Analyst Mack Brown says Michigan players will respond

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Former Texas coach Mack Brown empathizes with Brady Hoke.

Hoke and the Michigan football program have come under fire the past week because of player-safety issues.

Quarterback Shane Morris, already hobbled by a left ankle injury, continued to play last weekend against Minnesota after a hard fourth-quarter hit rendered him apparently unsteady enough to need support to stand from a teammate.

Morris, later diagnosed with a “probable mild concussion,” remained in the game for one play after the hit. He later returned for another play after quarterback Devin Gardner had to leave after his helmet was knocked off.

“This is a very difficult thing to go through because everything you say is over-scrutinized,” said Brown, who won the 2005 national championship at Texas and resigned after last season and then joined ESPN as an analyst. “Texas and Michigan are very similar jobs. They’re great jobs, they’re fantastic universities, and they’re very difficult jobs. Therefore, everything is a firestorm when things aren’t going well. I don’t think there’s any question if this is a 4-0 Michigan team, we’re not having this discussion. There is some anger because they haven’t gotten off to a good start.”

After the rough start at Texas last season, Brown said it was not difficult keeping the focus on the players.

“We lost early to Brigham Young and Ole Miss last season, we were 1-2 and what we found ourselves doing, we had to make a decision — you either give up or you circle the wagons in a tight circle, and you ignore the outside noise and work together,” Brown said. “We won seven straight after that.”

Brown is confident the Michigan players, who this week said they support Hoke and have shut out the controversy-related noise, will have a similar response.

“They are not going to quit, they’re not going to let up,” Brown said. “They’re competing for each other. It’s also the seniors’ last year. They will be fine. It’s about your team.”

Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon said Thursday there was a breakdown in communications from the medical staff conveying the concussion information to Hoke. Hoke has said he takes responsibility for the way Morris’ situation was handled and said he never would knowingly put a player in danger.

“He’s doing things very well,” Brown said. “He took responsibility as a head coach even though he might not have done anything different. But he took responsibility, which you’re supposed to do.”

Brown said there is considerable confusion on the sideline.

“There can be 250 people on the sideline, some of them you don’t even know,” he said. “You have security guards out there, you have, at home, all of your walk-ons and freshmen dressed.

“As a head coach, you don’t see some things on the field. You could be talking to defensive coaches while the offense is on the field, you could be talking to another trainer while someone is hurt. There are so many different things that could have been happening. The offensive coordinator could have missed it because you might be looking at the play sheet. You look straight down because you have 15 seconds to call a play. It sounded like the perfect storm when Devin’s helmet come off and the other quarterback (Russell Bellomy) couldn’t find his helmet.”

Brown said in his experience, the medical staff was responsible for watching for injuries.

“And they make the decision whether he comes out,” Brown said. “Shane is a competitor, and I hate that he’s caught in the firestorm. He wanted to bring his team back, and I saw him wave off the coaches to stay in the game.”

Brown said that while Michigan has had to weather national scrutiny, plenty of positives will emerge.

“The good thing is, usually when you have something bad, something good comes out of it,” he said. “Michigan will be more coordinated with the medical staff this weekend. What was wrong will be fixed. Every coach in America met with their medical staffs this week. This incident has made it better for student-athletes across the country.”

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Michigan at Rutgers

Kickoff: 7 p.m., High Point Solutions Stadium, Piscataway, New Jersey

TV/radio: BTN/WWJ

Line: Rutgers by 2

Records: Michigan 2-3, 0-1 Big Ten; Rutgers 4-1, 0-1

Series: First meeting

Did you know? This is Michigan’s third game in its history in the state of New Jersey — the other two times are 1931 and 1881.