"Jim's a tough guy and you can see his personality is all over this football team," Fitzgerald said.
“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]
- Sione Houma had a procedure done and will be recovering over the spring. He’s expected to be back for summer conditioning and fall camp.
- Khalid Hill and Drake Johnson are also injured and not participating in spring practices.
- The first practice went well; Harbaugh thought the whole day was great “with a capital G.”
- The coaching staff is still in the process of asking questions themselves; how to get better, what scheme fits the personnel, what players fit what position, etc.
- Harbaugh said nothing has been determined as far as players switching positions, so take the initial depth chart with a massive grain of salt.
- Harbaugh declined to comment on freshman ineligibility
“I have no opening statement. I wasn’t expecting a press conference. If anybody has any questions I’d be glad to attempt to answer them.”
How’d it go?
“Good. You know, it’s good to start. Feel like when you start you have- you can lay down a benchmark of where you are and it gives you a place to go forward from. It gives you a place to improve from [and] things to get better at.”
Talk about how you go about building competition in practice with some of the things you implement.
“Uh…some of the things we do to build competition? I mean, it’s football. It’s a very competitive sport.”
Are there things you do to encourage guys to…
“I’m sure there are. I’m sure there are. I don’t really have that list in front of me right now.”
You said you wanted to find out what their intent was in winter conditioning. Were you pleased with some of the results?
“Yes. Team’s in very good shape. Kevin Tolbert and his staff did a very nice job and the fellas did a nice job. You could see that throughout practice that the team’s in good condition and that gives us a fighting chance.”
Do you know how much of an install you want to do this spring versus just evaluating the guys and getting a feel for the team? Do you know how you’re going to balance that at this point?
“We’ll do both.”
How long is the evaluation process going to be?
“Daily. Every day there’ll be an evaluation process on every player in every drill. That’s on-going. That’s always.”
[After THE JUMP: the first day of spring practice, or New ThanksBirthMas]
“I guess it isn’t holiday break, everyone’s here. Thank you for that.”
“It’s great to be with all of you today, and I want to welcome all of the people here who come from all over the place to report this important news and I’d like to single out some people here that I think are quite special, and they made a special effort to join us. You’ve heard we have former coaches from Michigan in Lloyd Carr, Gary Moeller, and Jerry Hanlon. The Michigan faithful will always stop to shake their hands and thank them for all that they’ve done over the years for this great university. Let me do that as well, as they unselfishly helped me in thinking through this coaching transition.
All of these gentlemen coached under the late, great Glen E. “Bo” Schembechler, and with a simple phone call we have Bo’s wife, Kathy Schembechler, here, who made a huge effort through holiday break and snow storms in Denver to join us for this celebration today. Thank you, Kathy.
We also have here today Michigan Regents Kathy White, Larry Deitch, and Andrew Richner, all of whom have been so helpful in the process that we’ve constructed that resulted in this great outcome. And while I’m mentioning the top leadership at the University, let me also thank our President, Mark Schlissel, who had just arrived less than six months ago this summer. He was terrific to me in counsel, as a person to brainstorm with, and more importantly as a touchstone of what the University seeks in its destiny of being leaders and best in academics and athletics. And finally, I invited members of my team, two of whom have knocked themselves out since we started this project: Chrissi Rawak and Mike DeBord, plus Tim Lynch, who’s the VP and General Counsel; whenever you do a deal like this there’s a lot of legal work. Thanks to all three of them.
As you hear of my selection for our head coach you should also know I broke one of the cardinal rules of negotiation; I fell in love with the guy on the other side and his name’s John Dennison, and he played an enormous part in bringing the coach home.
I’m sorry for the preamble because I know you want me to get on with it, but this part of the program is really what it’s about being at Michigan; we recognize the team first. On December 3rd I asked you to be patient with me as we started this search, and we pledged to you a deliberate nature of our work, and we discussed how broadly we were going to search for this coach. We did that. We went through a deep think phase that led to our point of view today. Many fans, alumni, past players, they took the time to give me input. I even talked to our current team twice about this decision. Safe to say I heard from lots of people. So today, I’m very pleased and proud to announce the 20th Head Football Coach at the University of Michigan, Jim Harbaugh.
The real talent in the family is Sarah Harbaugh, who’s here with her children Addie, Katie, Jack, and Jimmy and Grace, and Jim’s brother-in-law John and niece Kennedy are here. Welcome to all of them, and a special welcome to Jack and Jackie Harbaugh. Jack was a coach here at Michigan for a number of years, and his wife Jackie- they were both incredible assets to our Michigan family as they were building what seemed to be a cadre of exceptional leaders in athletics.
Now, Jack was a coach when I played here and as I told Jim, he never had a bad day. He was such a positive influence and I’m glad he’s back around our program. Thanks, Jack.
I mentioned that I talked to lots of people, and one particularly famous pro coach who has done broadcasting for many years told me this: “You know, Jim Hackett, you didn’t just get a great coach. You got the best coach in football today, college or pro, in Jim Harbaugh.”
You know, there are a lot of great coaches out there. He has a brother who’s one, and we had many of them on our list. But when you ask how many of these coaches won at all levels, college and pro, it’s hard to find someone to compare it with. In my upbringing I remember my dad talking about Paul Brown, because he excelled at all levels. This guy’s just like that. I could go on about him. He won 49 games in four years with the San Francisco 49ers. Just amazing. And considering that he had really strong competitors in that league, including another one with the initials JH, he faced a lot of competition in the pros and amassed a fantastic record.
I think that Jim likely- no, surely- was a candidate for any of these pro jobs that opened yesterday, and yet he chose to come home. At Michigan Jim will make the same salary he was paid with the Niners. Jim has signed a seven-year deal, and a year from now I will review the football program’s progress and the University will determine and appropriate deferred compensation arrangement, which I have to take into account market conditions at that time. As you know, there’s a lot of opportunity out there for talent like this, but I don’t plan on talking more about pay because I’m totally at peace with the fact that we have a win-win deal here. When we thought about a way to signal Jim’s coming home, I looked around campus and realized maize is everywhere so today I’m wearing a maize watch and I gifted these to the family and friends as a reminder of this very special day. Our guy came home. Please join me in welcoming Jim to his first press conference as the J. Ira and Nicki Harris Family Head Coach at the University of Michigan- Jim Harbaugh.”
[HARBAUGH after THE JUMP]