Monday Presser 9-11-17: Jim Harbaugh

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on September 11th, 2017 at 5:00 PM

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We often hear about service academy offenses. How difficult is it of a challenge to prepare for them?

“Defending option football and conventional football at the same time. That’s what we’ve been studying. Air Force has been very successful. Seven, eight, nine game winning streak. They go back and forth between conventional and option football.”

Your defense is scoring a lot, more than they’re giving up. Is that something that has been emphasized? Is that just guys making plays? How do you account for that?

“It’s a good thing. Very good players and a good scheme and they work very hard at being good on defense.”

Talk about your impressions about Lavert Hill. I know you’ve been happy with him.

“Yeah, been happy with Lavert. He’s asserted himself and played very well. Made the big play for us in the ball game this past week.

“Tyree Kinnel would be another person that I’d spotlight; defensive player of the game; sacks, two I believe; tackles for loss; interception for touchdown; seven tackles total, I believe. Well done. Brandon Watson also had a couple PBUs and played very well. Josh Metellus did good. Up front, I thought Rashan had one of his best games. Devin Bush again, another very good game for him; sack, tackle for loss, PBU. Outstanding game by him. Chase Winovich. Noah Furbush was better. Mo Hurst probably played the best of all of our upfront defensive players.

“So, there was a lot of good. Dodged a couple bullets. As was pointed out, scored two touchdowns on defense, so we’re doing well. We’re good. Attribute that to hard work and good scheme and good players.”

How has Lavert—how have you seen him digest all the information that a young starter has to digest?

“Yeah, doing well. Seeing him digest information very well. Comes from good stock. You’d love to be Lavert Hill Sr., to have Delano Hill playing professional football and now here you see Lavert in there starting at corner, making plays, helping his team win. Lavert Hill Sr.’s probably boring the heck out of the neighbors with how well his sons are doing.”

[Learn how to avoid emotionally hijacking Jim Harbaugh after THE JUMP]

I know you talk about how the competition is always ongoing but is that true once the season starts at the quarterback position or do you not want the quarterback looking over his shoulder and thinking that something could still change.? How do you handle that?

“Yeah. Uh. Wilton’s the starting quarterback and we’re forging on.”

A lot of people talked about Peters early on and we haven’t heard much about him. Is that—

“Progressing. Progressing nicely. You got a follow-up to that.”


“Good. We’ll move on.”

With the offense in general, you talked about that week one to week two wanting to see a big jump there. When you look back on things, did you see it was better? What did you see?

“Moving the ball again. Running game good again. Play-action passing good. Hit some big third-down conversions to keep the chains moving. Touchdown passes. Protection was even better from week one to week two. We’re moving people up front. Turnovers that occurred, and we got coaching fingerprints on the fly sweep that we need to make a technique adjustment there that we will make and we’ll be better for it going forward. That’s the good, the bad.”

That’s with the fumble that—

“Yeah, the fumble on the fly sweep that occurred. That’s a coaching correction, easily fixed. Feel good about making that. Better. Easily.”

It looked like Brandon Watson and David Long had a similar amount of snaps at that second corner spot. How would you assess that and right now is there someone that has an edge?

“Well, they’re both going to play. We’re going to play at times five defensive backs. Both are doing well, as I said. Brandon played well. They’re both playing and happy with each of their playing.”

Are you looking for one guy to take a hold of that second spot opposite Lavert?

“As I said, we play multiple corners in the game at the same time.”

What’s the biggest difference between Ty Isaac right now and maybe coming into the last few seasons? Obviously he’s given you two good games.

“He’s just…he’s progressed. He’s capitalized on opportunities. He’s always—he’s been a good football player, now he’s better, which has been good. He’s taken his opportunity, he’s taken the bit, and he’s run with it. Amount of yards he rushed for. Thought he executed very well.

“Thought he had some things that I would quote as ‘spectacular’ plays; avoiding the tackle for a loss with the free runner off the edge, thought that was significant. His long run on the sweep, he was able to avoid a corner that was unblocked. He had one called back due to a penalty and we had a missed assignment where he had another opportunity. He had two or three opportunities called back or taken away because of execution. I would say he’s taken the opportunity and really seized it. It’s very important for him and it’s showing.”

What are your thoughts on the development of the offensive line and also Kugler?

“Uh, good. As we’ve said, I thought Patrick was really good game one. Thought the protection was very good. In this game he’s doing a fine job of driving the car and making the calls. I think that’s been very good.

“I think our first thought coming off the game was we were a little sloppy at times. We didn’t get into our rhythm. But looking at the film, there was a lot of good things and some of the things that we can improve are easily fixable.”

Donovan Jeter and Luji [Vilan] we had heard a lot about. Have injuries slowed their progress a little bit?

“Donovan Jeter?”


“Yeah, Donovan Jeter has had a surgery. He’s going to be out for the year.”

And Luiji?

“Yeah, hopefully back at some point. Not a long-term [injury].”

And can I ask about Grant Newsome and his progress and what the latest is with him?

“Yeah, continuing to get better. He’s running, he’s working out every day. He’s also coaching. He’s a student-coach right now, which has been very valuable. ‘Go Blue’ guy all the way and progressing nicely. Hopefully, best-case scenario he could be back practicing for the bowl game, December, that time frame. May not either. That would be accelerated. You hope for the best and plan for longer but he’s progressing nicely. Great attitude, ‘Go Blue’ guy all the way.”

How much easier is Mason Cole making your life right now. He’s a guy who’s switched spots; it’s not a new position but it’s different. How [inaudible]?

“Well, I mean, he’s been unbelievable. Arguably the most valuable player on the offense. What is his best position? Is it probably center? Yeah, it probably is, but the need was at tackle for our team so the combination of Mason Cole at tackle and Patrick Kugler at center is, in our opinion, better than Mason Cole at center and someone else at center; just the combination of the two spots. It’s been stalwart-like, going from left tackle to center back to left tackle. He’s handled it. Made it seamless, made it look easy. As I said, arguably our best player on offense.”

Oliver Martin and Kareem Walker weren’t dressed. Are they hurt or what’s going on with them?

“No— and I know you guys used to have some kind of dress thing where they’d tell you who’s dressing or not. If you want to spend your time sitting in the press box with binoculars seeing who’s dressed and who’s not, that’s your business. So this’ll be the last time I ever address this, so you know: Kareem Walker and Oliver both working through something. Kareem’s got a little knee [issue], Oliver’s got an upper extremity. Just so we both don’t get emotionally hijacked going forward, I’m not going to address you and the binoculars in the stadium seeing who’s dressed and trying to figure it out. Guys will be working through things.

“It’s just not fair or right for when you’re talking about college players and what they have physically going on or what injury they have, that it’s your business or anyone else’s. There’s no injury report, there’s no dress list. That’s the explanation. It’s not fair to those guys to broadcast what injury they have or what ailment they have. Fair?”

Wilton Speight is two weeks into live reps [inaudible].

“What’d you say?”

Sorry. Wilton Speight is two weeks into live reps.

“Two weeks into live reps?”

Game experience. What does he need to do to improve?

“I think he’s doing fine.”

With Ty, we hear every year about a senior whose light kind of goes on and he gets it and has a breakout year. Is he similar and fit in that mold or does he have progress to make?

“Also, as we said, the opportunity and seizing it a la Brandon Watson, a la several players that get their opportunity as a junior or a senior or a fifth-year senior. I think he’s seizing the opportunity and making the most of it. Good for him. It’s good for us.”


Gob Wilson

September 11th, 2017 at 5:16 PM ^

Even the most blue fans often forget that these are still 17-22 year old young men who are trying to progress day to day, often make mistakes and get hurt in this tough sport.I don't think Coach Harbaugh ever forgets.  I loved the "binoculars" comment from the coach.

Thomas Turkey

September 11th, 2017 at 5:20 PM ^

I guess Coach wants to carve out a little feel good space for his QB, and that's understandable,  but there are some of us out here who DO NOT think "he's doing fine." 

Sloppy play for 5 straight games out of Wilton. We are going to have to be realistic about our chances with this guy behind center.  Unless he starts to take MUCH BETTER CARE of the ball we are not a threat to win a Championship of any sort.  He is a turnover about to happen.

I think Jim knows this and doesn't think anyone else is any better, so we are going to have to pray for Wilton.




September 11th, 2017 at 5:35 PM ^

Throwing balls over the heads and in the dirt in front of receivers?

Interceptions on two consecutive passes last week?

Two fumbles this week at least in part because he's using one hand in direct contradiction to what the head coach has asked him to do?

Staring down receivers/not going through progression?

The "sloppy footwork" WS brought up on his own? He actually used that word to describe himself.

The coach needs to support his QB of course. But it's a stretch to say WS has been improving. I'm sure hoping for more from QB that "well, he didn't cost us the game".


September 11th, 2017 at 6:05 PM ^

Sloppy footwork, acknowledged.
Fumbles, acknowledged.

Not going thru a progression is you projecting something.
Speight goes thru a progression as well as any quarterback that ive seen at michigan, which would be back to grbac and collins.
Part of this is playcalling and the heavy use of max pro to cover for the right side of the line. We have seen more 2 or 3 receiver patterns in these 2 games than in the last 2 years under harbaugh. When there are only 2 reads, it may look like the qb isnt going thru a progression when really there isnt a progression to go thru.
This may be a pep hamilton change (i doubt this), a lack of confidence in speight (i doubt this too), a lack of confidence in the line, and a lack of confidence in inexperienced receivers. I personally think that the playcalling is options 3 and 4 bc they were far more creative last year with the same qb and experienced receivers and a line that didnt get much push, but generally didnt blow pass pro.
There is enough to mark speight down for already on tape. Adding an inability to go thru progressions which is patently false is not really needed for your argument.

Sten Carlson

September 11th, 2017 at 8:27 PM ^

Maybe because they're just better QB's at this stage in their careers. I said this elsewhere, but it bears repeating (perhaps): maybe Wilt is actually OVER achieving thus far. After all, his detractors love to bring up his recruiting profile, don't they? What do the profiles of the QB's you mentioned say? Wilt has the hardest part of QB'ing -- command of the offense -- down pat it appears. Would he have got that level of command without Harbaugh? Who knows? But -- and I hope all you Wilt detractors don't choke on this fact -- Wilt has '17 AND '18 to get it right.


September 11th, 2017 at 9:25 PM ^

The hardest part of being a qb is the mental part, and nobody can accuse speight of having michigan in bad calls.
It would be nice to have 5 or 6 5star qbs in the line, who all know the offense, but thats not reality at this point.
Im not willing to worry about 18 at this time, because this team has enough talent to compete this year.
But, its apparent that no other qb on this team has shown the staff that they understand the offense enough to make the 5 plays that speight loses to mechanics each game worth a change.

Sten Carlson

September 12th, 2017 at 12:34 AM ^

This is the beginning of his 3rd year under Harbaugh -- so what? You guys seem to have a rigid timetable that you obsessively hold players to. Unfortunately, it's not as simple as you're trying to make it. Personally, I find that attitude obnoxiously arrogant and pathetically naive.

MileHigh was wringing his hands about all these other QB's and how they're so good. We get it, they're better at this point. Will they be better by the end of the year, or at the end of next year? Who knows? My point is that the only thing we know is that Wilt was not as highly regarded out of high school as any of the "can't miss" QB's he listed. Is it any surprise that, at this point, they're better QB's? I don't get the need to compare. What does it prove? Wilt is who he is at this point, but at least we can be certain that he's striving daily to be better today than he was yesterday, and better tomorrow than he is today.

Everyone progresses at a different rate. Also, remember Wilt had Nuss as his coach his freshman year, and that of Michigan's QB developmental pipeline was operating properly this would be his first year (his 4th) as a starter.


September 12th, 2017 at 9:50 AM ^

Rosen was rated WAY higher than anyone else in the discussion.

Speight was rated below Darnold.

Speight was rated almost the same as Lamar Jackson, Kelly Bryant.

Speight was rated above Trace McSorley, Baker Mayfield, Ryan Finley, Justin Herbert, Nick Fitzgerald, Luke Falk...


Of the 30 QBs on the Davey O'Brien watchlist - Speight ranks right around the middle of the pack with respect to recruiting rankings.


Was a 5* Josh Rosen type? No... but he wasn't bottom of the barrel in terms of rectuiting rankings either.


SMart WolveFan

September 12th, 2017 at 11:39 AM ^


21-36 64%  2td 2int 122.2

17-24 53%  2td 2int 120.6

Who had the better game against OSU last year?

And who had the home game in week 3, as opposed to a November match-up in the toilet?

And who left the field with his team in the lead.

Wonder how many Oklahoma turds wanted to flush Mayfield down one after that?

Kinda smells like turds around here.


September 12th, 2017 at 12:46 PM ^

"Did Mayfield seem to improve on Saturday?"


No - he seemed to revert to what he had done prior to last seasons OSU game and the rest of last season after the OSU game.


"Why not expect Speight to do the same?"


Because we have significant evidence both prior to last years OSU game, and after last years OSU game that Baker Mayfield was really, really good.

We don't have that evidence for Speight.


2013 -

Mayfield: 64.1%, 2300 yards, 12TD, 9INT, 56.8 QBR (#75)

Speight: In HS


2015 -

Mayfield: 68.1%, 3700 yards, 36TD, 7INT, 80.4 QBR (#11)

Speight: Played 1 game.


2016 -

Mayfield: 70.9%, 3965 yards, 40TD, 8INT, 91.8QBR (#1)

Speight: 61.6%, 2538 yards, 18TD, 7INT, 75.1QBR (#22)


2017 -

Mayfield: 83.6%, 715 yards, 6TD, 0INT, 94.3QBR (#2)

Speight: 51.9%, 402 yards, 3TD, 2INT, 39.3QBR (#102)



Mayfield was almost as good as a Junior Speight as a true Freshman - and then he blew up. Seeing his game against OSU as an aberration is just logical.


What in the season long stats of both players would make you think that Speight will "do the same"?


SMart WolveFan

September 12th, 2017 at 1:05 PM ^

....Speight was better than Mayfield when comparing their first 8 games, even though Speight played against far better competition.

Speight is at that point where you have enough games under your belt you can "blow up" just like Mayfield did, even though Mayfield did most of that against B12 D's.

Seeing the struggles of the first two games as an aberration is just logical.

Speight showed that he can run the offense at the beginning of last year, no reason to think he and Harbaugh won't make the adjustments to get back there.



September 12th, 2017 at 1:41 PM ^

"Speight was better than Mayfield when comparing their first 8 games, even though Speight played against far better competition."


Baker Mayfield 1st 8 games (true Freshman):

64.1%, 2315 yards, 12 TD, 9 INT, 127.7 Passer Efficiency Rating, 190 Rush YD, 3 Rush TD


Wilton Speight 1st 8 games (JR):

62.8%, 1691 yards, 13TD, 3 INT, 149.2 Passer Efficiency Rating, -49 Rush YD, 0 Rush TD


...and the defensive difference isn't quite as pronounced as you might think:

(S&P defense rankings)

Speight: #109, #30, #12, #14, #7, #56, #59, #41

Mayfield: #92, FCS, #7, #74, #85, #60, #30, #40




"Seeing the struggles of the first two games as an aberration is just logical."


I think his performance in the 1st 2 games IS an aberration - and I think he'll revert to similar numbers as he had last year. 


I don't think he'll suddenly improve to even 2nd season Baker Mayfield numbers.


September 11th, 2017 at 8:59 PM ^

Speight UM 125
McSorley PSU 156
Bryant CU 140
Hurts UA 137
Lewerke MSU 159
Barrett OSU 125
Mayfield OU 229
Jackson UL 160

Speight has the same rating as JT and most people scoff at his passing ability as a major limitation as compared to his effective running. Hurts and Bryant are both dual threat QBs with higher passer ratings; Jackson is an incredible runner with much better passing stats at this point. Mayfield is almost lapping Speight.

Should he start? Likely given the backups at this point. Is he good? Probably if top 25 QB is the criterion. Is he good enough? So far he is to hit 2-0. Is the jury still out? Yep, because he wasn't good enough last year at crunch time and he looks about he same.