|Henry Poggi||Jr.*||Khalid Hill||Jr.*||TJ Wheatley||Fr.*||Jake Butt||Sr.|
|Bobby Henderson||Sr.*||Henry Poggi||Jr.*||Devin Asiasi||Fr.||Ian Bunting||So.*|
|Michael Hirsch||Jr.||Jabrill Peppers||So.*||Zach Gentry||Fr.*||Nick Eubanks||Fr.|
A few years ago we split tight ends from the WR post and fullbacks from the RB post, figuring that under Brady Hoke there would be enough of them to warrant it. We even split guys into various categories because a tight end is not just a tight end. Then Jim Harbaugh came in. After an internal struggle this site has decided not to split each one of these columns into its own post, but it was a near thing. Those columns are:
- FULLBACK: a man with a steel plated head who runs into linebackers, gets
two50 carries in his career, and has six catches. See: Kevin Dudley, Sione Houma.
- H-BACK: A "move" tight end who motions all about, rarely lines up on the actual line of scrimmage, often goes from fullback to a flared spot or vice versa, and operates as more of a receiver than the fullback. Must be a credible threat to LBs; ends career with 40 catches. See: Aaron Shea.
- TIGHT END: Larger than the H-back, the tight end is a tight end who is actually tight to the end of the line. He comes out, lines up next to a tackle, helps him win blocks, and clobberates linebackers at the second level. He goes out into patterns as well, and may end his career with 40 catches himself. See: AJ Williams, Jerame Tuman.
- FLEX: Big enough to play on the end of the line credibly. Agile enough to play H-back credibly. Not great at either. Capable of splitting out wide and threatening the secondary. Sacrifices some blocking for explosiveness. Can be a prime receiving threat. See: Tyler Eifert, Jake Butt.
And of course many of these people bleed into other categories. Think of these position designations as Gaussian distributions in close proximity to each other.
So. These are the categories. The men who, uh, man them are many and varied and in one case the bar-none best in all the land. Let's start with him.
TIGHT END AND FLEX
opponents will call Butt dastardly this year [Fuller/MGoBlue]
In keeping with this site's tradition of dignified reserve, last year's preview claimed Jim Harbaugh called Jake Butt an "Ertz/Fleener Voltron" based on this quote:
"Jake is as good a prospect as we've coached at the college level," Harbaugh said. "We've produced a lot of great players in college at the spot and it's vital to our success."
And lo, he pretty much was an Ertz/Fleener Voltron. Per Pro Football Focus he graded out better than any tight end in the country as a receiver. Survey says: yup. I sort catch opportunities into four bins: routine balls, challenging ones, crazy ones, and uncatchable ones. Butt was a perfect 36/36 on routine balls, an outstanding 10/12 on challenging balls, and 3/3 on circus catches. Meanwhile Butt's enormous catch radius and excellent route running tend to move opportunities into easier categories. Only eight times last year did a Jake Butt target get filed uncatchable. (I don't count balls thrown away in the general vicinity of a player.) That means 83% of the time Jake Rudock tried to hit Butt, Michigan moved the ball. Butt targets averaged over 11 yards a pop. Voltron achieved.
There's still no better example of Butt's prowess than the touchdown from the opener where Jake Rudock first explored the wonders of the #buttzone:
Unless it's this sensational one handed catch against Rutgers in 2014:
Jake Butt can make your wrong-ass wrong throws of wrongness into something so right.
Even so, after eight catches in the opener Butt's production fell off. Over the next six games a struggling Rudock only hit him 14 times downfield for a measly 133 yards—there was a 44-yard screen that Harbaugh conjured in there as well. Butt's a tight end. Sometimes he's covered, sort of, and Rudock didn't look for him.
Then Harbaugh beat the stone-cold fact that a covered Jake Butt still isn't covered into Rudock's brain and production took off. Butt had 28 catches in the final six games and 376 yards. That's double the catch rate and triple the yardage. Much of that production returned to the magical land where only Jake Butt frolics:
In addition to his pterodactyl-like catching radius and Wilt Chamberlain hands, Butt's athleticism allows him to shake safeties with his routes...
...and occasionally split them after the catch:
Or just flat outrun a corner. An Indiana corner, yes. Still, this is a guy who had a 70-yard screen against OSU as a freshman and drew this praise from an anonymous Big Ten player even before his breakout junior season:
"We played them late in the year, and [Butt] was someone that was really tough to defend. He's incredibly athletic. He made a catch against us that not that many receivers even make, so he has great hands."
You could not draw up a better receiving tight end.
As a blocker... I mean... he's a great receiver. I say this somewhat seriously. Opponents have to treat him differently than a normal tight end, and the run game benefits from it. Against OSU Jabrill Peppers picked up a seven yard chunk largely because he looked like he'd throw to Butt for a moment and that was enough for two OSU players to freak out.
When it came to making actual contact with the opposition, Butt was decent. Middling. Okay. He was very much a finesse blocker, and this was good enough given the strictures his presence put on the opposing defense. This isn't a brutal finish; it's good enough:
[Butt is on the right side of the OL]
That is kind of the cap, though. Get him soloed up against a defensive end and it'll go like "tight end versus Chris Wormley" most of the time. In UFR his run contributions came out moderately positive against the lesser teams on the schedule and negative against likes of Utah, BYU, MSU, and... uh... Rutgers. The bowl was a nice step forward but repeatedly caving in the edge of Florida's defense could be interpreted as a motivation issue for the Gators. Pro Football Focus tastefully omits mention of his blocking when they reference him because he came out negative on the year.
Remaining upside in this department is limited since he's going from his third to his fourth year. What remains is probably more about the mental side of the game than a sudden surge in ability like AJ Williams had. He'll get a little stronger and a little wiser; what you see is close to what you're going to get.
That happens to be a guy who is going to break Jim Mandich's all-time TE receiving record, a guy guaranteed to be off the board by the end of the second round of the next NFL draft. Jake Butt is a captain on a team with Jehu Chesson. I mean. Harbaugh:
"From day one, Jake Butt is an A++ guy as a player. We're in a meeting or in an install and I see him on the edge of his seat sitting through a two-hour meeting and he's communicating with guys next to him. He's interpreting for the younger guys. He has pizzazz."
Butt's about to be the best tight end in Michigan history.
[After THE JUMP: Ol' Skillet Hands and friends.]
What have the countdown weeks, countdown days been like over the past few years, and how does this one compare?
“They’re all kind of similar and different in their own ways. They’re unique in their own ways. The first week of camp you’re just going against your defense. You’re not really preparing against your opponent’s defense yet. But now, leading into that last week and a half [or] two weeks, you start locking in and studying film on your opponent and that’s what we’re doing right now.”
How, in your mind, is the offense shaping up? What are the things you think you’ll really do well?
“It’s coming together real nice right now. We’ve got a lot of guys who’ve been making plays all camp. The line’s been coming on strong; that’s an experienced group. We’ve had some young guys stepping up. Grant Perry’s been having an amazing camp. Chris Evans has been making plays left and right. It’s unbelievable to see these guys. So, it’s coming together real nice.”
Speaking of the young guys, as far as your room’s concerned, how have Tyrone Wheatley Jr. and Zach Gentry been doing?
“They’ve both been doing pretty good. They’ve both been having a really good camp. They’re both specializing in different things. Obviously Zach’s more of a receiving tight end, Wheatley’s more of a blocking tight end, and they’ve taken on that role. From the beginning of camp to where they are now, they’ve made some big strides.”
The fact that you’ve had an entire year and spring ball, do you feel way more comfortable now than you did a year ago?
“I don’t know that I feel necesarily more comfortable but I think for some of the younger guys or guys that didn’t get a lot of the reps last year, they’re starting to feel a little bit more comfortable because they’re getting a better understanding of the offense and the way the coaches work where if you play a little bit more that comes a little bit sooner.”
You said one of the reasons you came back for your senior year was that you still had a lot of improvements to make. What have been those improvements you’ve made in the last six months?
“Yeah, cleaning up some things with my route running. I want to win every single route and that’s my goal, and that’s my job is to take some guys with me. I want to win and I think I’ve been doing a good job. It helps when you have Delano Hill and Jabrill Peppers manned up on you right on the line every single play this whole entire camp. I don’t really see it getting any harder than that this season. But blocking has been the biggest area of improvement for me. Just technically, pad level, I’ve added some strength this offseason, made some changes with my body, so that’s been the biggest area of improvement.”
When your assignment’s to go out there and block Jabrill, how is it different from blocking a normal Sam linebacker?
“He’s just as strong as probably any Sam linebacker. I mean, he’s really, really strong and explosive but he adds just such quickness and speed element to it that you’ve got to take into account.”
Handicap the quarterback race for us.
“Uh, yeah, everybody’s doing really good but there’s a dark horse in the battle. Erik Magnuson’s really been coming on strong toward the end of camp. He’s hitting the deep balls really well. Coaches have been really impressed with him.”
[After THE JUMP: which receivers are rotating at which spot, which NFL players Butt watches film of, and which receivers will redshirt]
Jake Butt and Chris Wormley are Michigan's co-captains this year, according to Chris Wormley:
— Chris Wormley (@Chris_Wormley43) August 27, 2016
There were many suitable candidates—Jehu Chesson and Jourdan Lewis come to mind—but it's hard to argue with those choices.
— jake butt (@JBooty_88) August 27, 2016
Lot of talent, lot of talent. CBS draft analyst Dane Brugler:
I've been watching #Michigan tape all morning and I'm not even halfway through the roster. Should have double-digit draft picks next spring.
— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) August 22, 2016
Per NFL scouts, Butt and Charlton(!) could be high first round picks:
I asked 6 NFL scouts for their top senior NFL prospect:
DL Jonathan Allen (2 votes), TE Jake Butt (2), DL Taco Charlton, CB Desmond King.
— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) August 23, 2016
Juniors will pile in, of course, but if that holds to draft day both those guys would go in the top 15. I can't imagine it would—QBs and various other players at positions the NFL drafts higher than TE will emerge—but I be like dang anyway.
Todd McShay has Michigan third on his list of teams with the most NFL talent, and while having no idea what happened in the draft last year…
Last year, QB Jake Rudock (sixth round) was the lone Wolverine selected
…is not a great look for a draft analyst, ESPN currently projects seven players to be off the board by the end of the third round:
- #31 Jake Butt: "Has very good natural combination of size and speed to create mismatches. Adept at playing in-line (Y), flexed out (F) and split out wide. Very fluid for his size. … Gets overmatched physically at the point of attack by bigger defensive linemen."
- #33 Jabrill Peppers: "Good cover skills for a safety. Has lots of experience playing man-coverage both in the slot and on perimeter. At his best in man-coverage. Lacks elite fluidity in hips, but has quick feet and good burst. … Willing but could also be more aggressive at times. [ed: ?!?!?]"
- #39 Jourdan Lewis: "was in the hip pocket of Michigan State WR Aaron Burbridge (6th round pick, 49ers) hip pocket the entire 2015 game (stats are deceiving). Displays excellent body control and balance. Shows good deep speed on tape."
- #46 Jehu Chesson: "Very good speed for size and can threaten vertically. Gets from 0-to-60 miles per hour in a hurry. Has length and tracking ability to create matchup problems for average-to-smaller cornerbacks on 50-50 balls…. Excellent effort as a blocker. … Love watching this guy play the game."
- #56 Chris Wormley: "Excellent size and good overall strength. Shows snap in his hands and flashes ability to press offensive linemen into their backfield. … Tied for team-lead with 6.5 sacks in 2015 but 4.5 of those sacks came versus marginal offensive lines (Oregon State, Penn State and Rutgers) and his sack versus Michigan State was a protection breakdown."
- #69 Taco Charlton: "Power-based bass rusher that does a good job of using his long arms and explosive power to get into offensive linemen's pads, and then grinds through contact. … Good but not elite first-step quickness. Solid lateral agility and redirect skills for size."
- #77 Mason Cole: "Better suited for pass pro inside. … Takes good angles and has very good range. At his best as a run blocker when on the move. Has the feet to consistently win battle for initial positioning. Lacks heavy hands and is erratic with hand placement."
In addition, De'Veon Smith and Kyle Kalis(!) are ranked as fifth-rounders. Smith has no scouting and Kalis's ("Good angles. Knows assignments. Solid job locating assignments in space.") appears to be about a different person.
You'll note the omission of Amara Darboh and Maurice Hurst from these rankings. Both those guys will be draftable by the end of the year. I'd be another member or two of the secondary get there as well.
Drake Johnson is the guy you should hit with a forklift. I mean, if it's absolutely necessary. Please don't run Drake Johnson over. Or anyone, really. Do not run people over with forklifts. Yes, fine, Hitler. In that unusual case where a zombie nazi is threatening children or whatever, go ahead. Even in that situation, are we really calling a reanimated corpse "people"? I think that's not people.
Sorry, no politics.
"The world could be falling apart, and doomsday could be happening, and I'd be like, oh, look, there's a nice flower on the ground," he says.
If it were anyone other than Johnson, such positivity would feel contrived and feigned. But then Johnson waves his arms, talking with his hands like a grand raconteur, and says something like, "There's always something good in every situation," and, dammit, you've got to believe him.
If I was Drake Johnson I would get business cards with "Grand Raconteur" on them posthaste, while looking very carefully for lurking forklifts.
Around the league. Things happening in opponent camps:
- Penn State seems set to replace Carl Nassib with a couple of older guys who had 1.5 sacks between them a year ago. You'd think that would be a dropoff, but Nassib came out of nowhere a year ago.
- PSU is considering starting true freshman Michael Menet, a five star guard type.
- Rutgers QB Chris Laviano "edged" a grad transfer brought in to compete with him. I mostly mention this because I had no idea this went down last year: "Laviano will have a chance to win over Rutgers fans who had no love for him last season when he went five straight games without a touchdown pass and lost his cool by blasting them on social media after interpreting boos meant for then-coach Kyle Flood at his own show of toughness in the middle of a career-best game."
- MSU has five "co-starters" on the DL. One of them is a 275-pound DT who grad-transferred from Nebraska, a second is a redshirt freshman, and a third is a senior DE with eight career tackles. If that doesn't presage a major dropoff despite the presence of Malik McDowell I'm going to throw a shoe.
- Per Urban Meyer, H-back Curtis Samuel is OSU's "number one playmaker on offense." Mike Weber is "close" to being named the starting RB; after Brionte Dunn was booted his competition is "nah" and "???." Malik Hooker and Damon Webb are leading to start at safety; sounds like Webb is still a little combustible.
- OSU may start true freshman Michael Jordan at guard. Jordan was a well regarded recruit but not so well regarded that you shouldn't expect Michigan to wreck that dude.
BTN preview. BTN had their day at Michigan and came back with some video and some nonsense—on the television a person said that Michigan would be running a lot more man coverage, which is a literal impossibility. I'm not doing a recap post this year since specifics were thin; MGoVideo has the show up if you missed it.
The most interesting bit was Howard Griffith and then the rest of the crew advocating for Ben Bredeson to start immediately at left tackle because he is "elite":
Dave Revsine did have a couple of things of interest, including a Rashan Gary-Bredeson battle:
Nation's top recruit Rashan Gary in action pic.twitter.com/uo1EAHQQ6F
— Dave Revsine (@BTNDaveRevsine) August 15, 2016
Bredeson got some rep at the UA game as the only guy who could even sort of slow Gary down, and here he sort of slows Gary down. Given the roster tackle reps for Bredeson are an inevitability—he can play it even if it's not an ideal spot and options past the starters are extremely questionable. Sufficient tackle reps to convince onlookers that Bredeson should play now are a bit of a surprise.
A bit more from Revsine:
Ben Bredeson has had a good day - has held his own against some talented guys.
— Dave Revsine (@BTNDaveRevsine) August 15, 2016
Freshmen showing up during team drills. Gary with a sack, then Eddie McDoom with a TD grab - really turned on the jets
— Dave Revsine (@BTNDaveRevsine) August 15, 2016
And yes Gerry DiNardo said some nice things. I can never take them seriously:
"When I saw them in the spring it was like a war at the line of scrimmage. It was what you imagine it looks like at Alabama and all the downhill teams."
"How Michigan football returned to its smashmouth roots" was written before the 2013 season and remains the single least correct thing ever put on paper.
Let's infer things from this still shot. Via Chris Evans:
Two favorite things pic.twitter.com/NbFuIeDTaA
— Chris Evans (@Kidnplay_abc123) August 15, 2016
That appears to be ones versus ones. Items:
- David Dawson is at right guard. Kyle Kalis was spotted in a non-contact jersey earlier in fall camp so that's probably an injury issue rather than Dawson making a move past an established starter; he appears to be the top backup option at guard.
- Evans is in an H-back spot, not at tailback, His best fit on offense is as an OSU-style H-back in the vein of Jalin Marshall or last year's version Braxton Miller. While Michigan's offense doesn't have a dedicated spot like that, they did end up with a guy more or less in that role: Jabrill Peppers. With Evans impressing and Peppers around the offense figures to use a hybrid RB/WR guy on a lot of snaps, especially because you can do a lot worse than having De'Veon Smith block for you.
- Michigan is very spread out across the defensive line and features both Wormley and Gary at defensive end. Wormley is likely to split his snaps close to evenly between DT and DE; reports that Gary will start get another bit of weight to them.
- Pretty sure that's Peppers man up over a tight end I assume is Butt.
This is a good amount of data from a still shot.
It's a competition. All those #1 jerseys handed out? It's a competition like everything else:
“The one is not really given to me. Right now, I don’t really know what I’m wearing,” Crawford explained at Michigan’s Media Day. “I’m just wearing it right now, so we’ll see. There’s a couple players that want it. Whoever gets on the field first is going to get it.”
The hybrid space player breaks out. Excellent Andy Staples article on Jabrill Peppers and his ilk:
Since 2008, when the NCAA adopted the current clock rules and spawned an era of up-tempo offense, defensive coordinators have tried with little success to devise a system that can match up with an opponent who won't allow the defense time to substitute. The answer, it turns out, wasn't a scheme but a person. What those coordinators were seeking was a human Swiss Army knife, a player who can successfully operate on any of the defense's three levels and move effortlessly among them from play to play. With such a player on the field, a 4–3 base can morph into a 4–2–5 nickel without a single substitution or presnap move to tip off the quarterback. That 4–3 could also transform into (what appears to be) a blitzing 3–4 by walking the hybrid player to the line of scrimmage. Of course, the hybrid doesn't always have to blitz when he drops deep into the box (the area that encompasses the width of the offense's down linemen and extends about five yards beyond the line of scrimmage). He might bail and cover a receiver. Or he could come screaming off the edge faster than any defensive end or linebacker an offensive tackle has ever seen.
BC's Matt Milano, FSU's Derwin James, and Duke's Jeremy Cash are also this variety of hyper athletic linebacker/mean-ass safety. Read the whole thing for a picture of what Peppers's role will be this year.
Doctor Blitz. The Ringer's Jack McCluskey on Don Brown:
BC sent so many defenders into the backfield that it produced four players with at least 14.5 tackles for loss (no other team had more than two). Yet the Eagles failed to land a single player in the top 20 in that stat — they didn’t have transcendent talents like Clemson’s Shaq Lawson (25.5 TFL, 12.5 sacks) or Penn State’s Carl Nassib (19.5 TFL, 15.5 sacks) inflating their numbers. Their best pass rusher, Matt Milano, led the team with 17.5 TFLs (tied for no. 21 nationally) and just 6.5 sacks (tied for no. 72 nationally).
And though the Eagles had been vulnerable to giving up big plays on the back end in Brown’s first few seasons in Chestnut Hill, by Year 3 they got the personnel and the scheme to the point where they were solid on both ends. In 2013, Brown’s first year helming the defense, BC gave up 47 passing plays of more than 20 yards (tied for no. 97 nationally); in his last year, it gave up just 29 (tied for no. 10).
Someone is also using CFBStats.com, and well. That stat about 20 yard pass plays is clear evidence that Brown's reputation as an attack guy is warranted, and extends even to situations where his teams are getting burned on the back end as a result. Michigan probably won't have an issue as severe as BC 2013, but the Boring Old Jarrod Wilson days are probably behind us, for good and bad.
Hype hype hype hype. Michigan's gotten a lot of it this summer and there is naturally a tendency to check on this since Michigan hasn't been a truly elite team in a long time. (The Sugar Bowl was fun, sure, but if we're being honest that team was crazy lucky.) Dan Murphy analyzes the situation an article; he also gets a telling quote from Jake Butt:
“We were struggling with toughness our first few years,” Butt said about his underclassmen days under the former coaching staff. “Down the stretch of games when our backs were against the wall we struggled and we lost a lot of games. Coach Harbaugh identified this, and he made the changes necessary and it worked for us last year. I think it will continue to pay off for us going forward.”
Brady Hoke talked a lot about toughness but he wasn't having four-hour practices.
Injuries across the league. Michigan hasn't been hit yet, knock on wood. Others have not been so fortunate:
- Northwestern lost projected starting cornerback Keith Watkins II for the year.
- Indiana slot receiver J-Shun Harris is two thirds of the way to the Drake Johnson hat trick after tearing his second ACL in two years. Try to get the forklift incident out of the way quickly, I say.
- OSU DE Darius Slade tore his achilles and is out for the year; OL Malcolm Pridgeon is out three months with a knee issue. Neither guy was expected to start; both were likely on the two-deep. Let's get a newspaper commenter's take on the situation: "I BELEIVE THE BUCKS WILL BE VERY GOOD THEY ARE UNDER THE RADAR BECAUSE OF THE POTENIAL."
- All hell broke loose on the Iowa internets due to rumors of a CJ Beathard injury that remain unconfirmed. He was spotted in a knee brace.
Thing I don't care about anymore. Harbaugh blazing people on twitter was fun over the summer, but it's more or less football season now. Now we talk about football. I do not care about Harbaugh ending an interview early because Mark Snyder has the social grace of an autistic llama on PCP, or moistly goateed Jim Rome turning that into #content, or Harbaugh spending ten seconds of his life googling "Jim Rome Jim Everett".
It does not matter. Rich Rodriguez was nicer to the media than any Michigan coach ever has been or will be and they stabbed him in the back at every opportunity. The media read Goodnight Gorilla to Brady Hoke every night and Michigan fans still abandoned the stadium in droves rather than watch his offense-type substance. I don't think it's a negative. I don't think Ty Duffy's right when he says it's a positive:
Harbaugh has spent two years playing the pied piper and dropping the occasional crumb on social media. Every media member is talking about him. Every major college football coach is answering questions about him. He’s been forced to reveal nothing. He doesn’t demand media members go along with it. He knows they will.
Everyone is talking about Michigan. Harbaugh has kept everyone’s attention deflected away from Michigan’s quarterback battle, from Jabrill Peppers being poised for a breakout year, and from Rashan Gary arriving on campus as the No. 1 overall recruit.
Harbaugh has been “handling” the media, masterfully, since he arrived in Ann Arbor. The implication is that “the media” are going to turn on Harbaugh and somehow this fact will have some grave karmic implications for him. Spoiler: it won’t.
It's nothing. It is noise made by people who don't really understand what they're watching. Andy Staples doesn't care. He can write a thing about hybrid space players. Mark Snyder has nothing other than press conferences to live on because he's never cared to learn one thing about the sport he covers even after 20-some years.
Here's the thing: a large number of people like open contempt for sports press since so often they're contemptible.
This is not a problem for most fans because given the chance they'd stuff most of the media in a broom closet.
Anyway. This admittedly longish section is the last I'll mention it unless something really amazingly tone deaf happens.
I'm not in Chicago, but thanks to newfangled technology like interweb videos and this here word processin' program I'm still able to bring you a full transcript of Harbaugh's time at the podium. Football! It's almost here!
"Thank you very much. Great to see everybody here. Glad you all made it. Good to see people again I haven't seen in a while. It's been an enjoyable day. Having fun. Brought three wonderful players and youngsters with us today. I'd like to talk about each of them. I know them better now. Going into the second year, feel like more time with our players, [I] know our players well. We have a lot of top players as you mentioned there, but these three…
"Jake Butt, a outstanding six-foot-six-and-a-half tight end, one of the most gung-ho players I've ever been around. Can sit through a two-and-a-half hour, three-hour meeting and be interactive, be on the edge of his seat, walk out of that meeting with a bounce in his step, and put his football gear on, kind of the hair on the back of his neck is standing up, excited about getting out on to the field. And he practices, whether he's going out to hit a sled or rattle somebody's fillings, he's just as excited about doing that as he is running a post route or a corner route and catching a ball. Does all those things equally well as a route runner, as a blocker, as a teammate, and as a guy with some pizzazz. He's gung-ho. Enjoys the struggle of football. Really enjoy him as one of our top players.
"Also, Jourdan Lewis, who has been a every practice, every drill competitor who wants to get better every single day. He doesn't take time off, he doesn't diminish his effort at any time. He's an ascending player, an improving player. And then when he started to get the recognition of being a really good player--All-American, All-Big Ten, interceptions and acclaim--when he started getting the acclaim, he didn't change a bit. He went through the entire spring practice wanting to get better, wanting to improve every single day. And a high character individual. Has never been--has never said a disrespectful word to a professor, to a coach, to a teammate. He's just a pleasure to be around. He's...not one bit of incident or problem when it comes to Jourdan Lewis, and he's a likable guy. He's respected by everybody on the team, but he also has the personality of being very competitive but being very likable with his teammates because he doesn't act like the big man on campus. He doesn't act like the All-American. Just a very, very good person in all respects. Can't say enough good things about him.
"Amara Darboh, would say he's our top receiver right now. As we went through the season last year I thought it was Jehu Chesson, and then Amara surged during spring ball and they're in a very good-hearted competition there to be our best receiver. But again, as a gentleman, as a person, as a class act, a winner, a champion all the way, Amara Darboh. He went through our season last year and he became an American citizen. It was a great moment of pride for Amara and our team that he achieved American citizenship, and another player on our team that's a class act the entire way. Never an issue, never a problem, respectful to all that he comes in contact with. And not just respectful of people, he's respectful of their time, he's respectful of the game, just respectful in all forms and fashions. Feel very proud to have brought those three youngsters here to Chicago. Hope you're enjoying their company as well. And they're really good football players. Not just on our team, not just in the Big Ten, but also in the United States of America. Pleased to share them with you here in Chicago and I'd be glad to answer any of your questions.
It's been an entertaining offseason for yourself and Michigan football in terms of social media activity. How has this impacted the team and university during the offseason?
"I don't know that it has. I don't know how entertaining it's really been. Be glad to go through any of those specifics with you. Think it's been a very productive, healthy offseason for our football team. Was really pleased with our team, the way they went through spring practice. Thought it was extremely productive. Competition was very high for spots, for starting positions, for backup roles, for contributing roles, for specialty roles, so...and then, no real long-term injuries coming out of the season. None of the six-monthers. A few things here and there that we hope that the guys will be ready for the start of camp. Maybe one or two that may not, but our goal right now as we finish up the summer is the healthiest, most in shape, prepared team for August 8th and then we'll take our shot from there."
Something you've tried to instill in your players is to improve 1% each day with everything that they do. My question is what kind of improvements do you see from returning players and staff and new players and coaches in the fold as well?
"Thanks for that question, Trevor. Just the idea of can we get 1% better each day. Can we be better today than we were yesterday, can we be better tomorrow than we were today. The notion that improvement will lead to success, and that's the kind of improvement that really sticks. It's almost getting in shape. If you were going to get in shape, if you do it day after day, a little bit better, a little bit better each day, you may not see it in a day, you may not see it in a week, you may not even see it in a month but at some point you're going to see it and it's going to stick. That improvement is going to be there for the long run. So try to paint that picture. If it's one percent better each guy or we got one percent better as a team, then after 30 days that's 30% better. After 60 days it's 60% better. Even if it's .01% better each day then that would be something that's worthwhile, that would be something worth pursuing, aspiring to.
"Another way to say it is look at the NASCAR boys. They'll stay up all night long just to get one mile an hour faster. Can we get one mile an hour faster each day? That mentality simply put is better today than yesterday, better tomorrow than today."
[After THE JUMP: at least a tenth of this presser is Harbaugh listing all the positions Peppers could play]