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Defense is priority as Michigan football team holds media day

Michigan fans edure long lines on fan day Sunday
Michigan fans edure long lines on fan day Sunday
University of Michigan

More than 25,000 fans turned out to get an autograph as the University of Michigan football team held its annual “fan day” at the Big House on Sunday afternoon.

Athletic director Dave Brandon apologized for “ridiculously long lines” as fans lined up all the way to the Crisler Arena parking lot to get a chance to briefly meet the football players.

It was also media day for the Big Blue as new coach Brady Hoke addressed how his team was doing after seven days of practices. Two-days started Saturday and will continue with three more this week and a full scrimmage will be held next Saturday and then a two-deep will hopefully be released.

But for now, there is hitting going on and jobs to be won.

Hoke said the usually jolly forecasts, as most coaches do this early in camp, but there was one area in which he pulled no punches--- defense.

The Wolverines last year allowed 35.2 points per game, No. 108 in Division 1 football. The team allowed 450.8 yards , No. 110 overall and 261.9 yards passing per game, 112 overall.

Those are all alarming numbers, especially to a former linebacker like Hoke. The new coach admits he has spent a lot of time with his defense so far. He has also named, as new defensive coordinator, Greg Mattison, who comes highly-respected. Mattison was defensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens before coming to Michigan, and unfortunately, he couldn’t bring Ray Lewis with him to Ann Arbor.

“I don’t think we’ve played at the standard that’s going to be acceptable to this point,” Hoke said. “We need to be more physical at the point of attack. I think we need to have a sense of urgency and we need to have a mentality that we have to attack the football.”

Hoke said that urgency is coming, but it’s not there yet.

“If you're a defensive player at Michigan and you don’t have that urgency, you’re not going to play,” Hoke said. “It’s as simple as that.”

Hoke mentioned some defenders he’s counting on to be leaders including safety Jordon Kovacs, Kenny Demens, Nathan Brink, J.B. Fitzgerald and Ryan Van Bergen.

“There are other guys too,” Hoke said. “We have to accept a culture where we’re constantly chasing and we have to have 11 guys all buying in. If we haven’t done that then we’ve failed as coaches.”

In other news from media day:

+ Hoke is looking to find a No. 1 running back who will carry the football “about 25 times per game.” There is a battle going on for the position between incumbents Mike Shaw, Vincent Smith, Mike Cox, Stephen Hopkins and Fitz Toussaint, who have so far failed to nail down the No.1 spot because of injuries or other issues. Also in the mix are incoming freshmen Justice Hayes and Thomas Rawls, who are behind, according to Hoke but are said to be veryn talented.

+ Denard Robinson is expected to carry the ball about 10 times per game and Hoke said the quarterback is “showing more leadership qualities” as a third-year player. “He’s been tremendous.”

+ Hoke also singled out incoming freshman Matt Wile as very promising as punter, placekicker and kickoff specialist. Hoke knew him last year when he coached at San Diego and Wile was a high school star there. Michigan’s placekicking game was among the worst in the nation last year.

+ Hoke singled out the play of senior tight end Kevin Koger. “He’s one of our best leaders,” the coach said. “On and off the field, he’s a tremendous kid.”

Michigan opens the season in three weeks at home against Western Michigan.

For more info: mgoblue, Detroit Free Press, Detroit News

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