Believing in the process

Mike Hoyt addresses the team following the Susquehanna game. © 2012 David Sinclair/McDaniel College

Well-versed in all things football, McDaniel's first-year head coach, Mike Hoyt has accumulated a vast knowledge of and experience in running a successful football program on and off the field. 

Hoyt comes from a background rich in the sport with his father having played in high school and his brother having played in college. In high school, the coach played on both sides of the ball as a defensive back, linebacker, and running back. In college, he transitioned to becoming primarily a defensive player, which is why, he says, it was natural for him to start his coaching career there.

Hoyt has held numerous coaching jobs on a high school and college level from single- position coaching to director of strength and conditioning and associate head coach at Albright. And with the goal of eventually becoming a head coach in the very forefront of his mind, Hoyt says that he was very observant of his higher-ups and tried to take in as much as he could from them.

"Each place that I was a part of, I tried to learn from the head coach who was there and take some ideas and thoughts of things that I liked. And each place that I was at, I took a bit of, whether it was motivation, whether it was scheme—being X and O's—, organization, how I would like to organize my program, things that were important, things to emphasize, both on and off the field when it comes to player development."

One might assume that a 20-year veteran of the assistant ranks might have had difficulty adjusting to becoming head coach. Hoyt doesn't necessarily agree.

"I don't know if hard is the right word. I think different is the right word because I always envisioned what I would do, so it was basically just following the plan that I had in place."

The only thing that has made this experience different, Hoyt says, was the fact that he now has the final say and has to be held responsible for implementing his plan along with delegating responsibilities to assistant coaches.

The execution of his plans would not be possible without the rest of his staff, who Hoyt says is very loyal to his agenda and is comprised of exceptionally hard-working individuals. Coach Hoyt says that, "in terms of personalities we get along very well," and that he really enjoys working with them all.

The Green Terror didn't necessarily have their ideal season, but Coach Hoyt said that—as with any transition of authority—there will be difficulties and recouping that winning record is simply a process and the team is headed in the right direction. The difficulty lies in the players adjusting to his different ideas, plans, and expectations.

Coach Hoyt is currently implementing reforms in the areas of on the field affairs, academics, and discipline—all of which reflect the theme of this season: Character Counts.

As for the on-the-field approach, Coach Hoyt has completely changed the defensive approach. He took the team from primarily a man-coverage scheme to zone coverage. And while the running game has remained the same for the most part, he has made certain changes to the passing attack. Coach says that he's altered a lot of terminology involved in calling passes. The team has also presented a completely new special teams package.

Hoyt has allocated much extra time and energy into revamping aspects of this college football team that contribute to their overall well-being such as academics and player discipline.

"We have an academic game plan now, where the guys are required to do certain things. And there are other ways that we're implementing to hold guys accountable in the classroom."

Coach Hoyt along with the rest of his staff, have started keeping up with each player's attendance on a consistent basis by physically checking to make sure players are in class when they're supposed to be. In addition, each coach has a certain group of players that they meet with weekly to review their academic progress. The coaching staff has also been tracking their GPA, which determines the number of study hall hours that they're required to fulfill.

"This is a great academic institution that I'm excited to be a part of," Hoyt mentioned, "And I think this is a great place for a guy who's serious about his future."

Coach Hoyt noted that outside of the win-loss record, which is not necessarily indicative of what's happening with the team on an internal level, he has seen actual change and improvement. In order to perpetuate that, the team must work on refining the process in order to see positive results.

"Eventually there's going to be a time when it will reflect on the scoreboard," he explained, "So we're still working on the process right now and the players and coaches are still working at becoming good at how we do things here. But once we get good at that, then the W's will start taking care of themselves."

Hoyt says that while the team occasionally struggles to execute their system during the game, they continue to maintain their resolve and strong belief in his process.

The loss of many key players to injuries like starting quarterback Nick Valori and starting defensive tackle Steve Wetherhold haven't made the Green Terror's season any easier. However, Coach Hoyt optimistically noted that the open spots have given some younger players the chance to move up.

"I'm really excited about some of the young freshman who have had opportunities to get on the field, like Aaron Chester, who's been playing in the secondary for us. He's a freshman whose going to have a great career here. Marty Windisch is another young guy who's a wide receiver and has been doing some great things in practice and is getting some opportunities to play."

While it may seem as though the team is currently undergoing a transformation, the coaching staff is not approaching the season as a "building year" and is doing everything they can to have the chance to win on Saturday. Coach Hoyt says that he and his staff must continue to be patient but also stay result-oriented.

"We've seen flashes in the last couple games," Coach said mid-season. "But you can't just play one good half or one great third quarter," Coach said, "I honestly believe if we put four good quarters of football together we can win."

Article by Jake Ulick, Franklin High School senior and intern in McDaniel College Sports Information Office.

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