- 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]
“Today I informed Brady Hoke that he will not be returning as our football coach next year. I had mentioned to all of you a couple of weeks ago that we would be evaluating his status at the end of the season and that's what today's announcement is about, so my primary intent today is to do this with deep respect for Brady, his family, the coaches, and all of those associated with our football program, and it is because of their contributions to the University of Michigan.
“This was not an easy decision. You see, I believe the longevity of our best football coaches are tied to the intersection of the performance or measure of wins and losses with the test and expression of values that underscore their program and everywhere I go there is zero question about Brady's values, and I mentioned this trait to you two weeks ago. Brady’s peers, both active and retired coaches, really respect him and his players love playing for him. He has done a great job of molding these young men and focusing them on success in the classroom and in the community. He's really earned the respect of all as being a value-centered coach. We need more men like him in sport today.
“So, you might ask how do you reconcile the tension between results and values? Well, one could also make the argument that we have a very young team and we’re about to pivot next year into being an extraordinary team. It has to do with making sure then that Brady has received adequate time to exhibit that arc of improvement that would come from his effort and I believe that Brady had enough time to produce results and they're just not there today, therefore I believe it's time to make this transition. I don't plan on sharing more of Brady's performance review or assessment frankly because I believe the dignity of this conversation is for him only. My next focus is to make sure that this exit for Brady is handled in a first-class way with heightened consideration for not only Brady himself but his staff and his family. Brady’s a hero. He's been an employee at our university for over 12 years.
“So what's next? Well, I plan on starting the search for his replacement immediately. We want to build on what's been established by Brady. My message to the student-athletes was that we’ll work to put them in the best position to win and reinforce that their daily effort is contributing toward being champions. The criteria for our future coach is defined in winning with the shared values of the University of Michigan. I ask for your patience with this search process. It's not fair for me to comment on potential candidates today or the institutions or organizations they currently may be employed by. I can't compromise the integrity of our search process by commenting prematurely until we have that new coach ready to go.
“I believe that the head coach of Michigan football is one of the finest jobs in American sports today and we will have great options. The University of Michigan remains one of the top programs in the country. Now, it's true that the pendulum has swung into a negative. However, one truth in physics is that as a pendulum is in the negative state it's always building energy for its eventual move back to the positive arc. My objective is to find the right coach for the University of Michigan; an individual who will recruit the best student-athletes and puts them in a position to win in the classroom, on the field, and in the community. This is what makes Michigan world-class and we're going to support that with great enthusiasm. Now, in the interim I've asked Mike DeBord, who's in the athletic department, to oversee the day-to-day aspects of the football program as a sport administrator until a new head coach is hired. Mike will not be a candidate for that job. So thank you. I'll be happy to take a few questions right now.”
I know that you don't want to divulge specifics of your meeting, but can you at least characterize for us the tenor of the meeting with Brady?
“Yeah, I think that first of all I can’t emphasize [enough] what an authentic and real person, so what you see is what you get so when you have a discussion like this it's a very straightforward and deliberate discussion. We took a lot of time together. I was not going to make this a discussion just about wins and losses, and so I wanted him to understand what I really appreciated about him and where I had said that he mastered certain parts of coaching. He needs to leave understanding that others should learn from him in some areas and of course, then, this is the part I’m not going to get into is what were the areas that we didn’t see the mastery in and I candidly said I wished I’d had more time with him. I would have liked to have had a shot at helping him with that.”
[After THE JUMP: the obliteration of the ‘Michigan Man’ meme]
"This week, and we talked about it earlier on Monday, is always a different week. We had two very good sessions. You always start early it seems like for this game, but in preparation we were outside yesterday. Had a really good practice. Team’s working hard with the preparation. We got a lot that we've got to correct from a week ago but there's a lot to build off from a week ago also. The big thing is you always, listening to coach Schembechler and coach Moeller and coach Carr throughout the years, you want to play your best at the end of November. That's what we're trying to do, have our best performance on Saturday. Great rivalry. We've talked about it and it’s special. Unless you've coached in it and played in it I think sometimes it's hard to explain, but the intensity in this game is like no other you'll play."
Do you bring in special speakers? You mentioned Mo and those guys. Do you bring those guys in? I know Mo’s around here a lot. Does he come in and talk?
"At times you do. We have in the past. It hasn't been every year but yeah, we've had people come in. We do a lot of that in August during camp because you've got those days and you’ve got each other so you refer back to some of those if you're not bringing somebody in."
Bo was famous for every practice they did something for Ohio State. Is that how you handle that?
"Not every practice. We talk about it. It's visually up here in this building all the time [the countdown clock], and we talk about it weekly if not daily about the rivalry and the extent of it."
But you don't do something specific and practice for Ohio State every week?
"Not every week."
For a player like Mason Cole or Bryan Mone, what is this first experience like? How do you bring them into the rivalry and what is it like for them to go into it?
"I think a couple things. Number one, you bring up those two true freshmen. Playing at South Bend this year and then at Michigan State and now going to Columbus, which we've never done that, and we've never done that with those two teams [on the road] in the same year so playing in those venues, and Michigan State playing a night game on national television – er, Notre Dame, I think that's part of it. I think the passion in Spartan Stadium is hopefully something they can refer to but as I said earlier this is even a louder environment. It'll be a test but they've been playing football a long time and that's, at the end of the day, what it is is playing football."
[After THE JUMP: So about last year…]
Jarrod Wilson, Jack Miller, Brennen Beyer
Before you were at Michigan, your favorite Michigan v. Ohio State game. Maybe something that you watched growing up?
JM: “I was never a particular fan of either team, but when you grow up in the state of Ohio or Michigan the last weekend of November the game is always kind of a big deal, so I always watched them. I don’t necessarily remember a specific one more than another. Maybe when they were #1 and #2 one year down in Ohio or whatever, maybe that one. But you always know about it. You always watch it, and it means a hell of a lot.”
Jack, we just had your offensive coordinator out here who was talking about the challenges you guys have gone through adapting to a new system here. I know it hasn’t been maybe the year you’d hope for, but how do you feel you’ve done trying to learn what he’s been teaching and what kind of struggles have happened along the way?
JM: “I can only speak from an offensive line perspective, and maybe that’s a bright spot for us is we’ve gotten better as the season’s gone on. In November, which is arguably the most important month, we’re running the ball really well. We’re protecting Devin pretty well, and so I’m pretty proud of how the offensive line’s coming together as a team and we’ve been pretty successful down the stretch, but we haven’t put it all together as an offense or as a team and that’s the ultimate goal, which we’ve failed to accomplish.”
If you could just briefly describe your feelings for Ohio State. Obviously it’s a more elevated rivalry, but what about them makes this special for you?
BB: “Growing up in Michigan this game’s been my favorite game to watch moreso than any other sporting event I’d say just being a big Michigan fan. Playing in it is pretty cool too. It’s just got so much weight in the football game, two programs, two top-of-the-line programs. There’s just so much going into it. So much history and so much tension in the rivalry. It’s awesome. It’s the game you want to play in.”
JM: “I think I’ll say it the most diplomatic way I can: I’m not a big fan of Ohio State. I never have been. Ever since they beat Miami in the 2002 National Championship Game I’ve always disliked them, and I don’t like the Horseshoe and I don’t like Carmen Ohio. That’s kind of how I feel about them.”
JW: “It’s the greatest rivalry in college football. As far as Ohio, being an Ohio kid I kind of grew up watching them but never really was a fan of them. For this game I’m just really excited to play.”
[More after THE JUMP]
Doug, one more game this season. The offense…was it what you expected? Are you disappointed? Can you talk about the progress of the offense and what your expectations were at the beginning of the season and now heading into Ohio State, where you guys are 13th of 14 in total offense?
“Obviously our expectations are a lot higher than where we’re at right now. As I’ve touched on throughout the season you talk about individual improvement [and it] hasn’t necessarily led to total group improvement. Do feel good about the things that we’re progressing in. You talk about the ability to run the football. I believe in the last three we’re averaging like 207 yards a game or something like that rushing in the last three games. Really feel like that line’s starting to gel together. You talk about protection and the fact that we gave up two this week; one was an assignment error and we gave up one true sack on a zero blitz. We got caught by surprise. We’ve got to have a better plan down there as far as getting the ball out of our hands, and then a week ago we didn’t give up any sacks. The week before we had one coverage sack, so you talk about protection [and] I believe we’re substantially better there in the things that we’re doing.
“Talk about individual accomplishments and the development of Amara Darboh. I think [he’s] a guy that you look at what he’s done over the course of the season. A true left tackle, Mason Cole [and] his individual growth. We lose Derrick Green and see DeVeon step up and Drake step and what they’ve been able to [do]. Jake Butt coming off the injury has been limited a little bit in what he can and can’t do, but you go across the board you see a lot of individual accomplishments. Guys that are getting better, groups that are getting better. We still need to bring it all together and get to a complete game. We haven’t had that yet.”
What about point production, because it’s been a couple weeks since Devin’s had a touchdown pass?
“Well, I wouldn’t look at you’ve got to have a touchdown pass to say you’re successful. That, to me, is not defining success. Obviously throwing touchdown passes is a part of the game but if we’re going to run it we’re going to run it. You look at- like you said, we’d like to score more points. We need to score more points.”
What are the toughest venues in which you’ve ever taken a team to run an offense, because most would say Ohio State sees Michigan coming in and that’s going to be one of them?
“Well, obviously to go to the Horseshow to play in this football game is something special. Any time you play on the road and in situations where it’s going to be loud, where you know it’s going to be a hostile environment you’ve got to be prepared very well and you’ve got to be focused in and you’ve got to execute, and everybody’s got to be on the same page. There’s no margin for error.”
After the game Brady Hoke mentioned it was the first time Devin’s been healthy in more than a month. At this point is he still getting healthier, or in what ways can you use him differently now that you can run?
“You get to this point in the season and I don’t know that anybody gets healthier at this point in the season, and that’s one of the hardest things about playing this sport is that when you play at this level and type of conference we have here in the Big Ten and week in and week out have to go out and do it every week against the physical style of play we see it’s challenging mentally. And then like coach said Devin from the standpoint of his physical health had some ailments there, and we’ve gotten him relatively healthy. Obviously I don’t think anybody’s as fresh as they are week 1 of the season.”
[More after THE JUMP]