Jim Harbaugh was candid at times standing at the podium today for his Big Ten Media Days press conference. After a long offseason, he gave the press and football fans alike some insights they have been waiting to hear from the coach himself for months. That happened earlier this morning.
Harbaugh Press Conference Transcript
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Michigan Jim Harbaugh.
JIM HARBAUGH: Good afternoon. Wonderful to be here. I'll take questions.
Q. Your team took a trip to Rome in April where they practiced and had many unique experiences mixed in. You said about the trip that it was the best thing you've been a part of on a football team and that not all learning is done in the classroom and not all learning is done on the football field. Next season, after the season, you plan on taking a team trip to Paris, Normandy and London. Can you expound on why the Rome trip was valuable and why trips in the future will be valuable to your football team?
JIM HARBAUGH: Yes, it's incredible to connect with somebody from a different country, to see something you've never seen before, taste food you've never tasted or hear a language that you've never heard and then experience it together as a team, like eighth grade classes that go to Washington D.C. for a field trip, or a 12th grade class that goes to Rome, much like that, to be able to experience as a group makes it so much better, 900 times better as you're getting not only your own experience but the others in the group. And, yeah, it's a chance to put the college back in college football.
It's a chance to have the whole world be your classroom. And not all learning is done in a classroom or on a football field. It's out there living, out there seeing and doing.
So I would recommend it. It has been the best thing I've ever done personally as a part of a football team.
Q. Could you talk about Rashan Gary. I can't remember any "D" lineman at Michigan having this much preseason hype than LaMarr Woodley. Can you talk about how high the ceiling is for this young man?
JIM HARBAUGH: Very interesting to see how Rashan has handled it. To me, I've really watched it. It's one of the top recruits, maybe the top recruit coming out of high school.
He's had a lot of hype. He's had a lot of adulation. And there's some people that that's what they live for. They live for approval of others and to be recognized as a hyped-up player.
And then there's other people that they see that hype or that adulation and they go by it like it's an orange cone on the side of the road. There's some people that are just aspiring for greater things than just the adulation of somebody. And I think Rashan is that type of guy. You'd really like him. He really doesn't care too much about that.
He's gone by it like it's a cone, orange cone on the side of the road. And he just works and I really think competing is his favorite thing to do. And he has the ability to be great. I don't know what more to say about that.
Q. How has Maurice Hurst handled all the extra attention. He's always been a quiet guy. How has he handled all the attention? How has Maurice Hurst handled the extra attention this year, as far as the national attention? Seems like he's been more of a quiet guy.
JIM HARBAUGH: I think Mo has handled it good. I think it's been overdue. And maybe Mo feels that way. But I think he's enjoying that. I think he's enjoying that people are appreciating what he does as a football player and what he brings to the football team, even on our own team.
Our appreciation for him is probably the first, and I think he likes that. And I think that drives him to be even better. I think he's got a chance to be really good, again. He's got the license and the ability to be really great. And we appreciate the heck out of him. And I hope he does like that. I hope he keeps going, because he's got a chance to be really good.
Q. I think you lost the most number of starters of any team in the country. How confident are you that you can flourish even without those guys? How good do you feel about what you have coming back?
JIM HARBAUGH: I feel good. I feel good about the team. To start with, our second newest guys, which is our freshmen that came at the mid-year, the 10 that have really flourished and did exceedingly good in spring practice, and which makes me think that the newest guys that arrived on campus, 19 true incoming freshmen, because the 10 did so well I think these 19 are going to do just as well because they were the same type of good players in high school that the 10 were.
And then the third newest, the freshmen that are going to be sophomores this year, I'm very excited for them. I've already talked about Rashan, but also Chris Evans in that group. And Michael Onwenu and Lavert Hill and Devin Bush, Jr., Sean McKeon and some very talented players that played as true freshmen. Nate Schoenle. All the youngsters in that class, very excited about them because everything they're doing now they've already done, they're doing for a second time.
And the amount of growth that you can have from doing something for the first time and then doing it the next time or the second time, can be the biggest leap they have their entire college year, going from freshman year to sophomore year. Excited for that class.
Excited for the junior class. Hard to believe that we first got hired at Michigan, January, December 30th, 2014 and signed a class a month later that those guys are now juniors. Tyrone Wheatley, junior; Jon Runyan, junior; Grant Perry; Reuben Jones. Guys in that class, Keith Washington. Weren't many of them. There was only, like, 10 or 11, 12 in that class, but now those guys are juniors.
And then the senior class, in the fifth year class, very excited for them as well. They, many of them, like Chase and Mo Hurst and Wilton Speight and Mike McCray and Bryan Mone and Mason Cole, those guys in particular that were in games last year, they were there when we won nine straight games and everybody is high-fiving in the locker room after the game. And they were also there when we lost three out of our last four games, two by one point and another game by three points in overtime. They know what it feels like. And they like the feeling of the high-fiving better than the other.
And I feel like, okay, good. They've seen that. And maybe that's going to motivate them even more this year, give them more reason to put all their talent and pour their whole heart into everything that they're doing. So, excited for all the guys on our team, really.
Q. Following up on the Rome trip, what are the exciting historical sites and experiences you've had and what you learned over there visiting these sites? Do you see a lot of stuff that can apply to football and if so how?
JIM HARBAUGH: Yeah, we applied some things to football. We had three really good practices over there. It was very interesting to watch our team do six hours of sightseeing one day where we're walking through old Rome and then in the afternoon we're at the Colosseum, at the Forum, and you learn so many things along the way. Colosseum has been around for 600 years, it's been active for 600 years. Around here, 30, 40 years as a stadium and they tear it down. Amazing, really.
The Forum, to see how much Washington D.C., our own Washington D.C., was designed around Rome and even our political system, much patterned after Rome. But then to flip the switch and be back to football and go out and practice and understand that it doesn't matter where we are, in Ann Arbor, in Rome, in some other place, now it's time to do what we do in football, and do it as a team. As I said, the best thing was doing it as a group because we pushed ourselves. We pushed ourselves to not take any breaks, to see as much as we could see, connect with as many people as we could possibly connect with and that was -- I could keep going, I could go on and on there. But it was outstanding.
Q. What are your thoughts on doing away totally with two-a-day practices now in the preseason? And then, number two, how have you guys adjusted to that? What will be your approach, I guess?
JIM HARBAUGH: It just makes all the sense in the world. There's really nobody having three-a-days anymore or two-a-days anymore.
Residents in hospitals don't do sleep depravation anymore. Pilots have to sleep ten hours, I think, before each flight. It's just everybody is doing it that way. Even the military doesn't have sleep deprivation and three-a-days, et cetera. So I'm all for it.
And they get a day a week of rest. I think everybody deserves that. Especially people that are playing a sport like football or training in high intensity type of sport. I think the body does need a day of rest and recovery.
So easy to adjust to it. There's no two-a-days anymore. Two-a-days are gone. There are no more two-a-days. So schedule all one-a-days. So it's been rather simple, even the other time-demand rules -- 21 extra days off for the football players within the semesters. Already planning for them. Easily implemented.
Those are done. So schedule's made. We're starting. Next Monday will be our first day of practice and very much looking forward to it.
Q. I don't know how often you came across P.J. Fleck when he was at Western Michigan and you've been in Ann Arbor over the last few years. But did you form any impressions of the job that he did there and do you have any impressions of what it will be like to have him in the same conference as well as the same region now?
JIM HARBAUGH: I had a chance to go to a couple of clinics and see P.J. clinic at those, and mainly just watched him win games. What a phenomenal job he did coaching there at Western Michigan.
And now anticipating playing his Minnesota Gophers. Fine coach and a great competitor.
Q. How much has the way last year finished with those three losses driven this team in the offseason?
JIM HARBAUGH: I hope a lot. I know it has a lot of us. Myself included. Lost three out of the last four games. Okay, good. Maybe that will motivate us to put more into it. Coach better. Play better. Train harder. Put more of our heart into each and every one of those ball games.
Q. Where is your stance on Wilton Speight as you enter the season? You said earlier in the year that he is your guy but there is a meritocracy?
JIM HARBAUGH: Yes, so Wilton's in a good spot. He comes in really tied for first with John O'Korn and Brandon Peters, legitimately, through competition, throughout all the spring, went through 15 practices and was a dead heat. But the good news is they all did some things that really -- Brandon really shot up. John O'Korn really played consistently good. And Wilton really had some impressive moments as well.
And we'll go through training camp starting on Monday, just throw the balls out there and let the fellows compete. There's a lot a quarterback can do over the summer to get better at playing quarterback. It's one of those positions, like a kicker. A quarterback can just go out there and throw balls on the net, can work on their drops. There's a lot of ways that they don't even need other players to be out there to improve some part of their skill game. Much like a kicker.
So you want to see what's transpired over the summer and see who has gotten better. And then who gives our team the best chance to move the ball, score touchdowns and put points on the board, not turn the ball over, and probably take about anywhere from eight to 15 practices to figure that out. Historically that's what it usually takes. But we're looking forward to it. Mostly in a good spot.
Q. What kind of a boost does it give you guys in training camp to have such a tough game as Florida week one?
JIM HARBAUGH: What does it what?
Q. What kind of a boost, mental boost does it give your guys?
JIM HARBAUGH: That's probably a good factor. Probably a good factor in giving us motivation and to get ready because we know just how good they are. And college football has always been unique.
One of the -- it's the only sport that I can think of that doesn't have a preseason or exhibition season. No spring training, no preseason game. So you go right into your first game and that counts -- that starts the season. Where we're going, we're unique in a lot of ways in college football.
Q. Ohio State has said that they will draw maybe some motivation from being shut out in that playoff game against Clemson. Will you draw some motivation from the end of your season or even that not favorable outcome in the Horseshoe?
JIM HARBAUGH: Yes. We lost three out of our last four games, we talked about it at length couple minutes ago. But we will, yes.