When new Michigan football coach Brady Hoke was asked “The Ohio State question,” as the reporter put it, he answered the way Michigan fans want their coach to answer the question:

“You want to win (rivalry games),” Hoke said. “And you want to prepare to win ’em. And they have got to be front and center of what you want for your program.”

But he elaborated further, saying not only does Michigan’s pride rest on these games, but Michigan’s recruiting does as well — especially when it comes to playing Michigan State.

“When you play Michigan State, obviously your in state rival, obviously that’s an important piece of what you want to do,” Hoke said. “Because the lifeblood of your recruiting has to be in the Midwest, and it has to be in the state of Michigan.”

This contrasts with former Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez’s recruiting philosophy. While Rodriguez certainly recruited from the Midwest, there was also a lot of attention placed on recruiting Florida and other southern states.

Hoke’s comments imply that he intends to return Michigan’s focus to the Midwest, and that the best way to get midwestern players to come to Michigan is by beating Michigan’s three biggest rivals: Michigan State, Notre Dame and Ohio State.

Many Michigan fans doubted that Rodriguez truly “understood” the magnitude of the Ohio State rivalry, but Hoke’s answers to questions about The Game reflected the understanding he had of the rivalry from his eight years as Michigan’s defensive line coach.

“It’s almost personal,” Hoke said.

MIKE MARTIN TO STAY IN SCHOOL: The Detroit News is reporting that junior nosetackle Mike Martin, Michigan’s best defensive player, has committed to staying at Michigan instead of jumping to the NFL draft.

“Yup, I’m staying,” Martin told the News.

There was speculation that Martin would make an early jump to the NFL after he put together a stellar senior season, despite being hampered severely by an assortment of injuries throughout.

Keeping Martin is integral to improving the defense, which ranked among the worst in the country this season. Martin anchors a defensive line that loses senior Greg Banks and Martin’s backup, senior Adam Patterson.

Martin was selected to the All-Big Ten second team, recording 36 tackles and 2.5 sacks. He also consistently drew double-teams from opposing offensive lines, freeing up redshirt junior defensive end Ryan Van Bergen and sophomore defensive end Craig Roh to make plays.

Martin also told the News he thought sophomore quarterback Denard Robinson would be back next year, even after speculation that Robinson would leave Michigan given the change in offensive philosophy from Rich Rodriguez to Brady Hoke.

“I’m sure Denard will come back,” Martin said. “It’s important to keep the family together.”

HOKE’S STAFF COMING TOGETHER: In his press conference today, Hoke said he had not finalized his staff but hoped to get it done in “the next three or four days.”

He’s already made progress.

The San Diego Union-Tribune reported earlier today that Hoke’s offensive coordinator at San Diego State, Al Borges, will be joining Hoke at Michigan.

“This opportunity is such a good one for me and for Brady,” Borges told the Union-Tribune. “It’s difficult to pass up.”

However, it remains unclear who will fill the defensive coordinator position. Rocky Long, Hoke’s defensive coordinator at San Diego State, was announced as the school’s new head coach today.

Another position that remains foggy is strength coach. Mike Barwis, Michigan’s strength coach under Rodriguez, was not fired by the University. However, it’s unclear whether Barwis will return since Hoke appointed his strength coach from SDSU, Aaron Wellman, to be Michigan’s strength coach.

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