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How Michigan’s Beat Ohio Drill ‘means everything’ to the Wolverines

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Renaming this 9-on-7 drill has motivated Michigan at a high clip.

NCAA Football: Michigan Spring Game Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan Football (10-1) wanted to add more juice to one of its most physical drills in practice. Just like a movie title or band name can make or break the product, head coach Jim Harbaugh felt a 9-on-7 drill needed a distinct title.

“Years prior, we’d call it a 9-on-7, which is what the drill is, but this year, we changed it to the ‘Beat Ohio’ drill,” offensive lineman Trevor Keegan said back in September. “Now we’re blasting music, smelling salts, everything. It’s a pretty physical period. We love it!”

As far as what the drill is precisely, Harbaugh elaborated on that Monday when talking Michigan-Ohio State, a battle for all the marbles on Saturday.

“It’s a run drill. Run drill and a run-stopping drill,” Harbaugh said. “All runs, all runs are between the tackles. Physicality, emphasis, and emphasis on Ohio State and keeping them on our minds every day of practice.”

Harbaugh said the drill started the first day of spring practice, something that the team, and leaders like captain/linebacker Josh Ross fully supported.

“Coach Harbaugh, we all talked about it, and we felt we needed to change it to the Beat Ohio Drill,” Ross said.

Ross explained that the drill means a lot to the Michigan players — they really get after it when that portion of practice rolls around.

“That drill, the Beat Ohio Drill, we approach it the same every week, every day. It’s to go get it as if we’re playing Ohio State in that 9-on-7 drill. It means everything to us, we got the music going, we got the energy going,” Ross said. “It’s exciting, we do it every single week. This game’s been a game we’ve circled on our calendar all year — from when the season ended last year, going into preparation, going into winter workouts, going into spring ball, going into the season.”

Attention has been on Ohio State (10-1) all off-season, and all season long. Ross said “the time is here, the time is now”, and now it’s time to see if this drill pays dividends on Saturday when they actually face off against the Buckeyes.

“It kinda came along with the whole tradition of, ‘What are you doing to beat Ohio State every day?’, lineman Andrew Stueber said earlier this season. “Kinda taking that rivalry into focus every day is a big focus for us.”

The focus will have to be crystal clear on Saturday at 12 ET if Michigan wants to beat their biggest rival.