Troy Woolfolk Answers Your Questions

Troy Woolfolk Answers Your Questions


August 7, 2012

Troy with his dad, former Michigan running back Butch.  (Image via DetNews.com)

Former defensive back, Troy Woolfolk, answered quickly and emphatically when I asked him if his Michigan career went according to expectation.
“Not at all,” Troy said.  “I would say it was nothing like I thought it was going to be.”
In retrospect, his answer should have been obvious.  During his time at Michigan, Troy experienced a career-altering injury and frequent position changes while acclimating himself to three different head coaches and four separate defensive coordinators.  Of course, Troy made significant contributions both in the locker room and on the field, despite all of the unpredictability and adversity.  He finished his Michigan career with 91 tackles, five pass breakups, and 45 game appearances, including 23 as a starter.  He was recently kind enough to take some time out of his evening to reflect on his career, talk about his future, and answer many reader questions.

Being the son of Butch:  “It put a lot of pressure on me.  Everybody knows he was extremely good, and they would think that his son would go and do the same thing.  But it was also good because he was able to give advice because he had been down the same road.  And he got hurt as well, so he walked me through that and helped me keep a level head.”

Coming to Michigan:  “I really didn’t have an interest in coming to Michigan initially.  I thought I was going to stay in Texas with all the variety of schools there, or possibly Nebraska.  But right around the time I was thinking about signing, Michigan had a camp.  And he [Butch Woolfolk] was like, ‘Just go check it out and see how you like it.’  And when I went to the camp, that’s when I fell in love with the atmosphere in Ann Arbor and the coaches.  And at the end of the camp, Lloyd Carr offered me on the spot, and it was kind of a spontaneous decision, so I just went with it.  It’s kind of funny because a week before that, I wasn’t even considering Michigan and then a week later I became a Wolverine.”

Switching between corner and safety:  “It helped me with the knowledge part of the game. . . . But I think it also hurt me because I never got the chance to craft the art of playing either of those two positions.  So like I was never really comfortable in my corner stance nor comfortable being back there at safety.  I even played some nickel, so I never really got comfortable because I was always switching. . . . I preferred corner because it was much easier.  With corner you’re just worried about one guy whereas with safety, you have to scan the whole field, see if it’s run or pass, call calls.  So I’d say corner, even though it’s one of the most physically demanding positions.  I’d rather do that than think; I just want to play football.”

Constant coaching changes:  “It’s the same thing as with the positions:  it was hard to ever get comfortable with the coaches. . . . [As a player] you have to allow yourself to be coached, and it’s hard to do that with someone you’re not comfortable with and not trusting – which is why I think when Rich Rod was here we had a lot of trust issues and a lot of individuals on the field who didn’t want to listen to the coach and didn’t think he knew what he was talking about. . . . When Coach Hoke got here, he got a sense of trust already installed in us because he was already a coach at Michigan, and he was more able to connect with the players. . . . The main difference between the coaching staffs is that Coach Hoke stresses physicality.  We would do drills that had nothing to do with football, but just to see the toughness in the player.  We’d do this one drill where there was just this towel on a mat.  And at the beginning there’re two people holding it, and one person had to eventually take it from the other person.  It gets really rough down there; people get bloody noses and stuff.  It teaches you into becoming a man and how to hold yours. . . . [If Coach Hoke came to Michigan in 2008], we probably would have won a National Championship in 2011.”

The injury:  “I feel like I either didn’t properly rehab it or came back too early because throughout the whole [2011] season, it was giving me problems.  I just knew it wasn’t how it used to be, and it’s just really unfortunate because I was in the best shape of my life before that happened. . . . In the Dallas [Cowboys] camp, we did two-a-days, and on the first practice everything was good, but on the second practice it got fatigued and sore, and the more I practice on it, the stiffer it gets.”

The future:  “Right now Plan A is to use my Michigan degree to get a job. I’m still working out and keeping football on the back burner so that if my ankle ever does get right again then maybe, but right now that’s the B Plan.”

—————————————————————————————————-
2012 breakout Michigan player:  “Jake Ryan.  He’s extremely athletic.  He’s fast for his size, too.”

Most impressive Michigan teammate:  “Mario Manningham.  To watch that boy play was crazy.  He’s always finding some way to get open.  To see someone that quick and that fast and that athletic is just a crazy thing.  I’d say he’s the best athlete I’ve seen since I’ve been at Michigan.”

Most difficult player to tackle:  “The only one I can really think about is the Iowa running back this year (Marcus Coker).  You needed to get some help to bring that boy down.”

34 comments

  1. Comments: 21388
    Anonymous
    Aug 07, 2012 at 11:13 AM

    Great interview, and easily one of the most interesting takes on the differences between RichRod and Hoke. It's always best to hear from someone who was *right there*.

    • Comments: 21388
      Aug 07, 2012 at 4:08 PM

      Thanks, Anon!

      Here's another Woolfolk quote on Hoke that I probably should have found a way to include in the interview:

      "It was weird that I connected with Coach Hoke so soon. I felt like I've know him for four years. He just seemed cool, and he's just a good guy. That's the first quality I see looking at Coach is great character. I really believe he's a good person at heart and honestly cares about his athletes. I was able to read that early on, so he was all good with me after that, and we just got closer throughout the year."

  2. Comments: 21388
    Aug 07, 2012 at 12:55 PM

    Interesting to see that quote about winning a 2011 national championship if Hoke had been brought on back in 2008. Really makes you glad we have the coaching staff we have now.

  3. Comments: 21388
    Anonymous
    Aug 07, 2012 at 1:06 PM

    Do you feel if Brady Hoke was the coach in 08 he woulda won a National Championship by now ? I now alot of variables go into that happening.

    • Comments: 21388
      Aug 07, 2012 at 1:18 PM

      I think it's a fairly safe bet that Michigan would not have won a championship by now. Ohio State was really good for most of that span, Wisconsin has been excellent, Michigan State has been good, and the teams to win the championships have been excellent. Michigan likely would have done better than they did under Rich Rodriguez, but it's extremely unlikely that a championship would have been won.

    • Comments: 21388
      Anonymous
      Aug 07, 2012 at 3:17 PM

      When you consider that Michigan's two losses last year were very close, I don't think it is unreasonable to think they could have at least competed for a NC. Hell, if they beat MSU and managed to win the B1G CG, they may have even had a shot with one loss.

    • Comments: 21388
      Lanko
      Aug 07, 2012 at 4:42 PM

      They also had close wins. It always takes luck to win a national title, but it would have taken extraordinary luck to win with last years team.

      But the argument is pure fantasy since 80% of the personnel would be different and Denard wouldn't have to Michigan at all.

    • Comments: 21388
      M-Wolverine
      Aug 07, 2012 at 5:18 PM

      I doubt it would have happened too, but there's no problem with a player's confidence. Hoke is a different coach after 4 years than he was then. But to Troy's defense, we wouldn't be playing with the 2011 team…we'd probably be playing with a team in year four of Hoke's recruiting. Still a lot that goes into it, but there are other factors.

  4. Comments: 21388
    Aug 07, 2012 at 1:16 PM

    Sounds like Butch should be proud of the son he's raising… Impressive, and has his Degree.

  5. Comments: 21388
    Aug 07, 2012 at 1:17 PM

    Fascinating stuff, I'm really glad you got ahold of him and you asked some great questions. I think the interview really shows the importance of people buying in to the program, and I think some of that is due to leadership but some of that was certainly out of Rodriguez's control.

    Anyway, thanks for doing this.

  6. Comments: 21388
    Anonymous
    Aug 07, 2012 at 1:17 PM

    To the comment of 9:06 A.M., I'd guess that Hoke's SDSU experience was very important to him. No way was the late '07 Hoke the same as the early '11 Hoke …

  7. Comments: 21388
    Anonymous
    Aug 07, 2012 at 1:34 PM

    When I read the players' who played in this timeframe (Herron, Molk, Woolfolk, etc.) comments, it makes me want to throwup.

    We had one of the most inept defesnive coaching staffs in the history of college football. Period. I love that we have Hoke, but I almost hate that defensive coaches of the Rich Rod era even more. So much that I hate Rich Rod for hiring/keeping/giving them so much power. Just to waste talent and destroy college experiences like that then move on to Arizona like it never happened, that will always bother me.

    • Comments: 21388
      Anonymous
      Aug 07, 2012 at 4:38 PM

      Rich Rodriguez didn't "then move on to Arizona like it never happened." He was fired at Michigan in Jan 2011, and only hired at Arizona in November of that year, having worked as a TV analyst in the meantime.

      I'm no great fan of RR, but I don't like seeing people make things up to denigrate him when there is plenty of factual material to use.

      I'd also note that you've got a lot of hate in that message. Maybe it's time to move on? The RR era was a mistake, but the blame properly goes to Lloyd Carr and Bill Martin, IMO. Michigan knew what it was getting when it hired Rodriguez and declined to hire Casteel. RR's faults were well-known and they hired him anyway.

  8. Comments: 21388
    Anonymous
    Aug 07, 2012 at 1:41 PM

    Great interview Thunder – thanks for this read this morning. As some have said, Troy provides an interesting take on the difference between Hoke and RR. What he does, really, is help define what a 'Michigan Man' as a coach means to the program. Though he never mentions that concept, he help give it specification that it sorely needs. It's not so much about arrogance or nepotism or dumb allegiance, its about trust and familiarity and commonality among players and coaches.

  9. Comments: 21388
    Lanko
    Aug 07, 2012 at 2:18 PM

    Excellent interview Andrew. Injuries suck.

    That part about not trusting Rich Rod and his defensive staff – oy. I bet the offense didn't feel that way but it's hard to blame the players on defense based on everything we've seen and heard. Will be interesting to see how AZ looks with Casteel back to manage the defense.

    • Comments: 21388
      Anonymous
      Aug 07, 2012 at 2:34 PM

      Too bad the offense only put up big points against mediocre defenses under RR.

      When we played teams that used to be considered peers (OSU, PSU) or even MSU, we didn't put up jack squat. Those days are changing. Hoke has improved the offense in many ways (time of possession being one of them to help the defense) and the defense speaks for itself. The players regularly testify as to their improved strength and toughness.

      RR was good for the Big East and may have some success in the Pac 10 but it will be limited until he learns how to play defense against teams like USC and Stanford.

    • Comments: 21388
      Aug 07, 2012 at 4:01 PM

      Thank you, Lanko.

      One of the things I like best about Michigan going 11-2 during Hoke's first year is that he now has instant credibility with everyone (players, fans, recruits). He's had the relationship aspect down since day one – which helped his team go 11-2 – but ultimately fans and players need to see results, in addition to strong relationships and PR, to fully trust and have respect. Hoke has both covered now.

    • Comments: 21388
      Lanko
      Aug 07, 2012 at 4:39 PM

      @Anon

      That's mostly true, but the offense did have some success against good teams. For example, in 2010 they put up 28 against Wisconsin and Notre Dame and 31 against PSU and looked dominant until Molk got hurt. For most defenses that should be enough to win games.

      More importantly, Denard was a sophmore, Lewan and Schofield were freshman, Toussaint was hurt, etc. This was a team that was clearly ramping up. They had a plan and a vision. I think the players trusted the coaches on that side of the ball. Defense, on the other hand, was a total train-wreck and a historically bad embarrassment to Michigan football.

      If Michigan keeps putting up similarly effective offenses without Denard, with Hoke's players, then I'll agree with you, but for now he's doing it with Rodriguez's guys.

      As for Rodriguez in AZ – we'll see. I suspect Casteel will have success. I don't think Rodriguez will look incompetent with a true 'Coach of the Defense' in place. That's what he needs, and if he had let Schaefer have more control things may have turned out very differently.

      @Andrew

      I agree. Hoke's much better as a program CEO than Rodriguez was. Hoke has put great staff around himself. He's handled the high level stuff while keeping his head in the detailed stuff by coaching the DL – letting his staff handle most of the stuff in between. Hoke's been as lucky as Rodriguez was unlucky, but he's put himself in a position to succeed and has avoided making many mistakes – Rodriguez made many.

    • Comments: 21388
      Anonymous
      Aug 07, 2012 at 5:15 PM

      I don't think either players or recruits needed to see results. He won the loyalty of his players right off the bat and was recruiting like a demon during the 2011 offseason, before he'd coached a game here. You don't need a W-L record to show what kind of person you are.

  10. Comments: 21388
    Anonymous
    Aug 07, 2012 at 2:57 PM

    To anonymous 10:34: The "time of possession" argument is ridiculous and I can't believe that it's still being flogged.

    What if the offense scores in one play every time? What difference does it make?

    • Comments: 21388
      Anonymous
      Aug 07, 2012 at 4:06 PM

      I was not the commenter you attacked, but you do know that head coaches of very succesful D1 programs, including the winniest program in history, talk about the importance of time of possession, dont you?

    • Comments: 21388
      Anonymous
      Aug 07, 2012 at 4:11 PM

      Same responder – here's an example from an AA.com story from last year's Nebraska game:

      "The Wolverines held the ball for 41:13 while Nebraska had possession for just 18:47.'You play really good defense when you get to watch your offense,' Hoke said. 'Our offense, not in every game, but (it does) have a little advantage in time of possession. 'One of our best defensive calls is (our offense) on the field.'

      http://www.annarbor.com/sports/um-football/michigan-special-teams-play-up-to-their-namesake-in-romp-over-nebraska/

    • Comments: 21388
      Aug 07, 2012 at 4:11 PM

      Coaches of very successful D-I programs also believe in punting on 4th-and-short and other mathematically silly things.

    • Comments: 21388
      Anonymous
      Aug 07, 2012 at 4:22 PM

      Come on Thunder, you are going to argue that its all mathematics? It's all probability? Please, give me a break. You have been spending too much time at Mgoblog, where abstractions, i.e., mathematical depictions of the game, get turned into the reality of the game. It's what they can offer – they can't actually give inside information on the game, but they can use statistics to analyze mathematical abstractions from the game, which is why its so sacred over there. Please dont bring that false reality here.

    • Comments: 21388
      Aug 07, 2012 at 4:24 PM

      I don't believe in all the math stuff over there. But statistics are statistics, and in my opinion, it's often better to go for it on 4th-and-short. In this case, math and my personal belief dovetail nicely together.

    • Comments: 21388
      Lanko
      Aug 07, 2012 at 4:40 PM

      Math is Fake! Anon has shown me the light.

    • Comments: 21388
      Anonymous
      Aug 07, 2012 at 5:17 PM

      As long as your offense has the ball, the other team doesn't have it. It's not 100% correlated to success, but it's never a bad thing to have a lot of possession.

    • Comments: 21388
      Lanko
      Aug 07, 2012 at 6:40 PM

      No one argues that TOP is bad, but the debate is weather its a useful measure by itself. If you're moving the ball, you'll generally have it for longer – so that's good. But you'll also win TOP if the defense gives up touchdowns every play. It's really just a measure of relative pace.

      Does pace matter? It's hard to say. The 'Math' argument is that you play fast if you are the better team to reduce variability and play slow if you're the worse team so that randomness plays a bigger role. Obviously if you're winning you want the game to end, so you slow things down, and if you're losing you want to speed things up. TOP tells you nothing about those things. The 'Save Your Defense' argument is that you protect your defense, which is more susceptible to fatigue' by keeping them well rested. This never made much sense to me because the offense gets just as tired and the OL almost never substitutes while the defenses can rotate more easily. But there may be something to it – it just doesn't make much sense to me.

      Everyone agrees that TOP correlates with success. Many disagree if it causes it.

  11. Comments: 21388
    Anonymous
    Aug 07, 2012 at 5:13 PM

    Here's the thing with time of possession (TOP): I'd guess that high numbers there are positively correlated with good outcomes. Probably fair, right?

    How do you _coach_ to that, though? Do you say "Hey, Denard — if you see open field at the 50, pull up when you get to the 20 so we can run Fitz a few plays and take more time off the clock?"

    Suppose you had Chad Henne, Mario Manningham, Adrian Arrington, a functional (that is, not crazy) tight end, and … no good running back and a leaky offensive line except for one All-American guy? (Wait — except for the running back part, that would be '07. Ha.) Do you tell your offense "Hey — no big chunks of yards, dudes. We need to CONTROL THE BALL."

    What if running in small chunks really isn't your thing? What if you're best airing it out and (when it works) getting yardage in bigger bits?

    What would you prefer? Scoring in three plays or running fifteen running plays (taking several minutes) and kicking field goal when the red zone plan doesn't work out? (Not saying that a field goal attempt would be the inevitable result … just teeing up an example.) I honestly believe some of the TOP acolytes would prefer the FG attempt.

    • Comments: 21388
      Lanko
      Aug 07, 2012 at 6:42 PM

      It is situational. You want to control the pace, not control the clock. You want to be able to score fast, or score slow, depending on the situation.

    • Comments: 21388
      Aug 07, 2012 at 7:01 PM

      Even if you don't actually believe that, you're dumb if you think that's a good example to prove your point.

  12. Comments: 21388
    Anonymous
    Aug 09, 2012 at 11:33 AM

    The problem with time of possession is that folks mix up cause and effect. TOP doesn't cause winning. It's more often the other way around. TOP is a side effect of solid play, not the reverse

  13. Comments: 21388
    Anonymous
    Aug 14, 2012 at 3:10 PM

    People who are criticizing TOP arguments are making the argument way too simply. it is "a" factor, not "the" factor in winning. the all or nothing arguments are not flying, people.

    Now back to the TOP point. If your defense is well rested, it can respond aggressively and likely hold the opposing team to fewer points and potentially more 3 and outs instead of being winded and unable to attack. Of course their is no 100% correlation, but ensuring your ability to be aggressive as possible on every down increases your chances of stopping the offense. The "math people" and the "non-math people" can probably come up with a way to confirm that if they stop the illogical bickering. Also, we already have confirmation of this by Hoke but I think Borges, and Mattison will agree.

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