July 28, 2014 at 1:00 am

Michigan's Devin Gardner: I'll make sure Brady Hoke isn't on hot seat

Michigan QB Devin Gardner at Big Ten Media Days
Michigan QB Devin Gardner at Big Ten Media Days: He sees his job as making sure coach Brady Hoke "isn't on the hot seat."

Chicago – Michigan’s Brady Hoke has a complete understanding of the current state of college football, where coaches are judged almost instantly and have a shrinking amount of time to develop a program.

Hoke is entering his fourth season with the Wolverines. He went 11-2 his first season in 2011, including a Sugar Bowl victory. The Wolverines were 8-5 in 2012 and 7-6 last season. Obviously, that's not progress, in terms of wins and losses, in anybody's book.

So it should come as no surprise that in the weeks before the start of this season, Hoke has been included in many preseason conversations as a coach on the “hot seat.”

During the first day of the Big Ten Media Days on Monday, Hoke was asked several times about that topic and whether the pressure has increased. He made clear he is not even remotely interested in what college football pundits might be saying about his job security.

“You know, why do you coach? I mean, why do you really coach?” Hoke said. “If we’re doing everything we can for 115 guys, sons on our roster, from the graduation, since we’ve been there, 69 of 69 seniors have graduated. That’s important, because football’s only going to last so long.

“So the pressure is every day preparing those guys for life after football. Competition, hard work and all that, that’s part of it. But socially and academically, that’s a big part of it. So when you talk about that, that’s the only pressure as a coach that I’ve ever felt, making sure we’re doing it for the student-athletes.”

Hoke said his approach to coaching has always been about the players first, while adding he’s as fiery and competitive as the next coach.

“That’s why I got into coaching,” he said. “Do I love the game? Do I want to win? Do we want to compete? No question.

“(But) some of the proudest moments I’ve had at Michigan have not been on the field – (former QB) Denard (Robinson) and (current starting QB) Devin (Gardner) graduating on the same day, 69 out of 69 seniors having the opportunity to graduate, those are pretty powerful. Believe me, we’re not satisfied with anything, but to worry about what other people think -- I’ve never worried about what other people think in anything I’ve done.”

The Michigan players are not immune to questions about whether their coach is on the hot seat.

Gardner, expected to start at quarterback for the second straight season, was asked about the pressure on Hoke and whether the players hear the talk. Gardner himself knows a little bit about pressure. He spoke candidly last season about the hate email and Twitter posts he received criticizing his play and how much that can affect a player.

“Everybody is going to say whatever they want to say,” Gardner said Monday. “My job is to make sure he’s not on the hot seat, so that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to make sure we win football games, and I’m going to play as hard as I can with my teammates, and I’m going to encourage my teammates, and my teammates are going to encourage me, and we’re going to make sure that’s not even the talk anymore.”

In an interview with Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon that appeared in The Detroit News on Monday, Brandon said he is confident the pieces are being put together to build and restore the program, and because of that knowledge, he remains patient.

The goal at Michigan always is to win Big Ten championships, but the program has endured a bit of a drought in that sense.

Brandon told The News that Hoke’s job is not on the line.

“Every football coach in America lives under enormous pressure, so I don’t need to apply any more,” Brandon said. “We’re the winningest program in the history of college football, we know what the expectations of our fan base is. Nobody has to tell Brady that. And I have all the confidence in the world that he’s bringing in the right kids, that he continues to do the right things in terms of getting his staff lined up. I’m convinced we’re heading to a very, very good place.”

Hoke adjusted his defensive staff after the bowl game, changing position assignments. He said on Monday that he considered the moves a year ago, but didn’t believe the timing was right. He also fired offensive coordinator Al Borges and hired Doug Nussmeier, who was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Alabama.

And now, entering his fourth season, the team is finally taking the sort of shape Hoke had in mind because of the recruiting classes. But he has never had a timeline in place.

“For me to say we had a grand plan that it took this long, I would say it depends on what is long to you,” he said. “I can tell you one thing, I like how they’ve handled themselves. That doesn’t mean I like the team. We’ll find out. We have to have a great August.”

One thing Hoke will admit to, though, is feeling good about the players and competition.

“I think our depth across the board is as good as I’ve been around the program,” he said.

Devin Gardner, right, on Brady Hoke: 'My job is to make sure he's not on the hot seat, so that's what I'm going to do.' / David Guralnick / Detroit News