ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan’s Jan. 1 Outback Bowl against South Carolina will be Brady Hoke’s fourth bowl as a head coach and he is starting to find a rhythm.
That’s why he has no problem taking the Wolverines to Tampa, Fla., earlier than many teams travel, Dec.23, so they can adjust to the different climate.
His bowl prep plan has refined over the years, taking the early trip from former Michigan coach Lloyd Carr, who did that a few times for the Rose Bowl.
Hoke has had more success since losing his first bowl, what he described recently as Ball State getting “trounced” by Rutgers in the 2008 International Bowl, and is trying to replicate the more recent experiences.
Though he didn’t coach the GMAC Bowl with his best Ball State team the next season, having left for San Diego State, he has won the past two, a San Diego State Poinsettia Bowl victory against Navy in 2010 and last year’s Sugar Bowl victory by Michigan against Virginia Tech.
“I liked how we practiced here and how we practiced at the site,” he said of the Sugar Bowl. “There’s always an acclimation that your players go through when you go to somewhere different. The other thing is you can get stale being somewhere too long.”
While players sacrifice Christmas, they will have a four-day stretch at home after finals to spend time with their families before returning to Ann Arbor.
Once in Florida, the team will spend a few days at an alternate site away from downtown Tampa before moving into the city for the traditional bowl week activities.
Michigan will practice in Ann Arbor seven times before leaving, allowing eight remaining for the time in Florida.
Hoke and his staff got a good look at some younger players and will continue to do so during today’s practice, getting to see what they do in Michigan’s schemes instead of running the scout team. However, the coordinators began developing the game plan during the week.
The key is finding the right balance of new plays to insert with so much time to prepare.
“The thing you have to guard against is you can overthink it and get paralysis by analysis as a coach because you’ve got too much stuff,” Hoke said, noting most staffs add a fake field goal or something defined like that. “But you always want to make sure you give your team the best chance to win.”