- There's a rivalry game happening this week, if you haven't heard
- Josh Metellus and David Long are playing pretty well
- Harbaugh isn't talking about injuries
- No, seriously, he's not talking about injuries
- Nick Eubanks' emergence as a big-play threat
[After THE JUMP: He's also not talking about the gameplan]
Coach, what’s the biggest step forward you’ve seen from this offensive line from Notre Dame to Saturday night?
“Multiple. Started with the individual play of the players. Think each one of them, the starting offensive linemen, are playing their best football. Starting on the other side of the line, Juwann Bushell-Beatty, right tackle, thought he had his best game as a Wolverine. The way he sustained his blocks, and the way he finished his blocks, whether they were front-side or back-side. Thought it was a real good game for Juwann, his best as a Michigan Wolverine. Also, in tandem with Mike Onwenu. Those two on the right side really had a heck of a ballgame. All five graded out at a winning level this past game, so the progression has been good for each of them individually.”
Jim, can you talk about Josh Metellus and what he has given you this year and the progress he’s made?
“Yeah. Terrific game this past week. He was our defensive player of the game. Interception, again, plus (five tackles), PBU. Carlo Kemp got pressure on Lavert (Hill’s) interception. David Long had a hand on the ball that Josh intercepted. But overall, thought the same can be said about Josh Metellus. His best game as a Wolverine. And he seems to be a solid tackler, good coverage safety. Great to see him get his hands on the ball with another interception and create the big play. Ascending player.”
Jim, how do you gameplan for, Michigan State’s known for drawing trick plays in there, they’ve had success more times than not, how do you gameplan against something like that? You guys haven’t really seen — people haven’t tried a lot of that against you
“Yeah, always on the look. Always on the look in terms of trick plays. Scouting and watching the tape, and yeah, that’s the special focus.”
Coach, what makes them so tough to run the ball on? What have you seen on film with their run defense?
“Yes, very good. Very good run defense. They’re very stout up front. They got some real hard-playing guys. The linebackers are some of the best in the league. Very sound system that they do a great job of adjusting tremendously. Very well-coached, and they will have a lot of variation to their scheme. Which — don’t see people really ever running open in the passing game. When there are holes in the run game, they get closed quickly, they get adjusted to. So, all good.”
Jim, after winning six straight games and going undefeated in the conference thus far, can you gauge where the confidence of the team is and how that emotion might help you going into a big rivalry game?
“Can I gauge the —”
What is the confidence of your team?
“Good. Confident team.”
“Yeah. Enthusiastic every day. Excited to get back on the field and practice and prepare for the ballgame. That’s the kind of team it’s been. It’s been a hardworking team that takes it one day at a time, one game at a time.”
Is there a little extra emotion going into a game like this?
“Yes. In-state rival, Big Ten opponent. It always has, it is, always will be.”
The offense as a whole, how close do you think they’ve come to kinda reaching their full potential and how much better do you think they can still get?
“Well, that’s, as a coach your (goal), is achieve … (we’ve) done this so far, now just get this (much) better. You’re always striving and chasing as good as you can be.”
Jim, could you talk about Grant Newsome and what you’ve seen from him as a volunteer, as a coach who’s helping out and also what he’s doing academically
“Well, he’s knocking both out of the park, without a doubt. To the point where he can go around the bases twice, he’s hitting so far. Just what he’s done academically, he’s always been at the top of the class. Very close to a 4.0 GPA. … And as a football coach, exceptional. Exceptional. As an underclassman to the — better than anybody I’ve ever seen. He attributes, daily, not only to the scouting report, but in-game he’s contributed. And I think anybody around here will tell you, it’s at the highest level. He, as an individual — whatever he does … he’s really good.”
What do you say to your players about the opportunity they have to win a game in this rivalry, and for this season’s Big Ten race, and also to beat a ranked team on the road? Something that hasn’t happened around here in a while.
“It’s a great opportunity.”
Jim, with the offense, in terms of, as much as you guys have stacked to this point in the season, how does that infuse with your ability to grasp what you’re adding on week after week? I know a lot of guys talked in the offseason about, seems like it’s more — whatever. How have you seen them grasp what you’re adding week by week and how they’re executing in practice?
“Yeah, this — better, better each day. Real good in terms of constant continuous improvement. Very intense about the way they practice and prepare. Better today than yesterday, better tomorrow than today. That really defines this group.”
You’re seven weeks into Shea now. Same question, his ascension, how’s it going?
“Yeah, getting better each week. He finds another thing to be really good at every single week. This past week, his running ability, the ball-handling, the fakes, with carrying out the fakes and the decision-making, ball security. He does a great job of taking care of the football. He had one that he forced … last week. … Does a great job making decisions.”
Jim, your junior year, 1985, what was it like for you to go up to East Lansing, big win at Spartan Stadium, and maybe how Bo (Schembechler) approached that rivalry and how you as a coach in contrast approaching this rivalry, this opportunity on Saturday?
“The way it always has been, the way it is, the way it always will be. Approach it the same as it always has. Big game.”
Jim, we’ve been seeing a lot more of Nick Eubanks lately. Seems like he’s had four, five, six 20-yard catches this year. What’s allowed him to do that?
“What’s allowed him to do that? He’s really, really progressed in all areas. With his blocking, with his route running, with his catching. And really progressing his understanding of scheme. There was times where he — Nick played early, he played right away. In his very first ballgame. And he would sometimes be the guy asking the question as we were leaving the huddle, and need a reminder. Now Nick’s giving the reminders. It’s really impressive how sharp he is. He’s even come up with — I won’t tell you exactly what it is — but he changed a blocking scheme for us. That’s how far he’s come and progressed in the area of really understanding the game, and knowing his assignments. And he’s interchangeable at all tight end positions. And just progressing all the time. Every day.”
How often do you get a guy that 00 you said he changed a blocking scheme — how often do you get a guy who has influenced — you guys as coached agree with and say, ‘Yeah, let’s incorporate this,’?
“From time to time. Certainly happens.”
Jim, I went blank when I was asking about Rashan (Gary) after the game. I wanted to ask — is it a lingering thing with his shoulder? Do you think he’ll be able to come back this week?
“A) I don’t know if he’ll be back this week. And past that, I’m just not talking about injuries.”
Ben Mason did not play much. Was that injury or was that gameplan-related?
“I’m not talking about any injuries.”
So you’re saying that’s an injury?
“I’m not saying that. You’re saying that.”
Well, I am, but —
“Your question was injury-related.”
Was Ben Mason’s not participating gameplan-related?
“Not talking about any participation, gameplan-specific this week.”
Getting Aubrey Solomon back, just talk about how he played on Saturday and how good it is to see him back out there
“It was good. Thought he did an excellent job. Saw it in practice during the week. The way he hit the sled in practice, he carried that over to the game.”
In the past, players in this rivalry have fanned the flames on both sides. Is there any directive from you, ‘Don’t say things like that, keep it close to the vest,’ or do you just say, ‘Let it go,’?
“I think we could all use a break from the cliches that have been plowed so thoroughly on both sides.”
Jim, has Tarik Black been cleared to practice yet?
“Not talking about injuries. So, it’s just, so Angelique doesn’t feel she’s treated unfairly, or Dan.”
Hope this isn’t too gameplan-related, but can you say anything about what went into giving Joe Milton a couple of looks?
“Yeah, I thought that there was some plays that he could execute in the ballgame.”
Monday after a big win, Monday heading into a big game like this, are you noticing the guys are any different as far as motivation or just excitement, anything like that?
“Only been around a few that are — Sunday’s the day off and Monday they’re in class. Most — all of them — in class this morning. We’ll see them this afternoon.”
What kind of emergence have you seen David Long make from last year, when he finally started to get to play a lot, to this year? It seems like they’re not even targeting — other teams aren’t even targeting him at all
“Yeah, he’s really solid, and in the right place all the time. And just heck of a good football player. He’s been tough. He’s out there every snap of the ballgame. He’s just a really good player. Getting his hands on the ball when they throw it toward him. Coverage is always tight, and he’s a good tackler. He’s a top-notch player in the conference.”