Signing of the Stars 2017: Jim Harbaugh

Signing of the Stars 2017: Jim Harbaugh

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on February 2nd, 2017 at 12:04 PM

[Bill Rapai]

This year’s event seemed to be focused more on the internal stars, if you will—brining out the coaches, introducing the alumni, all that. What was the decision behind that and what do you think of this event compared to last year’s?

“Yeah, that was really it. It was just a thought that I had, we had, to make it more about Michigan, from the band, the cheerleaders, the drum line, coaches, players, parents. Just make it about the family, make it about the family that we are at the University of Michigan.”

Why did you want to make that change compared to last year?

“I just thought it’d be better. Not comparing the two; I think they’re both great. Just kind of the direction—it just felt right. That was the ‘why.’”

Does that reinforce the family atmosphere here at Michigan?

“It means so much to me. Never has that resonated more; brought home our seventh child yesterday. Came right out, gave it to Eddie McDoom on a fly sweep. They were giving it to us. Had to take it. There’s no better word in the English language to me than ‘family,’ this family of ours, the University of Michigan.”

/Ambry Thomas sneaks up behind Harbaugh

“Compete, Coach! Compete!”

JH: “Compete! Compete! Compete! Was that good? Good job, Ambry.”

You touched on it up there, but the combination of this receiving class you’re brining in and Pep Hamilton moving forward with that group.

“It’s a very dynamic group. Wonderful guys, you know. Really talented people, and just thankful. Today is a day I thank the guys. I thank ‘em for coming to the University of Michigan, for choosing Michigan. I thank the parents for trusting us with their children. So, it’s a day to be thankful. It’s a day to celebrate, and very happy. I mean, this is Michigan. I want just to come be great. I want them to take advantage of everything Michigan has to offer. So, a lot of emotions, but mostly joy.”

Can you talk about the trip to Italy and your reaction to the NCAA ruling that this is the last year of spring break camps?

“Yeah, we’re not going during spring break, so…[/smiles]. We’re going at the end of the term, so it’s compliant with all rules or new rules that have been made. And let’s talk about what mainly it is: it’s an unbelievable opportunity for all of us—youngsters and adults alike—to have an educational opportunity, to connect with the people from another country, to study in terms of study abroad. Most all our players are going to have that opportunity to study abroad, do internships, do service.

“We’re going to Italy, we’re gonna be there for a week, we’re going to practice, but from there all our players are going to be able to branch out all over the world. Thinking that the classroom—the world is our classroom. And they’re going to be going to Iceland, Belgium, Japan, Israel, South America, Puerto Rico, all over the world to do their classes in May. It’s so phenomenal that I can’t wait to get there.”

[After THE JUMP: Tom Brady, HC; loading the Jim Harbaugh Coaching Express; future trips abroad]

Jordan Uniform Unveiling Presser: Jim Harbaugh

Jordan Uniform Unveiling Presser: Jim Harbaugh

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on August 3rd, 2016 at 12:07 PM



News bullets and other items:

  • No one is expected to miss the entirety of fall camp
  • Harbaugh noted that Chesson can be cleared by doctors and still not “cleared,” as there’s a process every player has to go through in going from being medically cleared to being 100% ready for all football action
  • Harbaugh will keep an open mind when it comes to one-off alternate uniforms
  • Jay Harbaugh came to his dad with the idea of switching not only to Nike but to Jordan
  • Harbaugh called Michael Jordan one of humanity’s most evolved human beings of all time
  • Biff Poggi hasn’t signed a contract yet but he’s slated to be either the assistant to the head coach or the assistant head coach and his responsibilities will include “all aspects of being the assistant head coach” so, uh, we’ll see.

So Dana [Jacobson] joked about putting the Jordan logo on the khakis, but--

“Why not? Why not?”

Will you get official pants with the Jordan logo on them?

“That would be wonderful. That’d be wonderful. That would be actually taking it up another notch.”

What do you make of this day for your players, to see the excitement on their faces? How big is it for them?

“You know, it’s big. It’s big. We’ve got a thing where we like to say ‘Who’s got it better than us?’ and the answer to that is ‘Nobody.’ Uh, expect possibly future us. It’s also an affirmation that, you know, we tell them, Jordan, the Jordan Brand, ‘Who could have it better than to have you?’ And then them wanting to have us, they’re telling us that they believe in us as well. It’s a very mutual thing.

“And you see it. You just walk by the aisles here. You see the product that they have and what else do you say? You just know it when you see it. It’s great.”

Jim, when and how did the conversation go down or the idea for you guys to reach out to them and the conversation between you and Michael?

“Second day on the job I said I really want to be Nike. About a month or two after that my son, Jay, younger guy, you know, 26, 27 years old said ‘Hey Dad, I think he we should be Jordan.’ ‘Hey, great idea.’ It all went into motion and ended [when] Michael Jordan called me on the telephone and said that they wanted us to be the first and only football school, program, in the world to be Jordan. I said, ‘You had me at “Hello.”’ We’ve been working for this for a very long time.

“The other thing he said that I thought was profound was that- he told me, you know what Nike means to Oregon, you know what Oregon means to Nike. Michigan will mean that to Jordan. And that, I thought, was very powerful. I thought that was very profound. But he had me at ‘hello’ in that conversation.”

You have a big imagination, but when that conversation happened did you imagine all this buildup and all this lead-up to the thing the other night, today, all this stuff?

“No, I did not. But when you put people that are great at what they do then they just blow you away. They knock your socks, they hit it out of the park starting Sunday night: State Street closed off, M-Den has midnight madness for the opening of Jordan and there’s 4,000 people in the streets with the excitement of a national championship, Big Ten championship, some kind of championship-type of celebration. That was the first thing that struck me: this is really motivating; I want to have one of these to celebrate a championship as well.

“The enthusiasm of the people was next. Everybody that cared about Michigan was showing that enthusiasm at the highest level.

“The next thing that struck me was when I went inside the M-Den and saw the product and the way it was being displayed. I mean, this is first class all the way with a big exclamation point on it (!).

“And today’s another one of those type of days where you walk in and your socks are just knocked off. And you know it when you see it. This is great. Everybody knows something’s great when you see it, so that’s been my impressions.”

Charles [Woodson] said something the lines of ‘We’ve got our swagger back.’ What does it matter what a player wears on the field in your opinion?

“I agree with everything Charles says except for that one. The greatest share is your effort and your talent and the work that you put in. But, as I said at the beginning, as Jack Harbaugh said, you are with whom you associate, and to take that a step further let’s associate ourselves with the most evolved human beings in the world if we are with whom we associate and also the highest level companies, brands, products.

“So, that just goes along with our principles that we have, to be associated with greatness. And to think about having Michael Jordan sharing a sideline with us, to think about being the only team--football team--and that’s the University of Michigan that’s Jordan, to have that iconic logo sharing a uniform, we’re very, very proud of that. You asked me the question and I’m proud. We’re proud.”

Nike likes to do special uniforms. Is there any wiggle room for you in this with this association to do something different?

“Well, we’ll definitely keep an open mind on it. You know, as I said, they hit it out of the park here and everything that they have done up to this point has been hitting it out of the park and knocking our socks off, so definitely going to keep an open mind to what their thoughts are and what their ideas are without question. Haven’t decided anything. Not going to change the uniform design at this time, but I stand open to their ideas because, you know, some people just think of things better than what other people do. And they obviously do a tremendous job, so we’ll definitely keep an open mind.”

I mean for a one-off.

“We’ll keep an open mind. Sure, I’ll keep an open mind. Be dumb not to.”

[After THE JUMP: all the world’s a team]

Unverified Voracity Likes It

Unverified Voracity Likes It

Submitted by Brian on August 3rd, 2016 at 10:48 AM

Mikey likes it. Sound the greatest horn in the deepest valley and bring all the counts, earls, and dukes to the castle. I have no complaints about a uniform thing. Yea, it is true. I was worried about the matte helmets, but in sunlight they look great:

There's matte like Michigan wore in the no-numbers bowl and there's that. Still some sheen, but not shiny. Dark dark blue. Maize. It looks like the most Michigan version of Michigan. It looks precise and focused and traditional.

It's mildly fussed the Uni Watch guy because he doesn't have things to say...

Nike's characteristic hype notwithstanding, there's nothing to get particularly excited about here, because so little has changed, but there's nothing to complain about either. Carry on.

...and it's caused an ESPN headline that's precisely wrong:

The only thing about these jerseys is nuance, and they aced every one. The logos are tastefully small and distributed symmetrically. The colors are right, the road whites are still so crisp, and the one weird thing has deep Michigan roots*. It feels like Michigan told Nike to do stuff and Nike killing it. This is in marked contrast to how these things go much of the time: wear this ridiculous looking thing that various other schools are also wearing.

*[The diversity angle is a major stretch. Having Gerald Ford's 4 is still cool.]

Senioritis prohibited. Michigan's Jordan-littered offer letters were all over the internet yesterday. An example:

Nick Baumgardner highlights a slightly unusual bit that I'm pretty sure is new this year:

The final bullet point reads: "We expect you to continue to strive for excellence as a student and as an athlete: this scholarship should serve as motivation towards continued growth, not an excuse to become complacent."

Pre-Swenson incident offer letters warned kids to keep their grades up and away from the local constabulary, as had offers dating back to the Rodriguez era. Specifically noting that offers are contingent on continued progress is a Harbaugh thing, and means we can expect more decommit kerfuffles going forward.

Both sides are boggling now. Anonymous coach takes on ACC teams have something to say about Don Brown:

“BC’s defense last year was the biggest pain for us to prepare for because they did so many things, especially on third down. The fronts they lined up in, the pressures they came with were unique, and they had some big, physical players. They were legit.”

“[New BC DC Jim] Reid played a base defense when he was at Virginia, and on third down you get maybe one or two different pressures, so it’s like one end of the spectrum to the other. It’ll be interesting to see what they do.”

Michigan is in the opposite situation. DJ Durkin was a Reid type of guy content to run fairly simple defenses. Michigan did have a big stunt package; blitzes were not particularly common and usually just a five man pressure.

Is this Ryan Glasgow's nickname? This is an amazing nickname for an older brother to bestow on his younger sibling:

Always wanted a guy named Biff around. Biff Poggi, father of Henry, has at various times been headed to Ann Arbor or another high school head coaching gig after his odd and unceremonious dismissal from Gilman. He is officially a Wolverine:

"When you've been doing something for 30 years, I just went back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, and I learned that habits are a hard thing to break," Poggi said. "I love coaching high school kids, but this was such an opportunity."

Poggi's youngest son Henry is a Wolverines fullback with two years of eligibility remaining and his daughter Mellie is also at Michigan.

"I felt like if I was ever going to do it, this is like the sun, the moon and the stars have lined up and I really am very comfortable with Jim and the coaching staff," Poggi said.

Poggi's job will be to advise Harbaugh on strategy and organizational structure. His position does not count as a coaching position and he won't be coaching the players, coaching the team or recruiting, according to the Michigan job description.

It's another analyst role. It sounds like it's a short term thing until Poggi gets the itch to return to high school, where he appears to have a job waiting for him at St. Francis. I wouldn't be surprised if Poggi spent a couple years with his son and then went back.

One interesting side note is that Poggi has some recruiting hoops to jump through because of his generosity and persnickety NCAA rules:

Another issue for Poggi was that he played a large part in funding the St. Frances program from the beginning and that he also paid tuition for a number of young men at Gilman and at other schools. As a coach in the NCAA, he could no longer pay for those things.

"I had to hire a lot of lawyers and go through the complete compliance check to where I have to follow and obey exactly the rules," he said. "For example, I just can't go watch a high school football game which I've done for 30 years. I can't call a kid on the phone. I know all these kids, the Gilman kids and other kids, too. I just can't go, 'Hey, how you doing?' I can't text them. I have to be careful how I reply to a text from them. My life is completely different than how I lived it over the last 30 years."

Good news is that Poggi can slide into their DMs without consequence and retweet them until the sun grows cold and dim, because NCAA communication regulations are all over the place.

PFF previews Michigan. They've kind of done this several times over the offseason already and every time they publish a thing we grab it here and prize it apart for any insight into their database, so there's not a ton that will be new to readers of this space. Their main concern is at QB:

QB is the biggest question on the entire roster, as 2015 starter Jake Rudock is also now with the Lions. John O’Korn (who transferred from Houston after being benched in 2014 by the new regime looking for a more athletic option) and Wilton Speight (64 snaps last season) will compete for the starting position throughout this month and while the winner will be afforded some margin of error with what appears to be a relatively easy schedule early, if the Wolverines expect to win big road games at Michigan State, Iowa and Ohio State, they will need quality play from the new signal caller.

There's no disputing that. Harbaugh's track record helps in this regard; it's nice to have one of the biggest questions you can have seem like no big deal because of the head coach.

Elsewhere some confirmation that the linebackers were eh a year ago...

While the LB corps was turned over completely due to graduation, none of last year’s crew graded overwhelmingly positively and this year’s version of course has the benefit of playing behind likely the best defensive line in the country.

...and the usual praise for Peppers, Lewis, Wormley, Hurst, Glasgow, and company. The chaser: "while many schools may have just one true superstar, Michigan has at least six on the defensive side alone."

Meanwhile in the league. Rashan Gary and Taco Charlton are gonna eat:

Can someone in the tackle class pass block?

With Ohio State’s Taylor Decker moving on to the NFL and Michigan’s Mason Cole kicking inside to center this year, no returning offensive tackle in the [Big Ten] had a positive pass blocking grade in 2015. In fact, Nebraska’s Nick Gates is the only tackle to grade positively on run blocks last year. Offensive line is the unit we typically see the most variance and improvement in from year to year, but with the entire conference literally having nothing but subpar or first-year starters, this could be another rough year against the uber-talented EDGE players littered throughout the Big Ten.

Cole had a positive pass pro grade; Magnuson did not; the rest of the league is going to curl up and die when presented with Michigan's DL (and Jabrill Peppers).

Etc.: Butt, Peppers, and Lewis make SI's preseason All-America team.

Michigan Apparently Hires Biff Poggi After All

Michigan Apparently Hires Biff Poggi After All

Submitted by Brian on February 24th, 2016 at 12:21 PM


Former Gilman (MD) head coach Biff Poggi seemed to be moving on to another high school head coaching gig after an odd parting of the ways from his long-time post, but Sam Webb reported last night that Michigan had found a role for him after all:

Biff Poggi has been brought on as the assistant head coach in charge of special projects. 

Poggi is of course the father of Henry; Michigan recruited Stephen Spanellis from Gilman last year and had Devery Hamilton committed for a while until a sudden Stanford flip.

Poggi may just be passing through; in January he told the Baltimore Sun he had a job offer from Michigan but that his staff would be relocating to St. Frances and that Poggi would likely return to high school coaching in the future:

Turner said someone from the Gilman staff would be the head coach in the fall. He also said he expects Poggi to return to Baltimore to take over the program at some point.

FWIW, Gilman has QB Kasim Hill in the 2017 class. He has a Michigan offer and is considering M, but there are a couple of obvious complicating factors in Brandon Peters and Dylan McCaffrey. No doubt MSU fans will fly off the handle about this anyway.