By Ashley Dunkak
ESPN’s Jason Whitlock caused quite a stir with his Wednesday column, and he talked about it on 97.1 The Ticket after Michigan coach Brady Hoke said on 97.1 The Ticket that Whitlock was wrong to call out individual players.
“I do think it was fair, and having said that, I think I also made a mistake,” Whitlock said. “In my mind, it’s implied the way that I wrote the column that my impressions and my opinions about all the players are based off on on-field impressions … When I used the term low character, they think I’m talking about the kids off the field.
“I’m talking about on the field,” Whitlock continued, “and I should have, I wish I had used the the term, I think this team on the field has football low character.”
With the caveat of that distinction, though, Whitlock stands by what he wrote about the team’s lack of toughness.
“Anyone that watched the Michigan-Michigan State team, I think the tape speaks for itself,” Whitlock said.
After mentioning the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty by fifth-year offensive lineman Taylor Lewan, Whitlock also noted quarterback Devin Gardner’s slide a yard shy of gaining a first down. Gardner had taken a beating the whole game, getting hit often and sacked seven times, but to see him go down voluntarily to avoid getting hit was certainly out of the ordinary.
“When your quarterback on third and one, lays down a yard away from the first down out of fear of being hit – I’ve watched a lot of football … I’ve never seen that ever,” Whitlock said. “That’s not calling Devin Gardner a horrible human being … but it speaks to how thoroughly Michigan State took the fight out of Michigan.”
A team with more football character and toughness, Whitlock maintained, would not have done something like that no matter how badly they were being beaten.
Whitlock said he did not talk to Hoke before writing the column, and he said he did not speak with any assistant coaches or any Michigan insiders. He said his motivation for writing the story stemmed from his early championing of Hoke years ago to originally get the head coach job for the Wolverines.
“I elected myself the Brady Hoke cheerleader champion,” Whitlock said. “They’re all asking, ‘What do you think of Michigan now? What do you think of what’s going on with your boy Brady Hoke?’ … It’s a good topic.”
Whitlock also defended his remarks on backup quarterback Shane Morris, whom he termed “quirky and immature.”
“Ever since late in his recruiting process, that is the common sentiment that he’s a bit quirky and immature,” Whitlock said. “As an 18-year-old, I was quirky and immature … It’s not a horrible indictment of an 18- or 19-year-old to say that they’re quirky and mature.”
All in all, Whitlock did not back off his remarks. He has a long history and solid relationship with Hoke, and he hopes this will not affect it. Just as he did when Hoke was first up for the job, Whitlock continued to endorse Hoke as the right man for Michigan.
“He’s on the level of a coach of a Nick Saban, of an Urban Meyer,” Whitlock said. “He will get the job done at Michigan.”
“I certainly hope I haven’t damaged our relationship to a point where it can’t be repaired,” Whitlock added. “Brady Hoke’s probably in the top 50 of the people I love on this planet … I have not heard from Brady Hoke. I hope he’s concentrated on Nebraska and I haven’t created some horrible distraction.”
In the column, Whitlock described Michigan as “soft” and said the team “has low character.” He criticized Lewan for “coasting” and displaying “arrogance and entitlement.” He slammed freshman running back Derrick Green for coming in overweight and called him “soft.” Whitlock also mentioned Morris and linemen Kyle Kalis and David Dawson.
Hoke defended both Lewan and Green. Whitlock had also charged Hoke with abandoning his values and being “five-star struck,” but the coach did not care about the criticism of him. He was upset, though, by Whitlock’s comments about his players.
“To take shots at the kids when you don’t know, I think that’s really unfair,” Hoke said. “That’s where I would have the biggest concern.”
Hoke also seemed put off by the fact that Whitlock, a national columnist, made the comments from afar.
“If you don’t know what’s going with 18- to 23-year-olds on a daily basis, the different things that affect them in their life, I think that’s off-limits,” Hoke said. “They’re not pro football players. As much as some people want to think they are treated that way, that’s not what they are. They’re kids who are getting their degrees, going to school and doing what they need to do to be successful.”