By Ashley Dunkak
DETROIT (CBS DETROIT) – At some universities, eight wins for the football team would be a banner year.
Michigan is not one of those places, according to coach Brady Hoke, who spoke at Big Ten Media Day.
“We’ve got to replace some guys who have been very important to Michigan football, but with that youth comes a lot of competition, and that competition is always good,” Hoke said. “The expectations, though, never change, and that’s to win Big Ten championships.
“A year ago we were 8-5, and that’s unacceptable,” Hoke continued. “That’s unacceptable at Michigan. That’s unacceptable for us. In those five losses, we had 18 turnovers, and so it tells you a little something that we need to be a little more diligent in taking care of the football, we need to be a little more diligent in making better decisions.”
The decision-making of quarterback Devin Gardner in particular will be make-or-break for the Wolverines. Originally a quarterback, Gardner sat on the bench behind Denard Robinson until last season, when Robinson went down with an injury. In 2012 Gardner played eight games at wide receiver, but finished out the season at quarterback in place of Robinson and threw for 1,219 yards and 11 touchdowns in five games.
“Devin, his maturity, and understanding what it is to be the quarterback at Michigan, I think he’s absorbed that,” Hoke said, “[and] understands the decisions that we have to make as a football team and the decisions that he makes as a quarterback are going to be very important.”
Hoke also added that Devin gives Michigan the advantages that go along with a pro-style quarterback.
“Devin has a nice dual-threat capability because he probably spins the ball a little tighter,” Hoke said. “His height helps him over the line of scrimmage.”
As far as who will be backing up Gardner, Hoke said Brian Cleary and Shane Morris are next in line and that the staff feels good about their abilities. Michigan did explore other options in the off-season, though.
“We looked around to try and find maybe a guy who had graduated early and could transfer, we looked at some junior college prospects, and we just didn’t feel comfortable enough,” Hoke said. “In 32 or 33 years of coaching, I try to think how many times you’ve gotten to your second quarterback on the teams that you’ve coached. It hasn’t been very many.”
Hoke is all about winning, but he said he was okay with one recently publicized Michigan loss. Suffering from cancer, a young Ohio State fan Grant Reed nicknamed his cancer “Michigan” – and beat it.
When Hoke heard the story, he invited Reed and his family to the Michigan-Ohio State game in Ann Arbor this season.
“Number one reaction is, we were glad,” Hoke said. “We were excited for that young man, and being a father, our children are so important, and you try and put yourself through what that family’s gone through. Him beating Michigan, in this context, we were all for.
“Our daughter was five months in the hospital when she was born, and so you just imagine what that family was going through,” Hoke continued. “I spoke to Grant a little bit. He’s doing well. He’s excited.”