Spring Practice Presser 2-24-15: Jim Harbaugh Comment Count

Adam Schnepp February 25th, 2015 at 8:58 AM

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  • 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

Opening remarks:

“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]

Aside from Drake Johnson and Khalid Hill, are there any players that won’t be full-go in spring?

“Yes, Sione. Sione Houma had a procedure done. He’ll be working through something all spring.”

Can you say what that is? Upper body? Lower body?

“Yeah. It’s just…he’ll be out for the spring and he’ll be working through something, and he’ll be back. It’s not a long-term thing, we don’t think. He’ll be back for summer conditioning and fall camp.”

I’m assuming you’re not going to name a starting quarterback until sometime in August. What can these quarterbacks earn this spring in terms of your trust, in terms of positioning, that sort of thing?

“We’re not putting a timetable on that. I mean, that’ll be the one position that I’m sure we’ll talk about. Don’t have one to name today. But I don’t know, at some point you’d like to think that that’s clear cut and somebody earns that and it’s not close. That’s what we’ll be hoping for, but they were all good to start and there’s going to be good competition at that position.”

You guys have seven quarterbacks in camp right now, is that right?

“Mmm hmm.”

How do you handle the rotation? How much time are you spending with them individually, or what’s the plan for that?

“Keeping everybody involved. Got multiple individual periods and opportunities for the quarterbacks to get reps.”

Is it just you working with them? Does Jedd [Fisch] work with them individually?

“Yeah, we do. Jedd does. I do. Tim Drevno has input. Our coaches…running backs coach will have something to say to them at a certain time. Jay Harbaugh will have something to say to them at times. It’s a group effort.”

Have you experienced any lag/transition going back to the college ranks from the NFL? Has it been any different or is coaching coaching.

“I think that coaching’s coaching.”

Brady Pallante moving to fullback [and] Ross Douglas moving to cornerback: can you talk about what they bring to those positions and why those moves were made?

“I wouldn’t say any moves have been made. I mean, there’s people trying to…we don’t mandate what position a player plays. Some guys are trying out at multiple positions on both sides of the ball. It’s too early to say what’s going to take place. Nothing’s set in stone that way. We’re still trying to figure out who the best players are. We’ve just had one practice so far.”

[Two men attempt to talk over each other. Both have microphones. Only one will emerge the victor. But who?]

Working with the quarterbacks, can you talk about the-

“And their best position. Don’t know exactly-”

…the labor of love it appears to be?

“Don’t know exactly, just to finish the thought there, we don’t know what everybody’s best position is or who the best players are at those positions after one practice, so it’s going to be a process. So nothing’s been done.”

Working with the quarterbacks, can you just talk about the labor of love that it appears to be and how you just really enjoy getting in there?

“I do! I just- it’s the fun part about being the head coach. You can coach any position. You can coach them all at any time. That’s the fun thing about the job of head coach. So I like coaching all the positions at some point.”

When do you want to have a tentative depth chart? At the end of spring or later?

“Uh…do you need one at some point? When would you like to have one?”

We’d like to have one today if you have that ready.

“We don’t have that list in front of us right now.”

Is that the goal though, by the end of spring to have a two-deep? At least a rough one?

“Uh…hadn’t thought about that, at what point [there is] a deadline or a goal of a depth chart. Haven’t thought about that.”

You’ve put trust in Tim Drevno over the years with your offensive lines. What is it that he does that’s good with these guys, and how much can they come along in a spring?

“Fantastic coach, Tim Drevno. It’s day one. We’re not really answering questions as much as we are asking questions. What can we do? How can we get better? Where can we improve? Where can we get a mile an hour faster? Where can we get a percent better? And we’re all in that process right now. Day one.”

Obviously there’s a lot of snow out there [and] it’s really cold. How important was it to get an early start and just to get the team together and see what you had on the field?

“Well, we were inside. We have an indoor building.”

But just to get an early start with spring practice.

“I thought that was important. We haven’t really had football since last November. Didn’t have a bowl or bowl practices. It felt like the time to do it, as early as we could. Wanted to make sure we got seven [or] eight weeks of conditioning before we did it.”

Are there specific goals or priorities you want to accomplish over the next few weeks?

“Yeah, we’re really just trying to get better every day. Trying to be better today than we were yesterday. Trying to be better tomorrow than we were today. I know that sounds very simplistic, but it’s just so simple it might work.”

Is there a point where there’s too many [quarterbacks] and you have to pare that down?

“I don’t know that there’s an exact number. Right now we’re throwing the balls out there and letting the fellas compete, and the more good ones you have the better.”

After seeing your team go through some things today for the first time since winter conditioning was there anything that surprised you coming out of conditioning?

“No, I felt they were in good shape. We worked with them last week for two days and you could tell their conditioning was at a high level. The only thing that surprised me was that it was a four hour practice and it flew by. Time flies by when you’re having fun.”

Sticking with that, how much of it right now is them getting used to how you run a practice [and] you getting used to how they are in practice? How much of it right now is just one foot in front of the other in terms of that?

“Um…I would just say it was good from that standpoint. Everybody- you’re in uncharted waters, somewhat to your point, but sometimes that can be a really good thing. Some people thrive on that and it’s life giving you energy.”

You said Sione’s going to miss camp. Is he the only one?

“I said he’s going to miss spring. He’ll be back for camp.”

Who else is out?

“I think we mentioned two other names.”

So those two guys, Khalid and Drake, are not in?


What kind of grade would you give today just on the effort and energy and what you saw out there today?

“I thought it was very good.”

I’m hoping for those that don’t have access to you often, myself among them, can you take a second to reflect on the day? You only get one first practice at Michigan. I’m also interested as you look forward in the East, in particular Ohio State and Michigan State…some say we may be entering a golden age of football in the Big Ten. Reflect, if you would, on your day and as you move forward the fall and rivalry games and what you might see.

“It was a great day. It’s like the new year. I’ve said this before but a lot people think January 1st is the start of the new year, and those that believe in Christianity and espouse Catholicism believe that correlates with the birth of Christ but we in football treat the first day of spring practice as the new year. It’s like your birthday, it’s New Year’s [Day], it’s Thanksgiving. You’re thankful you can participate in football. It’s like Christmas- you have this gift. It’s a family reunion. It’s all those things all rolled into one. It’s a happening. It’s like the first day of school. You lay your clothes out the night before and pack your lunch box tight and you head off to school. Everybody knows that feeling.

“In football you get two New Year’s Days: the first day of spring practice and the first day of fall practice. Very enthusiastic, very energetic day. I’d like to bottle it; the kind of enthusiasm where people show up early and are excited to get to work. At some point we’ll have to open that bottle up and use it to get better. Yeah, that’s how I would describe it.”

No full circle moments? I know you’re focused on what you’re doing, but as far as the position being yours- was it just another day?

“It was great with a capital G.”

SID: did you want to touch on the rivalries in the division?

I’ve heard from a lot of people that in rivalries teams go up and down, Michigan obviously more up than down maybe, but we have a chance, a lot of fans feel, over the next few years to have an incredible division. The competition could really be unique in terms of the lifetime of football that I’ve been watching.

“Yeah, our expectations are really high. They were high for a great practice today and they’ll be high for a great practice on Thursday and great meetings on Wednesday, tomorrow. Try to make those the best of the year if we can and try to make Thursday’s drills the best of the spring. Our expectations are very high for that.”

You said you’re going to have more questions than answers, but at what point do you want to figure out what some of these answers are, and do you need to have answers by the end of spring going into summer workouts? My second question is about freshman ineligibility; what would be your opinion on that?

“I don’t know if you need somebody else weighing in on that. I’m sure there are other people that are weighing in on that, so count me as one that’s not weighing in on that, not one more person adding their opinion to that.

“To your other question, I think it’s fair. I think it’s right. It’s the first day and we just had one practice, so we’re going to be…how can we get better? What can we do to…what is it that will work? We’ll just keep grinding on it. You have our vow that we’ll do that.”



February 25th, 2015 at 3:15 PM ^

Unfortunately, the coaches who don't suffer fools gladly are the ones who get screwed & stabbed in the back by those same fools!

Dig up those SF media "classics" and you'll find a steady stream of media who were only too happy to jump on the "abrasive" and "combative" and "lost the locker room" canards planted by the 49er brass and a few disgruntled players. Even when things were going great, heading to the SB, they all complained Harbaugh's answers were too terse, he played things too close to the vest.

This is my last time making this point, as it was extremely poorly received during the coaching hunt (or should we just call it the Harbaugh Negotiation) process:

Tim Kawakami was the ONLY SF area media member who was giving an alternate narrative to those memes above being floated out there. He alone pointed out that Baalke could also be abrasive, and it was Kawakami who posted that many of the leaks appeared to be coming from Jed York.

Not coincidentally, when JH decided he'd heard enough of York's crap and wanted to set the record straight about his departure from SF, who did he turn to?? Kawakami...

So while I understand Kawakami was suffering Michigan fans about as gladly as JH suffers most reporters - and that pissed off a lot of the people who's main interest is Michigan football - before he catches any more grief on this blog (called a troll just a week or so ago by the fearless leader), recognize that not all media were complicit in running with the management narrative of the divorce.

There, that's it, Kawakami is on his own now, I'm done with it...


February 26th, 2015 at 1:21 AM ^

But the last thing many of us give two sh-ts about right now is how "the media" feel about Harbaugh's answers.


Would rather just enjoy the comedy of his short answers to stupid questions and not re-analyze the details of his trip thru San Fran or speculate how the delicate geniuses are going to deal with Harbaugh now that he's back home.


February 25th, 2015 at 4:28 PM ^

I have a thoery about this "trend" in interviewing Burgers - I also come from a media background, degree in Journalism & Broadcast Communications.

We never would have been allowed to get by with such sloppy practices "back in my day"...but now you turn on ESPN you see their most esteemed journalists (OK not Bob Ley, but just about anyone younger than 40ish), guys who get plumb assignments like Tom Rinaldi - they all employ the "talk about..." form of questioning.

So my theory is it presents as much less confrontational to the interviewee than a direct question. It leaves it open to address only the parts of the general topic the subject feels like addressing. And if it's just general platitudes they feel like spouting (which is all you'll ever get from JH unless he feels like rambling onto a side topic like how the nativity and pagan rituals around the celebration of the New Year equate to spring practice), well that's just what the reporter and their public have to settle for!

It's a small but important part of the "dumbing down" of everything we're experiencing with the explosion of electronic media.

I Like Burgers

February 25th, 2015 at 8:59 PM ^

Its definitely an annoying trend.  Although I will say I don't think Rinaldi and most of the ESPN reporters are guilty of this.  He generally asks good questions.  This is something you generally see from beat reporters and reporters at smaller stations.  I also know for a fact ESPN has a guy on staff that offers regular seminars on how to (and how not to) ask questions, and those that resort to the "talk about" style of questioning get called out in house and told they need to stop.


February 25th, 2015 at 9:14 AM ^

Reporters are gonna have to compete with every question and every presser if they want to be one of the very few who will ask something that JH is interested in answering. I loved the "its football" pause/look/answer. We'll see that a lot.

yossarians tree

February 25th, 2015 at 11:23 AM ^

I'd love to hear all the sexybits about the team, but I totally understand how the HC in these situations just gives a lot of pat answers and seems annoyed. I would be too. I kind of equate it to how would I react if a bunch of basically strangers with tape recorders were peppering me with quesitons about intricacies within my family. I would try to discipline myself to give simple, airless answers, but I would be secretly wishing to tell them go $&#! themselves.


February 25th, 2015 at 2:25 PM ^

Reporters are gonna have to compete with every question and every presser.

I would love it if Harbaugh just came right out and said that to the press corp.  We will be evaluating each and every one of you after every presser.  You will be competing every day for the right to be invited to the next presser.

Those guys have had 2 months to come up with a couple of questions and this is the best they can do.  They should be embarrassed and ashamed.

Wolverine In Exile

February 25th, 2015 at 9:14 AM ^

"I’ve said this before but a lot people think January 1st is the start of the new year, and those that believe in Christianity and espouse Catholicism believe that correlates with the birth of Christ but we in football treat the first day of spring practice as the new year."

Soooo we know Harbaugh won't be running for Pope then... :)


February 25th, 2015 at 9:19 AM ^

Yeah, that took me by surprise too.

I like what I'm reading about his actions so far, but he's not a great presser guy. (Not that that really matters. I do love the "it's football, it's a competitive sport" answer. The. He gives the look like the guy just landed from Mars.

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Its me Dave

February 25th, 2015 at 10:37 AM ^

Agreed, really not very good with milquetoast platitudes.  It's so much more clear when watching the video, that his mind is pretty disconnected from his words when he enters answering-a-stupid-question mode.  Sooner later he's going to string together a poor choice of words that becomes controversial.


February 25th, 2015 at 10:47 AM ^

not be him if he didn't.  There will be a Harbaugh "incident" this year without question.  Whether it is a "overly firm" handshake or an opposing coach who was "not explecting an expletive" right there and wanting to know what his "problem" is, Harbaugh gonna Harbaugh(and I will probably love it).

Wolverine In Exile

February 25th, 2015 at 12:38 PM ^

I'm OK with Harbaugh being so focused on being a football coach that he doesn't know the difference between New Years and Christmas (at least based on his quote)-- we hired a football coach, not a theologian. (OTOH, man, is he really that singularly focused?) Just be prepared when he says something that might not be as "socially acceptable" as some at Michigan want all officials to be....

Its me Dave

February 25th, 2015 at 11:14 PM ^

In the Catholic liturgical calendar, Ordinary Time stops at the start of Advent and restarts on the Epiphany, early in Jan (and stops again during Lent/Easter). I think.  It's kind of confusing.  And now that I think about it, it still doesn't help explain WTF Harbaugh's talking about.  Maybe just a weird hat tip to Father James.  Who knows?


February 25th, 2015 at 1:30 PM ^

Harbaugh doesn't know the difference b/c he's focused on being a coach?  Can't he do both?  

I read the entire thing as saying the first day of practice is xmas (birth of Jesus), new years (Jan 1st - new start), thanksgiving (thanks for opportunities), birthday (gifts), etc.  He put it into context as he progressed thru the thought.


February 25th, 2015 at 4:28 PM ^

and was listing how different days can have the feeling of "a new year" and thus "a new beginning," New Year's Day being the obvious, and that to many (and he was very careful with his wording here to avoid the no religion/no politics issue), Xmas is that new year/new beginning, and that to us here, the first day of practice is that new year/new beginning.  (Which in football, he says, you get to have twice a year, so that's a bonus doubling the chances of starting out fresh.) 

matty blue

February 25th, 2015 at 9:16 AM ^

i think we're supposed to freak out about lack of specific answers on every single question posed, right?  "we had a good practice" isn't good enough, right?  oh, wait.  that was the last guy.


February 25th, 2015 at 1:05 PM ^

This is definitely Harbaugh's version of Ft. Schembechler, but he has a point -- he's exactly one practice in so this is as meaningless as pressers get.  I confess I watched it anyway because I'm a lunatic, but I wasn't expecting solid answers this early on.

Hoke's "they practiced well" wasn't controversial for being a non-answer.  It's that he kept trotting it out even after beatdowns and the season was in a death spiral.


February 25th, 2015 at 2:20 PM ^

I've heard coaches say that before.  Strangely it seems more common in basketball, but sometimes a coach wants the players to know he doesn't feel they're putting in acceptable effort.  Now, I happen to think that's not an issue with Michigan's players, but that's also kind of why I didn't accept Hoke's answer anyway.  That's like you're in a car crash and go, "Well, the car ran fine. . ." Um, OK, so what was the problem then?


February 25th, 2015 at 3:06 PM ^

Basketball is a much smaller group. Its easier to actually have a bad practice. Football is a different animal. Suppose everyone does well but the QBs are off. Bad practice? Or the defense is lights out, perfect on every run fit, and the offense cant do a thing. Bad practice?

Or say, you have a bad and/or young team. On talent alone, they can only beat Indiana. They practice well enough to beat Minnesota. Not a good practice from a program standpoint, but is that a good practice for that particular Michigan team?

So, bad practices are more rare in FB, because the roster is big enough to make up for a few bad performances and still be considered good. And on top of that, moat FB coaches just wouldn't tell you the truth anyways. They hoard info like crazy. Its like a fetish.


February 25th, 2015 at 3:37 PM ^

You're conflating the ethics of how to answer this with whether or not it's a reasonable question in the first place.  I'd be more inclined to agree with you on the latter; yes, when you're coaching a team of about 100 or so players (including walk-ons I'm not sure how big these teams really get), "good" can get really subjective.  While that's neither here nor there, I think we can both agree this isn't a question on a level of importance where we can argue any further without looking like idiots. :P


February 25th, 2015 at 1:09 PM ^

his cluelessness as to how to pull the team up loss after loss.  His increasingly evasive answers after each of those just fed the anger and frustration of fans including this blog.

A coach who's losing doesn't have the freedom to dodge what are essentially assinine questions - he ends up looking assinine himself.

Harbaugh's first presser doesn't come close to Hoke's miserable situation.


February 25th, 2015 at 9:23 AM ^

If he wasn't expecting a presser, that had to be a funny moment to witness when he found out he had one. 

"I don't have the list in front of me right now" is a tee-shirt waiting to happen.