The Michigan football team is just a week away from departing for New Orleans for the Allstate Sugar Bowl, but Michigan coach Brady Hoke is already in midseason form.
The always tight-lipped Hoke told reporters that the curfew on his players will be “sometime in the night.” He admitted that he would have somebody come and talk to the team about what should and shouldn’t be done in New Orleans, but said that it was more for his sports information director than his team.
Michigan running backs coach Fred Jackson, originally from Louisiana, won’t be the guy talking to the team about right and wrong.
“Fred will talk about food,” Hoke said.
In that few minutes of questioning, Hoke revealed almost nothing. He’s ready. Now all Hoke has to do is get his team back into game form. With 12 days before the Sugar Bowl, it’s too early for the coaching staff to get a sense of whether his team is ready.
“We’ll know more once we get back on the 28th,” Hoke said. “When we get in, we’re going to go practice for about an hour and try and get some Christmas cookies off a couple of them, maybe a couple of the coaches too. And get them back into the speed of the game. That’s the biggest thing, the timing and the speed of the game that you want to play with.”
But Hoke knows he can’t overwork the team before the game. Hoke learned that in the first bowl game he ever coached in. In 2007, his Ball State team played Rutgers in the International Bowl. The Cardinals lost 52-30.
“I think we were a little sluggish because we probably did too much,” Hoke said of that game. “We did some two-a-days and stuff like that. I won’t do that again, to be honest with you, or the length of the two-a-days that we did.
“I just like we were dead a little bit, and we played a great Rutgers team. I mean, Ray Rice wasn’t bad.”
Having successfully weaved practices into finals week, there are just a few practices left before Hoke lets the players return home for the holidays. And though they have been brief, Hoke has liked the intensity the bowl practices have had.
When the team arrives in New Orleans on Dec. 28, practices — mostly held at Tulane University — won’t increase. Instead, in keeping with Hoke’s strategy of keeping everybody fresh, the workouts will continue to be short.
“If our tempo and our intensity and our focus is good then we may go an hour and 10 minutes, an hour and 15,” Hoke said. “As long as we’re getting the looks that we need from an offensive, defensive and kicking game standpoint, it will just depend.”
After spending the first round of practices focusing on general technique and letting younger guys get some more repetitions, the coaches have begun to prepare the team for Virginia Tech. According to offensive coordinator Al Borges, the shift started this Tuesday. The smaller adjustments may be made in New Orleans, but Hoke’s game plan will be set before he boards the plane to New Orleans.
“Sometimes something will come up because the coaches will still be working,” Hoke said. “Something will come up, maybe this will be a good scheme blocking wise or a scheme defensively, but most of the time what you leave here with, you’ll take.”