Brady Hoke had a stern message for anyone who underestimates the impact of Aaron Wellman: That’d be a mistake.

“I hope you don’t,” Hoke warned. “I hope you don’t.”

Michigan’s new director of strength and conditioning has been with Hoke for the past seven years, including stops at Ball State and San Diego State. And while Hoke has to wait until Saturday when spring practice starts, Wellman has already started the process of transforming the Wolverines.

“He gets more time than anybody to be with your players because of the NCAA restrictions,” Hoke said. “That guy has to be your right hand, in my opinion. There’s not a night I don’t talk to him, wherever I am, to see how the day went. Because he’s with the guys — he’s with the kids.

“They’ve gotten better. (The reports) weren’t so nice early, but they’ve gotten better.”

Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison described Wellman as an “everything” guy — not just strength or speed.

He’s teaching Hoke’s guys discipline and accountability before the coaches get their hands on them. On the first day of winter conditioning, Wellman had the players go through a simple run to the line, as Mattison described it. And Wellman made some players repeat the drill five or six times.

That’s the way Wellman operates: Do it right or go back and do it again.

Before Mattison first met Wellman, he had already heard stories elsewhere in the coaching world about how good this young strength and conditioning coach was. So when the two of them ended up in Ann Arbor, Mattison decided to introduce himself during one of Wellman’s weight training sessions — that was a mistake.

Wellman ignored the defensive coordinator, as if to say, get out of here, I’ve got work to do.

“I’m not gonna mess with him anymore,” Mattison said.

Hoke said that to teach accountability, if a single player is late to an early morning workout or run, that player’s whole group is punished.

“That’s how you build mental toughness, and it starts with him,” Mattison said. “I’ve always believed that in college, if you have a great strength coach that has the same mission as your head coach and the same mission your team wants to play with, you have a great chance.”

Hoke said he will be looking for a few key things from his players this spring, including attitude, toughness, effort and accountability — all of which can be learned in the weight room or during sprints.

“(Wellman) is incredibly good at what he does,” Hoke said. “Not from just a strength and conditioning (standpoint), but a mental standpoint for your team.

“We’ve been able to have an attitude (as) a team that nobody is going to beat us. And it’s an earned attitude.”

The Wolverines will start attempting to earn Hoke, Mattison and offensive coordinator Al Borges’ respect when spring practice starts.

All three coaches have maintained that they don’t want to evaluate the players and form opinions until they see them hit and play in a live situation.

In all aspects of the game, Hoke has preached toughness and said he expects a certain level of physicality.

But how do you measure toughness?

“By practicing really hard,” Mattison said. “You’ll see an intensity in our practices, the way it has to be. And that’s a key thing this year. In the first year of a program, if you really believe in mental toughness and if you know that’s what we have to do then you have to practice that way. It’s too late when you get in a game. Otherwise you’re going to lose those games in the fourth quarter when someone isn’t mentally tough.”

Added Hoke: “I think the consistency of hitting and a consistency of being physical is something we always look for.”

Good news for Hoke, he and Wellman share similar philosophies in how to prepare a team. Since the early shakiness under Wellman’s watchful eye, the Wolverines have already taken the steps to understanding what exactly Hoke wants.

“They understand that there’s an ethic that we want to have throughout the program and how we want to work,” Hoke said. “And how we want to show up everyday with energy and the improvement side of it.

“I think guys have made improvements. We’re not where we need to be by any stretch. It’s going to be good to get into spring football and get the football part of it taught. At the same time, we’ll need the summer to continually grow as a team, with the camaraderie and the accountability and the physicalness of it.”

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