Ever since Brady Hoke was named as head coach of the Michigan Wolverines, the Michigan faithful have rallied around him. But he has also had a small number of Wolverine fans that were unhappy with his hiring. They wanted one of the sexier names to coach Michigan. Well, you can't make everybody happy. But when we look at how much Hoke has accomplished in a short time, he is showing the critics that he is more than just a consolation prize.
The first official act that Brady Hoke performed as coach was to talk to his team. Hoke didn't have very long to make an impression before he had to leave and talk to the press. But he managed to make the Michigan players feel comfortable with him. They knew they had a real football coach, instead of a media personality that managed their image more than they managed the team.
Hoke also made an impression at his press conference. He made sure everybody knew that coaching Michigan is his dream job. He made it clear that Michigan is still an elite program. Everybody got the message, except for Drew Sharp, of the Detroit Free Press, but there isn't anything new in that. The argument made by Hoke was short and to the point when he said "This is Michigan, for God's sake!"
Michigan fans received some big news the next day. Denard Robinson is staying at Michigan! This was a huge victory for Hoke. By keeping Robinson he stemmed a potential exodus of players from Michigan. Robinson set the tone that the team was going to stay together under Hoke and do what is needed to learn the new system. Since then you haven't heard a peep from Michigan players about leaving the team.
When offensive coordinator Al Borges followed Hoke from San Diego State to Michigan, that was a quiet, but significant event. Borges helped Hoke convert from a spread option offense to a pro style offense at SDSU. He has already done what is required at Michigan. With experience in the SEC, Big Ten, and Pac-10, Borges has built offenses to play against many of the very best teams in the nation.
Borges is also a flexible offensive coordinator that will tweak his offense to suit his players. That was a big factor in securing Denard Robinson at Michigan. Borges is willing to work with Denard at the quarterback position instead of converting him to a receiver or running back. Since Borges is known for developing quarterbacks he has some credibility when he says he can teach Robinson. Al Borges developed Cade McNown and Jason Campbell, both first round NFL draft picks.
Another important move was retaining Chris Singletary, who served as recruiting coordinator under Rich Rodriguez. But Singletary will now be co-recruiting coordinator because Hoke also brought in Jeff Hecklinski, his recruiting coordinator from SDSU. This allows Michigan to keep continuity with the players that have previously committed to Michigan, as well as keeping a connection with the recruits that were being pursued at SDSU. If this duo is retained into the future it should allow Michigan to cover national recruiting more effectively. Since Hecklinski is also doubling as receivers coach, that is a distinct possibility.
Fred Jackson was retained as running backs coach. That was important because Jackson has been a coach at Michigan for 20 years. He is a fixture and a symbol of continuity at Michigan. It also helps that Jackson is also a tremendous coach and recruiter.
Mark Smith and Darrel Funk followed Hoke from SDSU. Smith is the linebackers coach and Funk coaches the offensive line. Both have been with Hoke since he coached at Ball State.
Aaron Wellman, the strength coach at SDSU is also following Hoke. Wellman also served as strength and conditioning coach for Indiana, Michigan State, and Ball State. He met Brady Hoke at Ball State.
Hoke made one of his most impressive hires by bringing Greg Mattison back to Michigan. Mattison was serving as defensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens and had done an good job during the 2010 season. It is certain that his job was safe in Baltimore. Mattison is a close friend of Brady Hoke and that probably played a role in his willingness to return to Michigan from the NFL.
Hiring Mattison is a huge coup for Brady Hoke. Mattison is a proven defensive coordinator in both the pro and college ranks. His success in the NFL will draw defensive talent to Michigan. It will also help Michigan keep the defensive players that have committed to Michigan previously.
NCAA rules allow a maximum of nine assistant coaches to be hired. The addition of Mattison brings the number of assistants already hired up to seven. It is expected that Hoke will double as the defensive line coach, as he has done in most seasons. Al Borges is almost certainly going to double as quarterback coach.
Michigan still needs to fill openings for coaches at tight-end, safety, cornerback, and special teams. It is likely that Hoke will find one coach for tight-ends and another for the defensive secondary. The special teams coaching position will be combined with the existing duties for one of the position coaches.
The other item on the agenda that Hoke must address immediately, is recruiting. There are only two weekends left for recruits to visit Michigan and they need to get a full load of guys to come in for both of them. The recruits that are committed to Michigan need to be retained and the Wolverines should try to poach a couple of the best recruits that were considering SDSU.
While there is still an awful lot on the table for Brady Hoke to do over the next two weeks, he has done a great job so far. He has filled his offensive and defensive coordinator positions with people that have great credentials. He has hired most of his position coaches. Continuity in recruiting has been accomplished. The players already at Michigan seem genuinely enthusiastic about playing for Hoke.
By all signs, the bleeding has stopped for Michigan and everything is onward and upward from here. I am excited to see what the future brings. Hopefully the fine early performance of Hoke will help quiet some of the fears expressed by people that wanted a "big name" coach.
Brady Hoke also announced today that Dan Ferrigno has come over to Michigan from SDSU to act as the tight-ends/special teams coach. So all Brady Hoke has left to hire is a defensive secondary coach.