Despite seeing their school take steps back in total wins each of the past couple of seasons, a couple of notable Michigan alums are coming to protect the back of Michigan head coach Brady Hoke. Desmond Howard and Steve Hutchinson have each spoken out in support of the current Wolverines head coach, rejecting the idea Hoke may be on a hot seat in Ann Arbor.
“I think they’re headed in the right direction, and I’ve got a lot of confidence in Coach Hoke,” Howard said in a story by MLive.com while making the rounds at the Super Bowl. Howard and Hutchinson are each among the many football personalities floating around New Jersey and New York this week. “Sometimes you got to take your lumps before you get to the top of the mountain. I don’t think people understand that. I’m good with it.”
Michigan had the Big Ten’s top-ranked offense in 2010 but the Wolverines have slipped in Big Ten total offensive ranking each season since, ending the 2013 season ranked 10th in the 12-team Big Ten in total offense. Howard warns any who suggest Hoke should be on a short leash that he has done some good things since arriving as the head coach to succeed Rich Rodriguez.
“Michigan won a BCS (game) championship for you lately, don’t forget about that,” Howard said, referring to the 2011 Sugar Bowl against Virginia Tech, a game neither team probably should have been in anyway.
Howard’s words of encouragement were echoed by Hutchinson.
“He has my support 100 percent,” Hutchinson said to MLive.com. “I don’t think you can put him on the hot seat. I think anytime you don’t get the results right off the bat, that phrase ‘hot seat’ comes up. A lot of times I know where it comes from, but I don’t think it’s justified here. People need to be patient and know we’re headed in the right direction.”
Hoke and Michigan have come under fire this week with the report of kicker Brendan Gibbons’ dismissal from the university and how it was addressed, or rather not addressed, by Hoke and the athletics department. That issue was not addressed by either former Wolverine, at least not in the MLive story.
Arizona signee My-King Johnson probably caught most Wildcats’ fans attention with his impressive name when it was listed among the 23 signees for the football program on National Signing Day.
The 6-3, 225 pound defensive end’s name is set to become a little more well known however.
In a story on Saturday in the Arizona Daily Star, Johnson confirmed that he would become the first active openly gay scholarship player in FBS when he enrolls over the summer down in Tucson.
“I do feel like when I say that, it can put a target on my back,” Johnson told the paper about going public with his sexuality. “But whatever.”
Johnson is far from the only gay athlete to play major college football but does appear to be one of the first to go public on the matter prior to suiting up for a major program. Missouri’s Michael Sam came out once he entered the NFL Draft. Just up the road in Tempe, where Johnson went to high school, Arizona State walk-on Chip Sarafin told his teammates in 2014.
From the Daily Star:
When Johnson told UA assistant Vince Amey about his sexuality while being recruited, the coach’s reaction — “We want you to be a Wildcat” — was exactly what he wanted to hear.
Johnson picked the Wildcats despite offers from numerous FBS programs, including many in the Pac-12. Perhaps coincidentally, he really jumped on the radar of the coaching staff when he sacked quarterback Rhett Rodriguez, an Arizona signee himself (and the son of head coach Rich Rodriguez), three times in a high school game.
It certainly seems as though Johnson is very comfortable telling his story to a wider audience than just his teammates and coaches by doing the interview with the Daily Star and the environment down in Tucson has been very welcoming to all the new attention that it will bring. As the Wildcats begin spring practice this month, chances are the coaching staff is probably just as excited about the prospect of Johnson making an instant impact on defense this fall after seeing plenty of issues on that side of the ball during a 3-9 campaign in 2016.
Arizona has its replacement for former athletic director Greg Byrne.
Central Michigan AD Dave Heeke is set to take the same position in Tucson with the Wildcats, the school announced Saturday afternoon.
“I couldn’t be more excited to be part of the Arizona Athletics family. It is truly an honor to be named the new Vice President for Athletics and have the opportunity to return to the prestigious Pac-12 Conference,” Heeke said in a release. “I want to thank Dr. Hart and those involved with the search process for their confidence in my ability to lead one of the premiere athletics departments in the country. This program is about excellence and we will continue to focus on achieving at the very highest level athletically and academically, while creating the finest experience in the country for our student-athletes.
Heeke has been in Mount Pleasant since early 2006 and found plenty of success with the MAC school across numerous sports. In football, he notably hired Butch Jones to replace Brian Kelly when the latter left for Cincinnati and has seen the Chippewas make a bowl game eight times during his tenure.
While he is a Michigan native, he’s no stranger to the way things operate out West having spent 18 years at Oregon. While he held a variety of roles in Eugene, he eventually became a senior associate athletic director with the Ducks before departing for CMU.
Arizona had a vacancy in their athletic leadership ever since Byrne left to become Alabama’s AD not long after the national title game in January.
Spring practice is already underway in Tucson but it took until the end of this week for Arizona to finally have a complete offensive coaching staff.
The Wildcats announced on Saturday that Theron Aych would be taking over as the team’s new receivers coach, filling a vacancy created when Tony Dews left for West Virginia.
Aych helped provide a nice boost to the Miners’ passing game in his one season in El Paso and spent five seasons at Division II Angelo State prior to that. He served as the offensive coordinator and assistant head coach with the Rams during his five-year stint before moving up to the FBS level.
The Pac-12 is no new experience for Aych though, as he served as a graduate assistant at Washington over a decade ago.
Aych should have his work cut out for him this spring with the team featuring plenty of young players at the receiver position while also dealing with the loss of standouts like Trey Griffey and reliable veteran Nate Phillips both gone.
Just in the nick of time, Mike MacIntyre has rounded out his new defensive staff for the 2017 season.
The Buffaloes announced on Friday evening that former Purdue defensive coordinator Ross Els would be joining the program and serving as inside linebackers coach. The release notes that Els’ paperwork was completed in time for him to join the team for their second practice of spring ball.
“Coach Ross Els brings a lot of energy,” MacIntyre said. “He has great experience as a coordinator, positions coach and special teams coach, and we’re really excited about having his expertise in those phases in our program.”
Els adds plenty of experience to Boulder, having coached linebackers at New Mexico State, Ohio and Nebraska. In addition, he was the Boilermakers’ defensive coordinator and safeties coach last season.
The move completes the staff for the Buffs after seeing a number of coaches depart to Oregon with former coordinator Jim Leavitt.