, on behalf of the University of Michigan and Team 132, our kids, the staff, trainers, the marching band, everybody, we can’t tell you how thrilled we are to be here and how much we appreciate the great hospitality the city of New Orleans has given us and the Bowl committee, the Sugar Bowl committee, and all their people and their efforts. It’s been great.
I want to thank Tulane and the opportunity to use their facilities. They were tremendous, and really as a team I think we’ve had good preparations starting back in Ann Arbor, navigating finals and all those things that are a part of it.
And then coming down here, I think our team has really done well. I think we’ve gone out every day and competed. I think we’ve had a focus and an intensity.
And so we’re excited. And I think, like everybody, we want to kick it off and play the football game.
THE MODERATOR: Questions?
Q. With this being your first year, how much of this team has your fingerprints on it versus what you just had to use because this is what the old regime had?
COACH HOKE: This is our seniors’ team. It’s not Brady Hoke. It’s our seniors. And what those fourth? and fifth?year guys have done, how they have managed this football team and their expectations.
It is never about the coach at Michigan. It’s never about anything but Michigan and the guys who are playing.
Q. There’s obviously a disparity, experience?wise, between yourself and Coach Beamer. Can much be made of that? Or obviously the game’s going to be played on the field between the players, but can much be made of that, I guess, in terms of preparation or anything like that?
COACH HOKE: You know, I don’t know. I think there’s always ?? the more you have experience at something, you probably tweak it and figure out a few more things.
But we are a pretty seasoned staff, when you look at us from guys who have coached in a lot of Bowl games, a lot of different teams. So we always have great input on preparation and are we doing enough or are we not doing enough and those kind of things.
But I would think that there’s something to having those years of experience and the quality of coach that Coach Beamer is.
Q. I know you talked about this being for your seniors and the end of the line, but how much thought have you given to that Alabama game next September in Dallas?
COACH HOKE: You know what, really not much. You know, we gotta finish this one off. And that will be a great opener for us a year from now.
But right now we’ve got to finish off ?? we started it, and so we need to finish it.
Q. Coach Beamer talked about all the things that winning a Bowl, a BCS Bowl, does going into talking to people in the off?season and getting ready for spring ball. Can you talk a little bit about what that would mean?
COACH HOKE: Well, you know, I think there’s a momentum that any team has when you win that last opportunity you have to play.
I think there’s something to be said for that. You’re on a national stage. The only game in town. And so people who love and have a passion for college football, they’re going to take notice.
Q. Obviously in your first year you got your players you recruited so they don’t necessarily lend themselves to the system that you want to run, particularly Denard Robinson. Talk about how you’ve tweaked your offense a little bit so you’re able to use his dynamic way that he plays football.
COACH HOKE: You know, Al Borges, our offensive coordinator, is a very smart man. He’s coordinated a lot of different places. I think we have a system that we’re working towards. But I think Al’s really done a great job on the different things that Denard ?? because of what he brings to the table, his athleticism, I think, you know, and how he’s progressed in what we’re doing.
I think he’s a big part of what we want to do as a football team. And I think we’re smart enough to know that we’ve got a pretty good football player there, so why not utilize what he does well.
Q. Brady, the defensive improvement you guys made this year is well documented. What ?? when you first came in with your staff and Greg Mattison, what was the biggest and first thing you had to change about the defensive mentality?
COACH HOKE: You said it there at the end. There’s a mentality and an expectation, and there’s a pride ?? and coaching there at Michigan before, there’s a pride that you play Michigan defense and Michigan football.
And, you know, the scheme was different. Personnel was a little bit used differently. But I think all those guys on defense are such good teachers from a fundamental and technique standpoint and expectations that our guys hear every day of how you play Michigan football.
And then it’s really up to those guys, the Mike Martins, the Woolfolks, and Van Bergens and the guys who are the leaders on that defense and everything that they’ve done.
Q. Coach, being a Ohio native coaching at Michigan, you were an assistant at Michigan before taking the head coach job, does that offer anything interesting? Does that come up in the process and coaching there?
COACH HOKE: No, not really. Michigan’s had some pretty good Ohio coaches as assistants. And a guy name Schembechler wasn’t bad. And, believe me, there’s no near comparison, but it’s still the greatest rivalry in the sport, that game.
So it’s a lot of fun.
Q. Brady, you talked about ownership. And how long did that process take for your seniors to really take hold of the team, especially with you being a new coach and you wanted to put your footprint on the program?
COACH HOKE: Well, you know, again, our seniors, you know, we communicate a lot. We talk a lot. We do leadership seminars all during the second semester with our seniors and talk about leadership and influence and what it is. And those have all helped. Coach (Aaron) Wellman and I run those. And guys really being committed to each other, it’s a big part of it, and respecting each other, and that’s what they’ve done.
Q. Have you thought of the prospect of Denard Robinson playing on field turf in the Superdome? And also, seriously, do you feel like you’ve had enough time to get used to the Superdome as Virginia Tech practiced three times last week?
COACH HOKE: I hope so. I think we had a pretty good practice when we went over there the other day. We do more than walk?through today; we practice. And so we’ll get some work in there again. And the turf and the field itself is in great shape and it’s a great turf. And Denard would be fine, I think.
Q. I know you’re a little reluctant to look ahead. But next year with Ohio, would you like to say in transition, Penn State in transition, Wisconsin and Michigan State losing their quarterbacks, is there a window of opportunity for Michigan, you’re going to be good anyway, but to be in that national championship picture?
COACH HOKE: Oh, I don’t know about that. We really ?? you know, every team’s different. We’re going to find out a lot about Team 133 and the seniors who are going to lead that team.
We’re going to have some holes to fill, like everyone does, and I think once we get through spring, I think we’ll have an idea where we’re at.
Q. Frank was in here talking about his first few years at Virginia Tech, it took some time for him to get that rolling. At Ball State it took some time for you to get that rolling. Do you see in college football now where administrators are just less patient and guys aren’t getting a fair shake?
COACH HOKE: Well, you’re probably going to have to ask the administrators that. It’s part of what college football is to some degree, with what have you done lately. And just how it is. I mean, but certain places have a different philosophy at times. Certain places don’t.
It’s all part of it. And I can’t judge if you get enough time, don’t get enough time.
Q. If you guys win this game, would you say Michigan is back as far as the national, the national attention that you guys would get going into the off?season?
COACH HOKE: I don’t think Michigan ever left. There was some ?? maybe a lean year or two. But Michigan was always Michigan. And will be.
So Michigan never left.
Q. You’ve talked a lot about how your nerves mostly come out in the days leading up to a game and that you’re mostly calm on game days. Do you expect that to still be the case tomorrow?
COACH HOKE: It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be a lot of people cheering and it’s going to be bands there and people are going to have fun.
Q. I don’t know if you’ve been asked this question, but what is your definition of a Michigan man?
COACH HOKE: It’s always been a guy who plays at Michigan who has got a toughness to him in how he plays the game. He’s got a tremendous respect for the University of Michigan and his teammates. A guy who has got integrity, and a guy who has character.
Q. Team 132, seems like I’ve heard that from you quite a bit over the course of the season. Is that something you just started at Michigan or Ball State where you started talking about Team 78, Team 79?
COACH HOKE: We’ve always numbered our teams. At Ball State, whatever those numbers were, and San Diego State, and Coach Carr kind of indoctrinated me into that when he was the head coach at the University of Michigan. And it’s about a legacy as a senior class.
And it’s about that team, because you’re remembered. This team has a chance to be the fifth Michigan team to win 11 games. And that’s significant. And it’s significant for those seniors. And so we’ve always done that.
Q. You said Michigan never left, so Michigan can’t be back, but is it safe to say there are some elements that are back that were maybe gone, such as physical play and toughness up front along the lines?
COACH HOKE: We hope so. It’s something we’ve always wanted to ?? that we believe in, and that’s what we believe Michigan football has been for many, many years.
Q. Is the goal against a team like Virginia Tech, with the team speed issue, is that going to be an emphasis for you guys in the future in recruiting to try to get faster to have greater team speed?
COACH HOKE: I think everybody wants to have speed. It’s the balance between the physicalness and the speed that you want.
So, yeah, I think everybody wants to have team speed. And I don’t know how fast we are or how unfast we are.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.