Brady Hoke said he wants to hear his football team. And he certainly sees them. On Monday, he defined another sense he uses in evaluating his players — Hoke wants to feel his players’ impact.

The Michigan defensive line better take notes.

“I think we played OK,” Hoke said of his defensive line. “We weren’t — you guys have heard me talk about hearing football. You also want to feel guys during the course of a game. I felt No. 32, (Jordan Kovacs), during the course of the game, an impact. To some degree, I thought, J.T. (Floyd), you could feel him a little bit.

“I never felt our front like we need to — not to be specific. So I think we played OK, but I think we need to play at a higher level and a higher standard.”

Hoke and defensive coordinator Greg Mattison — both former defensive line coaches — preached all offseason how their defense has to be led by the play of the Wolverines’ front four.

After one game, the defensive line could be described as the weak link.

The front four couldn’t pressure Western Michigan quarterback Alex Carder on its own, and the defense didn’t start making an impact until Mattison started blitzing more to rattle Carder’s cage.

Specifically, three potential impact players fell silent — senior captain defensive tackle Mike Martin finished with one tackle; fifth-year senior defensive tackle Ryan Van Bergen had three; and Craig Roh, the team’s rush defensive end, didn’t make a single stop.

Carder started the game by completing 14 of his first 15 passes on his first three drives, albeit with short, quick passes. Hoke also pointed out Carder usually went into three-step drops — so there wasn’t a lot of time for the defensive line to get pressure.

And even though Mattison had guys running on and off the field — regularly playing seven or eight defensive lineman — their freshness couldn’t compensate.

The Broncos also didn’t face a lot of long third-down situations, as Hoke said, so they also didn’t get a real chance to pin their ears back and just rush.

Those may be valid excuses or the early signs of a problem.

“One thing we’ve got to do better, we have to improve our four-man rushes,” Van Bergen said. “Coach Mattison can’t call a blitz to get after quarterbacks. We have to be able to get after them ourselves, help out our (defensive backs).

“Up front we need to get off our blocks quicker. Execute our moves and stuff like that. It’ll come. That was the first game.”

Having allowed 151 yards on the game’s first 28 plays, Mattison started dialing up more linebacker and safety blitzes midway through the second quarter. Two of Michigan’s three forced turnovers came on blitzes. By the third quarter, Mattison was getting a little blitz-happy, as Kovacs made two devastating sacks in the span of four plays — the Wolverines’ only two sacks for the game.

“Obviously at times when they’re in … four wide (receiver sets), you can outnumber them,” Hoke said. “The key to it is, the guy who is unblocked having a great path to the quarterback. And that helped.”

Hoke acknowledged Monday that once Mattison made adjustments, the pressure on Carder improved. Blitzing seemed like a component of the defense that would undoubtedly be included, but no one wants to have to rely on it.

“When you get the blitz call, you think, ‘I’ve got to come hard, I’ve got to make a play,’ ” Kovacs said.

Or else the defense could get burned. Mattison needs confidence in his secondary to dial up blitzes if his cornerbacks are to be left on islands in man-to-man coverage or relied upon to defend their zones.

“I think there’s some guys that have shown some abilities to play man,” Hoke said. “I think the thing we have to be is multiple enough, though — multiple enough in the looks we give pre-snap.

“(We played) pretty good in man coverage. We’ve got to be much better this week because of the talent Notre Dame has.”

Hoke may have to feel his defensive lineman if Michigan wants to continue to make an impact on defense.

But what does feeling a player actually mean?

“You feel a presence on the field,” Hoke said. “You see it. You feel it.

“I — I don’t know. That’s just me.”

To Hoke, it makes perfect sense.

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