i refuse to even consider this a possibility
actual coaches' opinions
Is having a little bit more of a window to playing for the Big Ten championship something you even address with your team?
“I’m sure they’re aware of that, and…if not we’ll make them aware of it, but I’m sure they are.”
Just looking at some defensive stats: nine offensive touchdowns given up this year, twelve total. Can you talk about the evolution of this defense and the way it’s bounced back after those last two games?
“Yeah, doing some things that are great. But in terms of like answering the question of the evolution or how we got here or where we’re at and being in that position, we feel like we’re still asking questions. How can we get better? What can we improve? What else can we do to help our team improve? So, not so much the answering questions, more asking them about how to get better.”
Is there any one area specifically you feel like you guys want to improve more?
“No, not that list for you either. In all phases, in all areas. We’re constantly asking ourselves those questions.”
You weren’t happy about the intent to deceive call. Did you get anything that clarifies it more for you and how it’s going to be called in this league going forward?
“Yes. They said it wasn’t intent to deceive, it was intent to confuse. That was the own language that the official used. It’s…I take the rules very seriously, and understanding the rules, understanding the consistency, the clarity of rules, and not just the rules but the spirit of the rules and doing everything that we can to follow the rules, so yeah, I said I was offended after the game to have an unsportsmanlike conduct called on us and the language that they used…that’s offensive because we take it very seriously to know what to teach our players and tell our team.
“No, there’s still no rule in the rulebook that you can go back to and say that we broke. In fact, we asked for interpretation weeks ago and followed it to the best of our ability and…it needs specifics. What was it about it that made it an illegal play versus what would make it a legal play? I mean, everything else in the rulebook is specific, but this one seems to fall in a category that was left to judgment whether the other team’s trying to confuse the opponent, and that’s an awesome responsibility for anybody.
“And why have it? Why not specifically write it? How far can you be from the boundary, your widest eligible receiver during a substitution, after a substitution occurs? Is it in the bench area; has to be closer in the field to the numbers; outside of the bench area it can be closer to the sideline? But really there needs to be some specifics because that’s…that interpretation- we’ve put a lot of work into making sure we follow the rules and not just the letter but the spirit of them.
“Then you start thinking, playing the scenarios. I mean, what else could be deemed trying to confuse the defense? What would be next? Skipping the ball off the turf, if it were a backward pass where you skip it off the turf? Defense thinks that’s an incomplete pass, everybody stops, they pick it up, throw it, etc. I mean, those…need to have specifics on it. So that’s my feeling, yeah. Still remain offended by it.
“And I need some clarity and consistency on another thing I’m offended by: We’ve got a defenseless player covering a punt and he gets hit in the back, in our opinion, in the back of the head, which gets called a targeting foul. They go up to the booth and they say it’s not targeting, but no foul is incurred. It’s a…player, lines up a player- looks like he made a decision to hit him, hit him high, hit him in the back. At least should be a block in the back. Should be unsportsmanlike for making that play, so I’m offended for our defenseless player, so you can put that on the list of things. Top five.”
[After THE JUMP: “I love football, I love the University of Michigan, and I love coaching, and you can do all three of those. As my dad would say, ‘Who’s got it better than us?’ Nooobody.]
News bullets and other items:
- Drake Johnson is working through something minor.
- Jake Rudock had his best week of practice leading up to Northwestern.
- Higdon played because they had some “specialty runs” they wanted to use him for.
- On the rescinded targeting call, Harbaugh says they must have forgot to add the personal foul penalty. The refs also told Harbaugh they didn’t see the second player that landed on Rudock.
- Things Harbaugh is pleased with: His fullbacks and how much his team likes to work.
- The team’s physical play is helping them develop a “callus.”
What did you think of the two targeting calls, and will you appeal the suspension for James Ross?
“Yeah, we’ll take a look at them.
“I’m just really pleased with our team. All three phases had great success today: Special teams, starting with the kickoff return for a touchdown; defense, tremendous shutout; offense played really, really good football. Jabrill’s fielding of the punts…I’m getting less and less nervous about it. Did a nice job.
“So many factors. So many keys to the game, but the fellas really came out ballin’ right from the start and played a heck of a ballgame, so really pleased.”
Just talk about what a kick return touchdown like that does to spark your team.
“Does a lot. Does a lot.”
Talk about the play?
“106-yard return. The blocks were sharp and crisp. Timing was nearly perfect. 10 guys, 11 guys hustling and 10 of them blocking, blocking for Jehu and he got- he is the fastest player on the team. I know Jabrill said one of the fastest but he is the fastest, and he showed it today.”
Can you talk about this defense? Three straight shutouts for the first time since 1980. I mean, what’s the ceiling on this? Is this even shocking you, how potent this defense is?
“With a couple exceptions, we really shut down their running game. They got a few runs that got out, but not many so for all intents and purposes we were able to shut down their running game. Then coverage was- our guys were in the hip pocket almost every route, getting hands on the ball. They threw the back shoulder on Jourdan Lewis a couple times and one time he made an incredible interception. Looked like he got his arm in between the receivers arms and somehow intercepted it and took it back to the house. And then the pass rush was intense.
“All three of those phases were at the highest level today, and all working together. DJ Durkin and the defensive staff- tremendous week of preparation and called a near flawless game. That’s A++.”
[The rest after THE JUMP]
Just kind of talk about how your guys are coming along a little bit through three games.
“Yeah, the guys are working hard. You know, we just keep pressing them every week in practice, keep telling them to challenge themselves every day and hopefully it translates on the weekends. They’re working hard.”
Jourdan was saying on Monday that he thinks the secondary could be the best in the country. Is that sort of an attitude that you promote?
“Well, that’s what we want them to think and, you know, certainly the work and what they produce has to match that. But we absolutely want that attitude from those guys. It helps. Certainly their position requires that kind of attitude. They’ve got to have a short memory at that position and put things to the side and go play the next play. So, it’s all about attitude, it’s all about challenging yourself every day and just trying to get better and better and win every play.”
Talk a little about the challenge they’re going to get this weekend.
“A big, big challenge. I mean, those guys [are] 6’6”, 6’5”, 6’3”. Really big receivers, good athletes, decent speed; I mean, they’ve got it all, and they roll in those guys. They’ve got four or five really good receivers that they’re rolling in every down, so they’re going to be fresh. We’ve got a big challenge ahead of us.
“Just physically, when you line Jourdan Lewis up against a 6’6” guy, as scrappy as Jourdan is, that’s a tough matchup. But that’s how we’re going to play it. They’ve got to fight.”
When a guy makes a couple big plays like Channing did last week, what does that do for his confidence and how he’s able to play?
“You know, hopefully. When you do things right you get confidence, and he’s been doing things right. Throughout camp, Channing has probably had the best camp out of all the guys. He’s just worked hard. He had one bad day, had one bad scrimmage in the summer there. Other than that he’s been playing really hard and really well. I think he realizes, and I’m hoping that all of them realize, that you don’t arrive. You always have to get better, because somebody’s chasing you.”
[After THE JUMP: Covering big receivers, the importance of eyes, and seam responsibility in Cover 3]
What did Grant Perry do in preseason practice to earn the opportunity he did and how do you evaluate his performance on Thursday?
“What Grant did was he consistently came in and practiced every day at a high level, especially for a true freshman who’s also picking up the offense. He was out there every single day getting better and better.
“His performance in the game was in some ways out standing and some not precise route running, so it was…I wouldn’t call it as consistent as we would like but I think he’ll improve from it. I think he showed signs of some really outstanding play in terms of catching the ball, route running, and blocking. He had some blocks that were things of beauty. So, it was a good first start. But a couple costly mistakes.”
Was that interception on him?
“You never say it’s totally on one player, but he did not run the correct route. It was not close to being precise. It was something he just made up. But, again, when it comes to playing the quarterback position you don’t have to throw the ball if someone doesn’t run the right route. So, there’s fingerprints on that first interception for Grant and Jake [Rudock].”
Drake Johnson was with the team, traveled, dressed, everything. You have any better feel on him this week?
“Yeah, we’re going to evaluate that as the week goes on. Drake’s in really good communication with the doctors [and] the doctors are in really good communication with him. Cautionsly feeling pretty good where we’re at right now and we’ll see what happens during the week.”
[After THE JUMP: “And he’s a football player. There’s a compliment that…you can’t give a better one.”]
News bullets and other items:
- This is not a drill: the spring game won’t be a punting competition. In Baxter’s words, “We won’t kick at all in the spring game [except] maybe field goals or something.”
- Kickers and punters are kicking into nets; kickers haven’t kicked at uprights yet. Baxter is breaking down their mechanics and rebuilding and doesn’t want them worried about results yet.
- If the list he showed us is any indication then anyone who wants to compete at kick or punt returner should get a chance. Baxter had 14 guys try returning kicks yesterday.
- Baxter didn’t go on any recruiting trips. Harbaugh instead opted for him to stay in Ann Arbor and start installing his Academic Gameplan.
What's the good news?
"There's a lot of good news. We get paid to coach a kids' game. We wear the clothes to work that you'd wear to cut the lawn, and we get paid really good to have a lot of fun so good every day."
MGoQuestion: Maurice Hurst tweeted yesterday that he's taking 18 credits and that you're helping him with that. What can you do to help someone who's taking that many credits plus has the time demands of football?
"Well, one of the things that's been kind of the subject and topic of my life's work is helping young people be effective students, so I'm not only helping him I'm helping all these guys. But that's been Coach Harbaugh's mantra since we got here is we have student athletes, okay? And it's one thing to say you have student-athletes and it's another thing to live it, so when we got off the airplane he had me install the Academic Gameplan.
“We got off the plane on- I believe it was whatever day January 8 was, but we started that Monday at 6:15 and we met every night, and he left me home all the way through recruiting. I never went out. I was here every night with our players and we installed our Academic Gameplan system, of what we call the Champions Program, and we begin laying the foundations of being effective students.
“One of the things that I've learned over time is never sell yourself short as a teacher. If we can get guys to know all the complexities of our defense and our offense and our pass protections and all those kinds of things, if I can get a guy to run 60 yards full speed into another guy [then] we can teach them how to take notes. We can teach them strategic planning. Generally that's what's happening."
How much of your day is spent doing that versus Xs and Os and on the field type of work?
"It just kind of depends. I won't speak specifically about any player, but I'm going to meet one of them tomorrow morning at 7:30 and we'll eat breakfast together and we'll look over his strategic plan and that kind of stuff, but for the most part I'd say 90% of my day is spent on Xs and Os. When it comes to the Academic Gameplan stuff, I mean, I copyrighted the program in 1999 and I've been teaching it in one form or another since I was a graduate assistant in '86 so I don't need to spend any time on it. We can get it up and running at a moment's notice."
What are some of the things that constitute the foundation or is it tailor-made to each individual?
"The foundation for academics? Okay, simple. It's really simple. They all have a planner and that planner's called a GPS, which stands for guidance, performance, and strategy and in a nutshell we don't take notes, we take answers, just like all of you are doing. You're not taking notes, you're taking answers, And it's strategic planning, prioritized daily task lists, and essentially we show them- because in college you deal with a syllabus, and basically it's how to take this chaotic world and go chaos to concept and process to product.
“It's just – it's a way to process the information that's coming in because really when – I know when I went to college I was probably not just the last generation but the last year, I graduated high school in '81 in college and '85, and never touched a computer. Never touched it one time. So I would equate it to- when I was in college we were still using encyclopedias, looking stuff up in the card catalog, and kind of drinking out of a garden hose. Now they are drinking out of a fire hydrant and you have to help them sort through that chaos if they're going to be effective students."
[After THE JUMP: A “radically different” approach to special teams]
Twenty-four passing yards allowed and Tevin [Coleman] did break 100 yards but it didn’t hurt you guys. Talk about that rush defense, it didn’t break, and then also the pass defense with only giving up 24 yards.
“Well, the pass defense… let’s be honest, that’s a product of them not throwing it very much. The rush defense: I was very pleased with the attitude and the resolve our kids had as far as keeping the ball inside and in front. If you noticed the great production that they had had previous, a lot of it came on huge plays. Eighty yard runs, 70 yards runs and I think our kids did a real good job of making sure we kept it inside and in front and everybody got to the football.”
Northwestern’s offense [and] the challenges they pose?
“Yeah, Northwestern, obviously we really respect them. I personally really respect them and their staff, the way they coach. They will be really aggressive. It’s- when they play they play, and the quarterback has a very good arm. They’ve got good wide receivers. Their offensive line has got some experience. They’re a team that has done very well throughout this year. Records, I don’t even look at records. I just know anytime you play Northwestern you better be ready to play because they’re going to play you strong and they’re going to play you hard and we’ve got to come with our “A” game on defense.”
Will you watch film of Iowa, for example, or just kind of stick to what you do?
“No, I’ll watch them very, very closely. That’s what we’ve been doing. That’s what I just came from. We study our opponent every little thing we do. We sometimes study them too much, I think. We study their last four games as closely as we can and then we go back and look at other games and see if there’s anything there. No, but we watch Iowa very, very closely. And Nebraska we watch closely. Wisconsin we watch closely. They’re very good games to watch.”
You see a kid like Mone doing what he did on Saturday, [does] that get you a little bit excited for his potential for the future?
“Oh, definitely. He did some very, very good things and he got the reward. Everybody sees him getting the fumble recovery and him doing some things, but there was other young guys that deserved an award also that played that allowed him to do that. That was neat. It was- I could go through every one of those guys. You saw some of the plays Wormley made in there. Godin keeps stepping up. Frank, Brennen Beyer [and] some of the plays he made you don’t see sometimes but it’s because of what he does that allows somebody else to play. I could- there was a lot of good play in there. There had to be to do that against a great runner like him. There’s some young kids. I mean, Ryan Glasgow. To strip the ball and recover the ball, to do that- I could go on and on. That wasn’t just the game they’ve done that. These young kids have done that and this might have been the game where they all kind of did it together or a lot more of them, and that was a good offensive line. I didn’t know how good they were but when I watched it and saw them come out on our backers a coupe times and they had some pretty good offensive linemen and for them, for our kids to have that success I was proud of them.”
[After THE JUMP: Greg Mattison is like, ‘Steal my signals, bro’]