October 29, 2012

Hoke: Improvement starts with me

Brady Hoke knows that outside Schembechler Hall, fingers were getting pointed in every direction. He turned his own index finger inward, after losing without his 10,000-yards quarterback.

"We need to do a better job from a coaching standpoint," Hoke said. "It always starts there, and it starts with me."

Once he got that out of the way, Hoke became more specific about parts of the game he and Michigan's coaches intend to teach better, following the 23-9 loss at Nebraska. Formulating an effective running game inside the opponent's 20-yard line will draw special attention in the days leading up to the Minnesota game.

"We need to play better football," he said. "We need to play better in the red zone, from an offensive standpoint. Most of that is, you have to be able to run the football in the red zone.

"In the throw game, it shrinks down there, the verticalness of what you can do. Being able to run the football is a big part of it, and we didn't do that well, obviously. That's something that will be front and center this week, as we get ready to go to Minneapolis."

Much of the rest of his time standing before the media, Hoke found himself answering questions about the elephant in the room - the one with untied shoelaces. That's no surprise, since Michigan's offense seemed to leave the field simultaneously with senior quarterback Denard Robinson.

Hoke assured, he expects the igniter of the Michigan offense to be back at it come Saturday.

"He should be fine," Hoke said. "He should be ready to go on Saturday."

The head coach noted he expects Robinson to be able to practice all week, and that the issue involves the nerve running down his arm. Robinson has experienced problems with it before, ones that prevent him from gripping the football.

"It takes a while," Hoke said. "It gets numb and tingly."

Hoke promised to alter practice somewhat this week, giving junior wide receiver and former quarterback Devin Gardner snaps at QB, in addition to those taken by Robinson and redshirt freshman Russell Bellomy. Hoke confirmed that Gardner, who has experienced physical issues of his own, is reasonably healthy.

"He has practiced well," Hoke said. "He had a little bit of an ankle earlier, a little bit of a shoulder, but he hasn't missed any time."

Hoke made two points about Bellomy's rough night against the Cornhuskers. One, Bellomy needed more help, and two, he'll gain a lot from that struggle.

"We've got to do a better job of picking up a couple of blitzes," Hoke said. "We were able to do them. It wasn't like it was a plus-one, with a guy coming you couldn't block. We need to do that, from a standpoint of the offensive line and running backs.

"The experience he gained, going into that environment, is a major help to anybody. It's great learning for him. He and Al [Borges], when they review the film, I know how Al will go back and put him in those situations."

As for Robinson, he should be back in action against the Golden Gophers. Whether he's wearing any extra protection on his throwing arm remains to be seen.

"That's one we're looking at," Hoke said. "I know Smitty [head trainer Paul Schmidt] and the doctors, there may be something - a sleeve of some sort. Then the guy's got to get used to it."


• Minnesota freshman quarterback Philip Nelson looks very solid at this point, Hoke confirmed. Nelson on Saturday led the Gophers past Purdue, 44-28.

"He's done a really good job," Hoke said. "In what I've seen, he's pretty poised. He throws the ball well and can get out of trouble. He has good feet.

"I have a lot of respect for [Minnesota head coach] Jerry Kill as a coach, and more importantly, as a man. Jerry obviously likes him, so I'd say he's a pretty good quarterback."

• Hoke centered his Sunday emphasis to the team on fixing those mistakes than can be fixed.

"We've got to correct the things we did poorly," Hoke said. "We did enough of them on both sides of the ball. We prepare pretty daggone well, practice-wise. I like that. Now executing, on game day, needs to be better."

• Hoke is already looking forward to Minnesota, and a second straight road game for the Wolverines.

"It's an important game for many reasons," Hoke said. "Number one, it's in our division. It's an opportunity to get back out on the field. The Brown Jug is part of that great rivalry and tradition - a trophy we would like to keep here in Ann Arbor."

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