ANN ARBOR — When Brady Hoke looks back on the 2013 football season, he takes on some culpability.
“I could have been a better leader,” the fourth-year Michigan coach said. “I should have taken on some of that leadership.”
Nearly two weeks after Michigan’s final spring practice at Michigan Stadium, Hoke met with a group of reporters on Friday at Glick Field House to discuss the expectations he has for his program during the offseason and reflected upon Michigan’s 7-6 season in 2013 — a substandard mark for the Wolverines.
Hoke has deemed each of his three seasons a failure because UM failed to win a Big Ten championship. While the Big Ten championship game and the Rose Bowl are noted on UM’s schedule inside of the program’s team meeting room, the Wolverines haven’t won or shared a conference title since 2004, and they haven’t been to the Rose Bowl since 2007.
This season could become a reclamation project of sorts for the Wolverines, who have brought in a new offensive coordinator, shuffled the responsibilities of the coaching staff, and focused on leadership across the board by having teammates vote for four representatives in each class, as opposed to solely naming senior leaders.
“From a chemistry standpoint, we have really good chemistry,” Hoke said. “As far as liking them? I think they’re great young men. Are we any kind of a good football team yet? No, from that part of it. But I think the willingness and what they’ve accomplished so far has been real positive.”
Hoke also dismissed the notion that a negative culture surrounded his program.
“There’s all kinds of different cultures,” Hoke said. “Championship cultures. Cultures of team. I don’t know if I could say if it was a bad culture or a bad chemistry. But you find out about that with what they do from now until August.”
Those 3½ months include strength and conditioning gains, following diet and nutrition guidelines, and mental and psychological gains.
And, Hoke said, staying out of trouble.
“You can look in the papers and you see a lot of guys make bad decisions this time of the year, or in the summer because they’ve got time on their hands,” Hoke said. “We want our players to come back in and play like it’s practice 16, not like practice one. There’s a lot guys can do to help themselves.”
Hoke cited linebacker Jake Ryan, who will be a redshirt senior this season, as one example of consistency in leadership; Ryan was a co-captain last season who returned from ACL reconstruction on his left knee.
“Jake’s done that for two years,” Hoke said. “If you were to go through our roster and ask our guys, they would probably say Jake Ryan. And there’s guys who have grown unbelievably, like [defensive end] Frank Clark. That’s why you do it. That’s why you coach.”
With more than four months before UM’s season opener Aug. 30 against Appalachian State, Hoke set a tempered expectation for the Wolverines.
“We can lose them all or win them all,” Hoke said.
HOKE ON PEPPERS: Hoke set a projection for Jabrill Peppers, a defensive back and five-star recruit from Paramus, N.J.
“Jabrill is probably a little ahead of his time in some ways,” Hoke said. “When you’re looking at your base [defensive] packages, your sub packages, and those things, we’ll look at him maybe as the nickel or at safety at corner. But we’ll look at him to start at the nickel position and how he comes in and how he does.”
Peppers is scheduled to arrive in Ann Arbor this summer as part of Michigan’s incoming freshman class. UM had seven early enrollees join the program in January.
MORRIS VS. GARDNER? Hoke continues to tout the quarterback competition between freshman Shane Morris and fifth-year senior Devin Gardner, but wouldn’t commit to a starter.
“I think it’s close,” Hoke said. “I think it’s going to be pretty exciting to hear what they’ve done all summer to better themselves.”