Hoke bringing swagger back to Ann Arbor


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Michigan football is operating under its third different coaching regime in four years. The Wolverines are coming off a second-straight season in which they started off well (5-0 in 2010, 4-0 in 2009) only to free-fall late (finished 7-6 in 2010, 5-7 in 2009).

If that isn’t enough to embarrass the proud fans of one of the most storied teams in college football history — its 877 wins are the most all-time — there’s also the fact that Michigan is on three-year NCAA probation because of practice-time rules violations.

Has the program lost its luster?

First-year head coach Brady Hoke doesn’t think so.

“Well, I don’t think we’re rebuilding — period,” he said when he was asked last month at Big Ten media days how he would rebuild the program.

“I mean, we’re Michigan.”

Hoke is bringing the swagger back to Ann Arbor, one confidence-laced proclamation at a time.

Arrogant or not, it’s already paying off on the recruiting trail. The former San Diego State and Ball State head coach has snagged 23 commitments for the class of 2012, three of whom are ranked among the top 150 players by ESPNU.

“This might sound arrogant, and if it is, it is. We’re Michigan,” Hoke said. “The lifeblood for all of us, no doubt, is the guys you bring in your program. We’ve really tried to focus on the guys who fit the mold of Michigan with the integrity and character we want to have. We want guys who will play with a toughness, play with an accountability, and on a team for each other.”

An early glimpse at Hoke’s first recruiting class is impressive, but none of those players can help

Hoke until the 2012 season.

Denard Robinson can.

The fleet-footed junior quarterback helped the Wolverines averaged more than 488 yards a game, eighth-best in the country. For context, Iowa averaged 382.9 yards and ranked 57th.

Robinson’s individual stats looked fit for a video game. “Shoelace” — Robinson earned the nickname because of his preference for untied cleats — was one of the country’s most electrifying players; he ran for 1,702 yards, the second-most nationally.

His 149.6 QB rating was also 20th-best.

Expect to see more of Robinson’s arm this year. Hoke brings a pro-style offense to Ann Arbor. That means fewer spread shotgun formations, and for Robinson specifically, more throwing and less running.

The system isn’t completely new to Robinson — he ran a similar style of offense in high school, Hoke said. Still, some have questioned his ability to function as a pocket passer in a more traditional system.

“I don’t have to prove [I’m a quarterback],” Robinson said last month. “I’m just going out there and having fun. My teammates know I can do it, and I just go out there with them, and they know what I can do.”

A veteran group of receivers should help ease Robinson’s transition. Upperclassmen Martavious Odoms, Junior Hemingway, and Roy Roundtree return to lead one of the Big Ten’s most potent receiving corps.

As for how Robinson has looked running a different offense? At least one of his pass-catchers isn’t worried.

“I see it all now. The drop-back quarterback that he was in high school, I see that, and sometimes he is in shotgun like he was last year — and it is just the way he is back there. He is not getting frustrated that he can’t do this and do that,” Roundtree told Scout.com on Aug. 18. “He is an athlete, and he can do it all.”

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