Michigan Wolverines: Kevin Koger

Exit Interview: LS Curt Graman 

February, 15, 2013
2/15/13
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‘Exit Interview’ is a concept started at WolverineNation last year where we chat with players leaving Michigan about their experiences with the Wolverines and in some cases, what’s next.

Curt Graman didn't play much in his career and other than a brief stint at tight end, a position he played in high school, his specialty was as a long snapper.

WolverineNation caught up with Graman last month.
There is no DeLorean in this story, but Michigan coach Brady Hoke is attempting to take his football team back to the future, in a sense.

Hoke wants to create his own identity, but through recruiting he and his staff are attempting to recreate some of the old Michigan ways on the field. With big, burly offensive linemen, bruising running backs, tall wide receivers and defensive linemen who don’t quit, Hoke also is hoping to replicate the winning ways of old.


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Brady Hoke's recruiting has followed a pattern at Michigan. The Wolverines start extremely fast, pile up elite prospects, sprinkle in a few later in the cycle and finish with a nationally decorated class. This year's crop seems to be no different as Michigan, along with archrival Ohio State, has secured a spot among the nation's top classes. Hoke and his staff targeted both lines, especially the offensive line, and signed five offensive linemen ranked in the ESPN 300. Michigan made arguably its biggest splash in late January by adding standout Derrick Green, rated as the nation's No. 5 running back by ESPN Recruiting.

ESPN.com caught up with Hoke to discuss Michigan's 27-man 2013 class.

What were your primary objectives with this class and the top needs for Michigan, and how did you do in terms of meeting them?

Brady Hoke: Well, No. 1, both of our fronts, offensively and defensively, when we came in a couple years ago, we only had eight scholarship offensive linemen. So the last two years, we've been trying to built that. I think the coaches did a tremendous job. And then that was the same way on defense. We needed to make sure we were doing our job. A year ago, we took six defensive linemen, and this year, we took three. We really wanted to help ourselves up front. We had to find some tight ends in both years [2012 and 2013], because this [had been] a spread team that had only played minimally with a tight end. We were fortunate enough to have Kevin Koger our first year, who did a tremendous job. So those really were what the needs were. We wanted to get a quarterback, big running backs in this class, that was very important, and try to get some more length at the corner position, guys with a lot of range to them.

[+] EnlargeBrady Hoke
Andrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsWith only 11 returning starters, Michigan coach Brady Hoke said he's excited about the competition this spring.
You mentioned the offensive line and it seems like you really loaded up in the interior. What stood out to you about that group?

BH: The biggest thing is we wanted guys who could really control the line of scrimmage from a run-blocking standpoint. Those guys who could really dominate at the point of attack, the guys who would really finish well on their blocks. Having Taylor [Lewan] around with this group and the group from last year for another year, it's a big part of it.

What's the significance of Derrick Green's signing at running back?

BH: The significance will be that it's a big back. He was a nationally rated guy, obviously, which is always exciting. But we needed some big backs, and Derrick is a guy who fits that mold. He can break tackles, he runs hard, he's a downhill runner and with what we want to do in the two-back sets, it's something that we thought him and Deveon Smith and Wyatt Shallman could bring to us.

What was your reaction when you found out Derrick had committed?

BH: We were excited, obviously. That's always exciting when you compete for a young man who you really believe in your heart that this is the best place for him. And then he decides that's where he needs to go.

You've mentioned the linemen, but who are some of the guys who can help you out on the perimeter?

BH: When you look at the secondary, Ross Douglas and Dymonte Thomas both being in school now, that helps them with their development. Jourdan Lewis is an exceptional athlete that we've been able to see do a lot of things. Delano Hill will be one of those safeties who will shock you when he tackles you. And Channing Stribling and Reon Dawson are both big corners. So I think we'll have great competition, and that always makes you better.

You haven't been afraid to play young players on defense at Michigan. Do you see some of these defenders you signed today helping you as freshmen?

BH: I think that's to be seen, but there's no doubt that those guys who have that innate ability from an athleticism point of view, the mental makeup and so forth, they can possibly do that.

What type of quarterback is Shane Morris and what are you getting from a leadership standpoint?

BH: We're getting a lot as a leader. He was our first [verbal] commitment of this class. He did a tremendous job of recruiting guys and really trying to get close to potential classmates and guys who did come within the class. From a football standpoint, his demeanor on the field, his arm strength, his intelligence, his vision, we all think is very good.

You've done well in Michigan and in the Midwest. Are you looking to expand the recruiting reach more in the future?

BH: We're always going to take that 300-mile, 400-mile radius and try to do the best possible job there, but being the national brand Michigan is, when you look at it from the standpoint of the academic reputation and the history and the tradition of the football here, we're real excited about going wherever we need to and find those guys that fit the mold of what we're looking for at Michigan.

Defensive line is always top of mind for you. What do you think about the guys you brought in there?

BH: Henry Poggi is going to be a very good player here. He's got that ability, that quickness, loose in the hips. Maurice Hurst is a very powerful, great-first-step inside player. When you look at Taco Charlton, he's a 6-6 defensive end, he's got a lot of range and can create a lot of havoc. He's a very good athlete, good basketball player. We have three guys I think will be pretty good players for us.

You and Ohio State are big rivals on the field. How intense is the rivalry between you two in recruiting?

BH: You're recruiting and you're competitive, which you have to be in this business. It's always a competitive situation. Do you want to win? Yeah. We've taken nine guys out of the state [of Ohio] who we feel very good about.

What stands out to you most about this recruiting cycle at Michigan?

BH: It was a different year to some degree. Possibly having a lot of commitments early was part of it. When Shane committed early, it kind of snowballed. When Taco Charlton was here on an unofficial [visit], he committed after a basketball game. Some of it's shocking, as quickly as things went, but it was a very good year for us.
Denard RobinsonSandra Dukes/US PresswireImproved focus from the offensive line helped Denard Robinson rush for 235 yards against Purdue.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The week heading into the Wolverines' matchup with Purdue was one of the most memorable for offensive coordinator Al Borges.

"We had our three best practices maybe since I've been here, but certainly this season," Borges said. "So much of that tone was set by [the offensive linemen]."

It was the O-line position group that was called out during halftime of the Notre Dame game and told the final two quarters would rest on its shoulders. In that matchup the group missed more than 20 assignments and came into the following two weeks with a renewed focus. And because of that focus, they brought Borges and the rest of the offense the three best practices this season, which led a surprising rout of the Boilermakers.

"I love linemen because they're realists," Borges said. "They know you're only as good as your last performance and they're going to have to work hard."

(Read full post)

The Inside The Game Ohio State-Michigan positional previews with BuckeyeNation’s Austin Ward and WolverineNation’s Michael Rothstein continue today with a look at perhaps the biggest question marks on the offense for both schools.

The wide receivers and tight ends.

Ohio State
Ward: Urban Meyer didn’t sugarcoat his assessments in the spring, and those words have surely been ringing in the ears of the targets in the passing game all summer.

Maybe the new Ohio State coach was simply trying to send a message to the receivers about how important they are in the spread offense. Perhaps Meyer is truly concerned about the talent he’s inherited at those skill positions -- or maybe it’s a combination of the two.

Regardless, after posting some of the worst receiving numbers in the country last season, the Buckeyes are counting on more from the passing game and the group already on campus is going to be responsible for the improvement.

Devin Smith and Evan Spencer both have the ability to produce on the perimeter, and Corey “Philly” Brown has emerged as a viable candidate in the hybrid pivot position thanks to his speed and elusiveness. All of them earned a starting spot coming out of spring practice, but the player that perhaps excited the most for the Buckeyes during camp was Michael Thomas. The true freshman pulled down 12 catches in the spring game -- only two fewer than the highest total anybody posted for the entire 2011 season.

But the guy who might really help the offense and quarterback Braxton Miller take off is tight end Jake Stoneburner, an invaluable security blanket with a knack for turning his catches into points. Of the senior’s 14 catches last season, half of them went for touchdowns.

Michigan
Rothstein: The biggest question for Michigan this season, offensively or defensively, is who is going to catch the ball consistently for the Wolverines. The coaches have preached having confidence in fifth-year senior Roy Roundtree and junior Jeremy Gallon, but neither has the size the graduated Junior Hemingway did.

Both have had productive seasons in the past -- Roundtree caught 72 passes for 935 yards as a sophomore in 2011 and Gallon had 31 catches for 453 yards last season -- but neither has shown great consistency.

Otherwise, Michigan is staring at a bunch of unknowns. Receivers Drew Dileo, Jerald Robinson and Jeremy Jackson have shown promise, but hardly ever in game situations. Incoming freshmen Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson both have the size and speed potential offensive coordinator Al Borges desires, but no experience.

Tight end, where Kevin Koger was a reliable option the past three seasons, is an even bigger question. The tight ends on the roster combine for two career catches, 28 yards and even less experience.

Fifth-year senior Brandon Moore -- once a highly-touted recruit -- is the likely starter here but otherwise the Wolverines are looking at two freshmen, Devin Funchess and A.J. Williams, and a fifth-year senior walk-on, Mike Kwiatkowski, to fill the role.

As good as Michigan’s run game may be, its receivers and tight ends could stall the offense unless they are able to identify consistent producers.

Michigan camp notes: Wednesday 

June, 20, 2012
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Michigan finished its third and final full day of camp on Wednesday. With more than 1,300 campers going through the Wolverines' doors, the coaching staff has had quite a few looks at the possible talent pool over the next few years.

And after Wednesday, with a lot of heat and a lot of football, here are a few of Tom and Chantel's thoughts on the day.

QUARTERBACKS

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Contact with players is minimal during the summer and since he can’t go on the road to recruit, Michigan football coach Brady Hoke is taking time to evaluate.

As the second-year coach begins to put together his plan for August’s preseason practice, he is looking at what worked and didn’t from last year’s 11-2 season that ended in a 23-20 win over Virginia Tech in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

“You start with a big template of what you did a year ago,” Hoke said before the Griese/Hutchinson/Woodson golf outing Sunday. “There’s always changes in the course of that year. You go back and you write everything down and you look at it and say did it help you win and did it help you develop your team or didn’t it. You’re always looking for new ideas.”

(Read full post)

Michigan spring wrap

May, 11, 2012
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Michigan

2011 overall record: 11-2

2011 conference record: 6-2 (2nd, Legends Division)

Returning starters

Offense: 6; defense: 8; kicker/punter: 2

Top returners

QB Denard Robinson; RB Fitzgerald Toussaint; WR Roy Roundtree; WR Jeremy Gallon; LT Taylor Lewan; RT Michael Schofield; DE Craig Roh; LB Jake Ryan; LB Kenny Demens; LB Desmond Morgan; CB J.T. Floyd; CB Blake Countess; S Thomas Gordon; S Jordan Kovacs.

Key losses

WR Junior Hemingway; WR Darryl Stonum; WR/KR Martavious Odoms; TE Kevin Koger; C David Molk; RT Mark Huyge; DT Mike Martin; DE/DT Ryan Van Bergen; DT Will Heininger.

2011 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Denard Robinson* (1,176 yards)

Passing: Denard Robinson* (2,173 yards)

Receiving: Junior Hemingway (699 yards)

Tackles: Kenny Demens* (94)

Sacks: Ryan Van Bergen (5.5)

Interceptions: Courtney Avery* and J.T. Floyd* (2)

Spring answers

1. Quarterback accuracy: Denard Robinson played one series in the public spring scrimmage, but coaches raved about his improved leadership, decision-making and accuracy throughout the spring. The latter two were major issues for Michigan last season. While it is unknown whether Robinson will truly be more accurate until Sept. 1 against Alabama -- Michigan closed all of its practices to the media this spring -- offensive coordinator Al Borges was very confident in Robinson’s potential for his senior season.

2. Cornerback has depth:
Two seasons ago, cornerback was the biggest question on Michigan’s team because of youth, inexperience and a lack of talent. That is no longer an issue. The Wolverines have as many as six players they could feel comfortable with come the fall, and that doesn’t include incoming freshman Terry Richardson (Detroit/Cass Tech), the highest-ranked player in Michigan's incoming signing class. Sophomore Blake Countess could turn into a star, and fifth-year senior J.T. Floyd is the most consistent corner the Wolverines have. They’ll be the likely starters.

3. A featured back is set: Borges made no hesitation: Redshirt junior Fitzgerald Toussaint is going into the fall as his top tailback -- a marked change from what the Wolverines endured last spring and through the first half of last season. Toussaint rushed for 1,041 yards and nine touchdowns last season, giving Michigan a dynamic dual running game with Robinson. With major questions at wide receiver and tight end, expect a lot of running from Toussaint and Robinson, especially early in the season.

Fall questions

1. Who is catching the ball: Michigan’s coaches spoke highly of Jeremy Gallon, Jerald Robinson and Roy Roundtree during the spring as their top three receivers, but Robinson has never caught a pass, Gallon has had one season of consistent productivity, and Roundtree saw his numbers plummet last season, where he had 19 catches for 355 yards. Tight end isn’t much better, as the position group has two career catches. Denard Robinson’s two best safety valves -- Junior Hemingway and Kevin Koger -- graduated so even if Denard Robinson is improved, he might need to hunt to find a reliable receiver option. Incoming freshman Devin Funchess (Farmington Hills, Mich./Harrison) could be an option at tight end.

2. Who is pressuring the quarterback: Michigan took its biggest hits on the defensive line, which saw three starters graduate -- Mike Martin was a third-round draft pick, Ryan Van Bergen signed a free agent contract and Will Heininger graduated -- and its fourth starter, Craig Roh, switch positions. Michigan insists it’ll be OK there. Will Campbell and converted end Jibreel Black will likely start inside, and either sophomore Brennen Beyer or sophomore Frank Clark will start at rush end. The success of Michigan’s defense last season relied on pressure the front four created. With an almost completely new group there, how they fare against opponents will be interesting to see.

3. Punting problems: Somewhere along the way last season, Will Hagerup lost his mojo, much like kicker Brendan Gibbons the year before. A strong-legged punter, Hagerup wasn’t connecting with the ball well and eventually lost his job to freshman Matt Wile. Now entering his junior year, Michigan hopes either Hagerup regains his form or Wile becomes more consistent. The Wolverines’ offense should be fairly prolific, but with a defense searching for pressure early on, it needs to be able to control field position with the punter.

WolverineNation mailbag 

May, 2, 2012
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Sugar Bowl CelebrationChris Graythen/Getty ImagesMichigan's 2011 season that ended with a Sugar Bowl triumph deserves a little more credit.
The NFL Draft has ended and football ceases to exist until August. But recruiting, for both football and basketball, never takes a break.

In that vein, we look at what this year’s NFL Draft means to Michigan, the new playoff proposals in college football, and recruiting in this week’s Mailbag.

Remember, the Mailbag is only as strong as the questions you ask, so have at it. Send your questions for next week to jenningsespn@gmail.com or tweet at Chantel @chanteljennings.

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Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges likes what he has to work with this spring. And who wouldn't be excited about Denard Robinson and Fitz Toussaint returning in the backfield as the offensive core?

But like every team, the Wolverines have some issues. One of the key concerns is building a solid two-deep along the offensive line.

"It's a position where we feel good about the kids who are playing," Borges said. "We just need to enhance our depth."

Michigan must replace Rimington Trophy winner David Molk at center, and Ricky Barnum will get the first crack at the gig. Barnum was injured most of last season, and has played left guard in the past.

"He's athletic," Borges said. "Ricky can move. He's really has the profile more of a center. He's smart, he understands who to block and he's played some guard, which should have some carry-over to center. So I think Ricky is going to be fine."

Making up for Molk's leadership might be the toughest task this spring. Borges said Barnum, left tackle Taylor Lewan, and senior guard Patrick Omameh should help pick up the slack in that area.

The starting group up front should be solid, with senior Elliott Mealer taking over at left guard, and Michael Schofield moving to right tackle to replace Mark Huyge. Behind them is a lot of inexperience. Borges said redshirt freshmen Jack Miller and Chris Bryant should contribute. And an incoming freshman like Kyle Kalis has a chance to crack the depth chart.

"We'll see how quick they can pick it up," Borges said.

Another area of concern is tight end, which loses departed seniors Kevin Koger and Steve Watson. Borges said senior Brandon Moore, who has played sparingly, and Ricardo Miller, who's more of a receiving tight end, will get the bulk of the work this spring. But it's a position that remains unsettled.

"We're looking at other kids, and the jury is still out," Borges said. "It's a position where, if a freshman came in and showed something, he could probably make a contribution."

Incoming recruit Devin Funchess could be that guy, though he'll likely need to put on some weight. The Wolverines also signed A.J. Williams as a tight end prospect.

"Seeing who's going to come to the forefront and be our starting tight end this spring, that's huge," Borges said.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Last season at this time, everything was new for Michigan. New coach. New systems. New leaders. New life.

But now, things are a little different. Michigan won the Allstate Sugar Bowl last season. It had an 11-win season. That new coach, Brady Hoke, is now in his second season and his offensive and defensive systems are in place.

One thing will still be new, however: His team’s leadership.

(Read full post)

Kevin KogerLon Horwedell/Icon SMIKevin Koger believes a sub-4.7 40 time could secure him a place in the upcoming NFL draft.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- As much as Kevin Koger wanted to last month, he couldn’t pull himself away from the television. It was kind of a forced torture, a reminder of what he felt should have been and could have been all at once while sitting in his Ann Arbor home.

On his television, in half-hour increments, was the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis. The former Michigan tight end had felt he performed well enough during his career and at the East-West Shrine Game to snag an invite but instead was left out.

So he watched. And watched.

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Former Michigan football coach Rich Rodriguez rarely used the tight end in his spread offense, but when Brady Hoke arrived on campus he made it clear tight ends would be playing a much bigger role in his.

And now, with his 2012 and 2013 recruiting classes, Hoke has drawn some of the top tight end talent in the country to put into his pro-style offense over the next few years.

In his first year at the helm of the Wolverines, Hoke began using Kevin Koger mainly to block but also as a target for quarterback Denard Robinson, giving Michigan’s offense a new look. Hoke often described Koger as being the prototypical tight end the Wolverines want, which to Koger meant being versatile and tough.

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QOTW: Pick your super power 

March, 5, 2012
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Kevin KogerLon Horwedell/Icon SMIKevin Koger said his super power would be flight, which would make it easy to get to class on time.
Question of the week is a weekly feature at WolverineNation where we ask Michigan athletes and coaches all the same questions and publish their best answers each Monday.

This week's question: If you could have any super power, which would it be and why?

MATT VOGRICH, Michigan basketball player: “I would want to be able to fly, because everyone knows I can’t jump that high and it would be really cool to be able to jump really high and fly, basketball-wise. I think that’d be really helpful. Everyone knows I’m not the most athletic person on the team, so that comes to mind. I would also take being a mind reader because I’m always wondering what people are thinking and it’d be cool to know that at all times.”

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No position on the Michigan roster has more questions and needs more help entering next season than tight end.

Kevin Koger? Gone. Steve Watson? Gone.

And considering offensive coordinator Al Borges plans on incorporating the tight end into the offense more and more as the seasons progress, this becomes an important position. Never mind Koger was a safety net for quarterback Denard Robinson.

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