"(I) think about 'The Lion King,' Simba gets hit over the head and (he's told) 'the past can hurt,' " Harbaugh said Monday afternoon. "'You can either run from it or embrace it and learn from it.'
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]
[file because today was a suit day]
Your brother told us that you threw people out of practice yesterday.
That's what he said. Rick Leach too?
“No, you'd never kick Rick Leach out of a Michigan practice.”
Who won the last time-
“That was exaggerated.”
Who won the last time you two played golf?
“I don't know. He won the last big one.”
He said he won nine holes and then you too played two extra holes that you won.
“I don't recall.”
You had five practices. Are you getting a better feel for the personnel and what you have to work with?
“Yes, yes. You get a better feel for – you get to know people as you go. You learn a little more about someone every day.”
Can you talk a little bit about personnel at the center position? I know you've had some attrition.
“Uh huh. Yes.”
I was just wondering who's filling in.
“Glasgow's doing a real nice job. He's been a tough, steady player. We will need others at that position as well.”
Were you disappointed to see Jack [Miller] leave or did you understand it?
“Yeah, and I appreciated the honesty and I have a level of respect for what he had to say and continuing his education. There is some job opportunities that he has and he's going to pursue that, so you always appreciate the honesty.”
In terms of quarterbacks is there maybe one thing that you want a little bit more of right now? How's that all going?
“It's going good. We're making strides every day, like I said earlier. They're doing a lot of little things better and better each day and they're all really – it means a lot to them, each guy that we have. That's all you can ask for as a coach.”
[I purposely didn’t do bullets because you’re going to want to read everything after THE JUMP]
“Everybody good? Yeah? Great. Who’s kicking us off?”
I’ll kick you off. It’s only been a couple of days but what have you seen out of your quarterbacks so far?
“Uh, well, right now we’re seeing progress. That’s, I think, the first thing we’re looking for is how they’ve picked up what we’ve asked them to do. We’ve seen them now- this is what, practice four? But it’s been 16 hours on the field so we’ve had a lot of repetitions and we’ve been able to do a ton of drill work with them and been able to watch them kind of pick up the system the best they can at this point. I think there’s some really good progress in terms of command at the line of scrimmage. I think there’s good progress in terms of understanding the offense. Now it’s a matter of slowing the game down for them, and that’s what our next step is.”
How do you slow it down?
“I would say that slowing it down comes from knowledge, number one. Number two, it comes from experience, and then three, it comes from some form of comfort level. Right now their knowledge in terms of what we’re asking them to do is still growing and it’s kind of not where we want it to be yet in terms of you’d love to always fast forward the process but right now the process is what it is. In terms of experience they have none in the system and the really don’t have much college football playing experience, but with us they’ve had four days of experience. And finally, as we continue to go through this process and give them opportunities I think we’ll see them continue to develop every day and that will slow the game down for them.”
You mentioned progress. How long of a road do they have to get where you want them to go?
“I think that we’re certainly in a situation where we don’t play for a while, so that’s good. We’ve got 11 more practices, so that’s really good, and then we’ve got a big summer where they can really grind themselves. I’m a huge believer in that philosophy of players coaching players. I think that it’s huge during this time of the summer when we’re not with them that they can really take what we’ve kind of coached them on and then help each other and really continue to develop one another. And then finally we have training camp and we have all of camp to get ready for opening day. So they’ve got some time and we’re going to use all of it, every second we can, to try and help them improve and be comfortable and then be able to go out there and put us in the best possible position to succeed.”
What are the differences you see in the three scholarship guys?
“Well, they certainly do have different skill sets. Wilton is a very large man He’s a big guy and he can see everything. He’s a pretty good athlete. Throws the ball well. He doesn’t seem to have had a ton of experience. I know Shane probably took more reps last year, I would guess, because he was probably the 2. I know he went in one game, two games, whatever and then played the year before also so he’s probably had some more practice reps than Wilt has but Wilt makes a lot of nice throws and is a good sized kid.
“Shane has a very strong arm, which everybody knows. He spins it well. He just has to understand that’s really not the most important thing. If you have a really strong arm you have a really strong arm. That’s what you have. So now it’s a matter of what can you do with it? How do you utilize it? So his skill set, you know, his arm strength is tremendous and he has really good- he’s very comfortable as a quarterback, so that’s fun to watch him in the huddle. He has really good command of what we’re asking him to do and Alex- Alex should be a senior in high school right now.
“I know my senior spring I wasn’t in college, so I know that he’s got a lot going on and he has handled it unbelievably well. He is like- he’s unbelievable in terms of his ability to not let things bother him, to be consistent, and to jump right back in and play the game. If a play doesn’t go right he’s right back in [and] ready for the next one. Short-term memory is phenomenal for a quarterback.”
[After THE JUMP: more honesty]
“Everything’s great. Enjoying myself.”
What's caught your eye the most about your running backs?
“Talented group. Real talented. They haven't even scratched the surface. That's really what has caught my eye, so right now I'm kind of like an artist with a blank canvas. I can just have at it. That's really what it feels like.”
What's it been like for you to be back here as a coach?
“Haven't really thought about it to be honest, because my focus is Big Ten championship, national championship, 2000-yard rusher, so my days here haven't really – and I've been the type of person once I left here, I left here. I was onto better things, things that this place had catapulted me on to do. That's where my mindset was. But now I'm back for a totally different reason, so… you know, I'm a coach.”
We haven't talked with you since your son signed with the University of Michigan. Talk about that aspect of having him join you here.
“Well, it's a great thing. As a father you're always happy for your child and his success and the things that he's done, but once again, I'm just focused on the guys that are here right now and when he gets here he'll have his fair time. He'll have his time to get it, but right now my focus is on the guys that are here.”
Were you getting a little bit of a better feel for them today with them having the pads on?
“Not really. You can understand who they are even without the pads. The pads is just kind of one of the things a) that shows the physicality and b) if they are in hitting shape and that type of deal. As far as the feel, watching film of those guys and studying them I kind of already had a feel for who they were.”
We haven't had a chance to see Ty Isaac with him sitting out last year. What does he bring different than the other guys in terms of style and things like that?
“I don't think it's just Ty Isaac being different. Each guy brings a different aspect to the game. I’d just say that probably – I wouldn't say probably, he is the largest one out of the bunch. But in terms of difference, that would probably be it just about him being different – [he’s] bigger. He has great feet, good vision, he's a smooth runner but I wouldn't say he's any different than any other guy.”
[After THE JUMP: the characteristics of an ideal Tyrone Wheatley-coached back]
[I bet you’ve never appreciated Upchurch and Fuller more than you do today]
Drevno will be responsible for play calling
Offensive gameplans will be a joint effort between all of the offensive coaches and Harbaugh
Four of the five starters on last year’s OL losing weight is a coincidence; Drevno’s still looking into it and said he’ll get the weights where they need to be
The quarterback competition is “wide open,” and their progress is primarily being tracked by Harbaugh and Fisch
Drevno said Harbaugh’s the smartest man he’s ever been around and unique in a great way
Winning has cured more ills than penicillin
“It feels good, this cold, doesn’t it?”
- We’re used to it.
“I like it.”
What are some of the characteristics that are going to help kids see the field early for you? Toughness, mobility- is there one thing above any others?
“I think, number one, it’s just how they take the information from the classroom [and] take it out on the field. Understand their assignments and have a want-to and a physicality and being a teammate, a great teammate.
“Is that it? Okay, great!”
On the roster four of the five starting offensive linemen from last year lost weight. Was that something that was kind of a plan as far as you guys were concerned or is it just a coincidence?
“No, I think it’s just a coincidence. I’m still looking at their weights and evaluating them now and we’ll get those weights where they need to be and be able to move in a very good fashion up front.”
You’re starting with a clean slate. How much does experience count for the guys who’ve played?
“You know, it’s- it really is a clean slate. I just turn on the film and see who’s doing it at a high level and doing it at the top of their craft. At USC last year I started three true freshmen, so I’m just trying to find the best players out there and that’s the best thing about it; guys get out there and compete to be the best.”
Can you kind of tell the guys who’ve played already?
“Yeah, at times I can. You can just because they’re a little bit more grooved in their technique and things, but kind of day to day at times. Yeah, you can.”
[After THE JUMP: the quickest way to an offensive lineman’s heart is through a barbeque]
[Shoddy iPhone photo via me]
Durkin wants to play multiple fronts and thinks they have the athletes to handle that
Greg Jackson is working more with the safeties and Mike Zordich is working more with the corners
Everyone has an opportunity to earn snaps based on what they do from spring on; how much a player played last season is irrelevant
It’s too early to tell if there’s a player who didn’t play much last season who’s going to get significant playing time this season or who the leaders of the defense will be
Durkin’s goal is to know what the defense is good at, what needs to be improved, and what they can handle schematically by the end of spring
Jabrill Peppers will be moved to several spots during spring to “find the best fit and the best mix for everyone”
What does a defense look like under you? Everybody wants to know with scheme, etc. What does it look like? What is a DJ Durkin defense?
“I’d say I want it to always be a blue-collar, competitive group. Play hard and compete for everything you get. Scheme-wise and all that, we’re a little different from game to game and a lot of it’s based on our personnel from year to year, too so we’re multiple with what we do schematically, but I just want a group of guys that are going to play hard, be blue-collar, and always compete for everything they do.”
How much can you tell after two days?
“We haven’t had pads on yet and that’s obviously a huge part of the game, so we’ll see. I’m reserving judgment for all that. Our guys have worked hard. I like their approach to the game, to practice- they’re locked in. I like their approach to meetings so I’m encouraged by all that and we’ll see as we get going with the pads on.”
When you watch the film what stood out to you? Were there individuals that stood out in particular?
“The film from practice?”
The past, getting ready for this and I guess the last few days.
“Yeah, but what I want to do is make sure all these guys, and I told them this when we met with them, that they have a clean slate to start from. It was good. I came in and watched some games and tried to see where our needs were for recruiting, but in terms of one by one, individuals, I want guys to know that maybe you’re a guy who hasn’t played much- you have an opportunity to do that. Maybe you’re a guy that’s played a lot, but it’s not just going to be given to you- you have to go earn it. That way I think the whole room understands they have equal opportunity to go earn some snaps on the field.”
Is there anyone in particular that fits that bill of somebody who hasn’t played much that you’ve seen and been like, ‘Oh, I didn’t expect that. Maybe we have something here.’
“Yeah, I mean, it’s too early to tell that. I have been encouraged by a lot of guys. I think, like I said, I like our approach to practice and what we’re doing. I think the guys have a good energy and enthusiasm about it, so when we get the pads on and keep going I’m sure some of those guys will emerge.”
How long does it take you as a coach to figure out what you have?
“I don’t know. I’d like to say by the end of spring we can sit back and have a really good idea, ‘Okay, these are the things we’re good at. These are the things we need to keep working on. This is what we’re going to be talking schematically.’ That’s the goal, by the end of spring to have a lot of things answered. We’re going to go through and install quite a bit and a lot of stuff that I’ve done before and then, like I said, we’ll just sort it out and see what we’re best at.”
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest]