Michigan Football Preview 2013

2013 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 59 of 267

every day, until we win the Big Ten title, we haven't done anything for Michigan, and it doesn't matter how many games we've won. That hunger is fed every day. There is gas poured on that fire every day. "This will be my 10th year with Coach. He has talked a similar philosophy every year, no matter where we've been. From the day I first met him until right now, it's always been about winning the championship — winning the conference championship, winning the Big Ten title and, here, getting to the Rose Bowl." Assistant coach Roy Manning has been to Pasadena. He's made the trip down into the canyon as a player and knows what it takes. Getting back to the Rose Bowl won't be easy. Michigan won 11 games in Hoke's first season and still didn't capture the Big Ten championship, or punch a ticket to Pasadena. There are all sorts of pitfalls, from injuries to that one really bad afternoon, which can stop a championship drive. Ray sees Michigan again building great talent back into the mix. But he cautioned the Wolverines of the mid-'90s possessed tremendous talent, finally pulling together a championship season because of mental and physical toughness. "He has to win on the road, and he has to win close games," Ray said of Hoke. "To do that, it takes two things — you have to be On Jan. 1, 2005, offensive linemen Matt Lentz (left) and David Baas (right) and the Wolverines lost a heartbreaking Rose Bowl thriller to Texas, 38-37. photo by per kjeldsen "I know this — this team wants to win," Manning said. "They want to win a Big Ten championship — that's the goal. It's never going to be good enough until we do that here. "I talk about a coach-driven team and a player-driven team. I really think this can be a player-driven team, and I think those are the most successful teams. As coaches, we can only do so much. It has to be those players, when the game's on the line, when the going gets tough in the dog days of training camp. It's got to be those guys that are pushing each other, driving each other, motivating each other to get to where everyone wants to get — that's the Rose Bowl. "To me, that's what's exciting. These guys, they want it. They really do, and you can tell." Hoke is all about doing, rather than talking. At the same time, he knows what the Rose Bowl represents. It's a prize for battling through an entire year of preparation and standing tall at the end. "They all know the number one expectation is win the Big Ten championship," Hoke said. "That's why you go to Michigan. That's why Michigan is special." tough, and you have to be talented. I think the talent is there. I'm not sure how tough we are yet. "We're going to find out with Team 134. We're going to find out how tough this team can be." A fifth-year senior member of Team 134 — running back Fitzgerald Toussaint — knows there's not a player on Michigan's roster that can flash a Big Ten championship ring or tell Rose Bowl stories. He wants to change that. "I want to win a championship," Toussaint said. "I want to win a Rose Bowl. With all of us fifth-year guys, we've seen what every team has been through and where we've come up a little short. We know what it takes to come out on top, and that's why you'll see these seniors push a little bit harder. "Our senior class is a special class. We have great talent, and we have a lot of guys that have played a lot of football. We're going to set an example for the younger guys to follow because we can't win a title on our own. We need everyone to buy in and put the work in for us to be our best. "The younger guys know we're about 58  ■  The Wolverine 2013 Football Preview business here. We have one goal — a Big Ten title — and everything we do every day is about that." Carr understands traditionalists might find the goals a little more complex in the days to come. The Rose Bowl will be part of the playoff system ushered in next season, but only a rotating component in the chase to the national championship. He gets that. He knows change is inevitable, and expects more change than presently projected. "It's not going to be four [playoff] teams for any great length of time," Carr predicted. "They're going to expand it. Who knows what the future will hold? But for me, I will always be appreciative that I had the opportunity to take some teams to the Rose Bowl. "We didn't win as many as we would have liked, but the experience of going there, for the players, and the fans, is special. It's a magnificent tradition and a magnificent place. On New Year's Day, there's no place that I'd rather be." The former coach always measures his words when commenting on the present team, but it's safe to say he likes what he sees down at Schembechler Hall these days. "There is great momentum here," Carr said. "Brady and his staff and his players have created that. I think it's really going to be fun to watch them." Skene concurs and insists the Wolverines are going places under Hoke — including multiple trips down into the Arroyo Seco. "He's on his way," Skene promised. "What he managed to get out of the players he inherited, the level he got them to reach … "Then look at the players he's bringing in, these young men coming out of high school. I've been down there for a couple of spring practices. We're now back recruiting to the levels we were years ago. You can tell the difference. "A lot of times, there's a physical difference between a top-tier recruit and another kid who is a second- or third-tier prospect. The kind of kid Brady is coaching over there, with the style and the mentality, we're going to be back in the Rose Bowl." Skene says when the Wolverines make that return trek, he's going as well. "We're going to be there," he said. "It's a matter of, is it going to be this year, or is it going to be next year? And how many years in a row are we going to go? "This freight train is back on the tracks, and it's headed in the right direction. I just don't know when it's going to arrive. I'm crossing my fingers that it's going to be this year. I hope it is. "But there's no doubt in my mind, we're going to be in Rose Bowls to come." ❏

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