ANN ARBOR — Are you ready for some football? Brady Hoke doesn’t think his team is.
Even after a spring heavy on installation, a summer of conditioning, and a preseason used for more preparation, Hoke is concerned about his squad entering Saturday’s home game against Western Michigan.
“I think it’s basically always the truth,” Hoke said. “We’re not ready. There’s some things we would like to see us do. When you look at the tempo of practice, when you look at ball security, and making sure everybody who touches that ball understands they’re carrying that ball for 114 other guys. From a defensive standpoint, are we taking great angles to the football? Are we getting off of blocks?”
Hoke planned for an intense practice Friday night — a departure from the light walk-through sessions conducted Fridays by most coaches — just as he will on the eve of all games.
If it seems like Michigan’s new boss is a worry wart and a man impossible to please, well, that’s probably the case on both counts. As far as season-opening opponents go, WMU (6-6 in 2010) isn’t daunting, but the Broncos won’t be a pushover either. Hoke is genuinely impressed with junior quarterback Alex Carder, whom he considers one of the best at his position in the Midwest.
Carder totaled 3,334 yards and 30 touchdowns in 2010, hooking up often with receiver Jordan White, who is back for his sixth year of eligibility after catching 94 passes and 10 touchdowns.
“He can put the ball in tight windows,” Michigan starting free safety Thomas Gordon said of Carder. “He’s a real good quarterback. We have to be on our Ps and Qs.”
Wolverines defensive end Will Heininger said the Broncos have a “big O-line, a good O-line.” A fifth-year senior making his first start, Heininger will try to maneuver past WMU tackles Anthony Parker (6-5, 321) and Michigan transfer Dann O’Neill (6-8, 307).
Defensively, WMU will start 10 players who saw significant playing time a year ago. Everyone returns on the line, and the secondary is experienced too.
Hoke has at least one decided advantage Saturday — preparation. WMU figures to look like WMU looked last year, and for that matter, all other seasons under seventh-year coach Bill Cubit. Michigan will look like, well, no one really knows. Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison worked most recently in the NFL, which does Cubit’s coaching staff no good in terms of game planning. UM’s offensive coaches aren’t expected to roll out a carbon copy of their playbook from San Diego State. And how does one game plan to stop lightning-fast quarterback Denard Robinson?
“We’re going in there a little bit blind,” said Cubit, who lost 3 of 4 to Hoke when Hoke was at Ball State. “You’re going to have some type of running game, but what exactly?”
TOUSSAINT TO START: Sophomore running back Fitzgerald Toussaint will start at running back today, Hoke said Friday night in an interview on the school’s Web site. Hoke said Thursday he expected Michael Shaw to start.
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