July 28, 2014 at 5:18 pm

Michigan's depth a sign of improving program, Brady Hoke says

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."

Here are excerpts from the press conference by Michigan coach Brady Hoke at Big Ten Media Days on Monday.

Brady Hoke: We're all excited for another season to get started and looking forward to the start of fall camp on Sunday. Our football team has come together this summer and worked very hard. I think they've worked hard and I think a lot of that is the foundation that's been laid over the last three years and the depth that we have on our football team, it's as competitive as a team that I've been around at all positions.

And I think that is exactly what, as Michigan, the leaders and the best, we should have. And so the way they've come together, the things they've done, we're excited about. You never know what kind of team you're going to have until the season's over.

But the one thing I can tell you, that we're encouraged by the qualities we have seen from our football team and throughout the spring and throughout the summer. Again, I believe the foundation has been laid. And you're going to talk with three of our great representatives in Jake Ryan, Frank Clark, and Devin Gardner, who have represented Michigan in a positive way.

We're excited for August. We need to have a good August camp. And I think every coach in here will tell you that. You need to stay healthy, but you better be competitive and you better be good. And you better have a great camp. And so excited about that coming up.

We've got a great schedule. OK -- it's a good schedule. But the schedule starts on August 30th with Appalachian State, and that's where our focus will be, because you can't win all your games unless you win the first game.

And expectations at Michigan are what they are and what they should be. They're high. And so we're excited about getting that started.

Staff-wise, Doug Nussmeier, who has come in and done a tremendous job offensively, came in with a championship pedigree, came in with a pedigree of molding quarterbacks. And what I've seen, and his track record speaks for itself, but it's not just something that speaks for it, he's doing it on a daily basis.

The moves that we made in the secondary and on defense, allowing Coach (Greg) Mattison to be more involved from the middle of the defense instead of up front only has been very positive.

The movement of Jake Ryan to the inside of our defense has been very positive. I think Roy Manning coaching our corners and Curt Mallory coaching the safeties, because of the variables with the offense you face, I think has been something very positive for our football team and positive for our players.

Q. I just want to know, back in June, you had done the interview I believe with Bonnie Bernstein talking about Jabrill (Peppers) and the fact that he would come in at nickel. You've had the summer; you've probably talked to some of your players about what they've seen out of him. Is the plan still to play him at nickel or safety or corner when you open fall camp?

Hoke: That hasn't changed. The plan hasn't changed. I think we've got to be careful about anointing any true freshmen starting their college career, but that's where he will start.

Q. Your program has a very great storied tradition. Your stadium has a great storied tradition. On Saturday, I believe the Big House is supposed to break the record for the highest attended soccer game in American history. That's two of the biggest storied traditions of clubs. Are you going to take your team? Have you been involved with that at all?

Hoke: I'd like to be, but I won't be, simply because our freshmen, that's their first day coming in as far as some of the administrative details we need to take care of.

Q. You're in the East Division. How daunting is that division? How do you think it kind of shakes out?

Hoke: I think it's a great competitive division. How it shakes out, we'll find out. But as far as the competitiveness of the division, and at the end of the day, you know, it's what we all want to do, and we all want to do is we want to compete. We want to compete on every Saturday.

Q. Coach, how far into fall camp do you anticipate going before determining an offensive line for the sake of consistency and seeing those guys play together as a unit?

Hoke: I think we'll start camp with a lineup that we've come out of spring with, and that will be based some things on what has been done during the course of the summer and when you see the work ethic and all those things, but a lot of it will be based on coming out spring football obviously.

So we'll go through that lineup, but at the same time what will change it up every day a little bit to see where the pieces fit. But I wouldn't say -- take two weeks maybe at the most.

Q. Considering how last season ended, has the pressure become bigger heading into this year for you to perform?

Hoke: You know, why do you coach? I mean, why do you really coach? 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 only 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.

Q. We're going into a new era with college football with the playoff, last year the Big Ten kind of struggled in the marquee non-conference games. This year the list of them is top to bottom you play Notre Dame and Michigan State's playing Oregon. How important for the Big Ten and its champion, whoever gets out of this conference, will it be for the conference as a whole to do better in those non-conference games?

Hoke: First and foremost, we're very proud of the Big Ten Conference. Very proud of the schools and the competition and the way our teams play and how our schools from an academic standpoint graduate student-athletes.

Do we want to win every game? There's no question every guy who is going to be at this podium, they want to win every game. And when you talk about the non-conference schedule, we welcome those challenges. I know our conference does and I think our conference is going to play very well in those games.

Q. The competition, the amount of competition that you have at every position -- is that really the first step toward narrowing the gap from where you are and where you want to be in any place you've been in the past?

Hoke: Yeah, I think so. I think that's always been part of it. We had a very good year in 2011. We played in the Sugar Bowl. But because of depth, Mike Martin played 82 plays as a nose tackle. I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy, because that's playing a lot of snaps and that's taking a lot of hits.

But if it was today, Mike Martin would play 50 plays. So that's what we have now.

Q. Michigan has a history of playing the MAC early on. What sort of relationship does that program have with the Mid-American where you can have those non-conference games scheduled so easily?

Hoke: Well, I think it's always been a nice -- I was head coach of Ball State and we played Indiana twice. We played Purdue twice. Played Michigan once. I think it's great for the Mid-American Conference, which I have a ton of respect for, and I think it's great for regionally for families. I think it's good for both schools, and obviously you've seen the Mid-American Conference teams come in and play awfully well and beat some of the Big Ten teams.

So I think it's a great partnership because of the competitive base.

Q. You mentioned Doug and what he's done so far. But where have you seen the difference that he's made, tangible changes he's made? And also as far as Peppers, when can we anoint him?

Hoke: Let's anoint him when he does something, right? I mean, let's see what he can do.

What Doug has done is, I think when you watch the practice in the spring, you watch the tempo of the offense, you watch the physicalness every day that guys are playing with, I think that's where it starts.

Q. Is there any update right now on Drake Harris' health?

Hoke: Drake Harris, he's fine.

Q. Any players you expect will be limited going into camp?

Hoke: No, not yet, not that I can think of or that I want to share at this time.

Q. Curious if you know anything about Ty Isaac and his potential eligibility.

Hoke: As far as the hardship and everything, we don't know of anything. We expect Ty to report on August 3rd, and we're still going through the hardship with compliance and all those things.

Q. Could you talk about the last -- in the foreseeable future, your matchup with Notre Dame this year, and is that a little more emphasized with your players this year?

Hoke: It definitely will be an emphasis, simply because it's a national rivalry. It's a shame that that series is over with, because of the national rivalry that it carried with it.

Brady Hoke talks to the media on Monday in Chicago. / Paul Beaty / Associated Press