Brady Hoke is already leaving his mark on Schembechler Hall, just two months after taking the Michigan football coaching job.
Right outside of the team’s locker room is a large red and white sign that reads: 2,670 — the number of days since Michigan last beat Ohio State.
And there are two more numbers the Wolverines are paying attention too. Staring them in the face when they enter Schembechler and again when they enter Al Glick Fieldhouse — their indoor practice facility — are clocks counting down the days, hours, minutes and seconds until Michigan’s next games against Ohio State and against Michigan State.
The countdown to the start of spring practice is now down to four days. And Hoke will finally get a chance to see his players in live action for the first time since he was hired in January.
“Spring is always important because it gives you the ability to have competition,” Hoke said during a press conference on Tuesday. “There’s no entitlement and you got to earn it everyday in what you’re doing. Work ethic, your competitiveness, your toughness, your mentality that you play the game with, that’s where it starts. And that’s what we’ll start doing on Saturday.”
Michigan’s first practice is this Saturday, March 19, and the Wolverines’ first full day in pads will not be until the following Tuesday. And the annual spring game will be played April 16 at noon.
Between now and then, Hoke will be transitioning quarterback Denard Robinson and the rest of the offense to a new scheme, and he’ll be figuring out which players he can trust to be physical on defense.
He has stressed the importance of teaching the fundamentals and technique that he wants his guys to be equipped with. He wants his team to play with his kind of passion and style — with his fingerprints all over the product on the field.
“There’s some guys who have played a lot of football in some positions,” Hoke said. “Mike Martin’s played a lot of football, but we have to enhance how Mike plays football. We’ve got to get Mike better. And that’s just not Mike Martin, that’s every guy on this team — if we want to be the kind of team we want to be, which is a championship football team.”
It’s clear what kind of team Hoke wants too.
“We’re going to hit a lot, and then we’re going to see where we are as a team,” Hoke said.
FOUR MORE YEARS? Devin Gardner will have to wait until after his fourth season at Michigan to find out whether or not he will be awarded a fifth-year of eligibility and a medical redshirt for the 2010 season, according to Associate Athletic Director Dave Ablauf.
“You keep the documentation, you keep the injuries, you keep all of that information and you can forward that onto the Big Ten as you go along,” Ablauf said. “But no determination is ever made until after that individual’s fourth year as to whether he gets a fifth year.”
Hampered by a back injury throughout the season, Gardner saw action in three games for the Wolverines — but he was still eligible for the medical redshirt because he hadn’t played in more than four of the first six games or any of the final six.
He was listed as a true sophomore on the spring roster that was issued on Tuesday. Hoke previously said the department had filed the paperwork.
INJURY UPDATES: Three potential starters on defense will be limited this spring. Redshirt junior linebacker Kenny Demens is still coming back from offseason shoulder surgery. And cornerbacks Troy Woolfolk and JT Floyd won’t play much due to their recovery from surgeries on injuries suffered last year.
“Woolfolk is getting better, but at the same time, it wouldn’t be very intelligent of us to have him doing a whole lot out there,” Hoke said.
Additionally, senior running back Mike Shaw broke his hand recently while trying to catch himself as he fell to the turf. Hoke said Shaw would be limited Saturday, but that he would play with a cast after that. Another running back, Teric Jones, had “significant” knee surgery and could miss a chunk of the 2011 season, though Hoke was reluctant to completely rule him out.