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An inside look at Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan Football Coaching Series: RPO’s and more

Breaking down what’s in a Michigan football coaching series

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 01 Michigan at Notre Dame Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The guys at Championship Productions have put together an extensive production that gets you inside the minds of Michigan’s coaches and provides access you would never get otherwise.

I took a look at the series, and it’s long, thorough, and feels like you’re getting coached up by the likes of darn near every coach on Michigan’s staff. The series even has strength and conditioning coach Ben Herbert showcasing some of the workouts Michigan’s players do on a daily basis, a couple of which I’ve adopted to my fitness regimen, seriously.

A major strong point of the series is offensive coordinator Josh Gattis teaching RPO concepts. With Michigan’s new pro-spread scheme that will feature a steady amount of RPO looks, it isn’t a surprise that Gattis takes around an hour to explain the varying facets of what Michigan will do from an RPO standpoint.

Advantages of RPO’s according to Gattis:

  • The ability to even an offense’s numbers out
  • Simplicity for the offensive line- block the box
  • To run into favorable box counts/to throw into favorable looks
  • Take the aggressiveness out of the defense and force them to play disciplined football

Rules of RPO’s according to Gattis:

  • Identify who your conflict player is on each run scheme
  • Design your “pass option” to affect the conflict player
  • Create your concept to be good vs man or zone coverage
  • Match your RPO and run scheme with your QB’s eyes

The series features practice film and has quarterbacks such as Shea Patterson, Dylan McCaffrey, and Joe Milton utilizing RPO’s. What’s highly interesting about the practice film with Gattis breaking down tenants of the RPO is he’s also critiquing what the QB did. Sometimes Gattis will compliment the QB’s decision, other times he will say that he should have went somewhere else with the football or handed it off instead.

During this portion of the series you get a good glimpse into how the offense is trending and what the scheme is going to look like. In short, Michigan’s offense will be taking shots down the field when they present themselves. The offense isn’t a tentative one, it requires aggressiveness and the QB to have a quick trigger. If there’s a man open deep, there should be no hesitation, let it rip and get it there before the window closes.

The series is geared towards those who want to truly know X’s and O’s. It gets technical and goes through a variety of position group drills while also showing practice film. For those reasons, the people who will enjoy this series the most are coaches, players, and students of the game.

New Michigan coaches such as Shaun Nua (defensive line) and Anthony Campanile (linebackers) are featured. Nua dives into defensive line pass-rush techniques and Campanile highlights the linebackers and viper position.

Then there’s defensive coordinator Don Brown, who is like a cup of strong coffee in the morning, his coaching style wakes you up! Brown breaks down tackling fundamentals, and how he wants his players to stay low and play low while wrapping up the target.

Jim Harbaugh is also featured in the series, of course. Harbaugh showcases a variety of QB drills and you get a good grasp of how he teaches the unit and the type of analogies he uses. A few of the drills look absolutely fun and pits the QB’s against each other in the name of friendly competition. My favorite was a quick release drill where Harbaugh will hold up his hand and when he does two QB’s throw the ball as quickly as they can to their target. Harbaugh then proceeds to point left or right, judging who got the ball there quicker. Dylan McCaffrey and Patterson both fared real well in this drill.

Harbaugh also talks about the mental aspects of what makes a QB good. He believes a quarterback needs to play loose, but focused at the same time, and have thick skin that doesn’t worry about what anyone else says or thinks.

Another element of Harbaugh teaching I enjoyed was seeing him with a football in his hand. Harbaugh will always be a QB at heart and his enthusiasm and energy is there when he is teaching throwing motion, footwork, and throwing on the run.

The final thing that has stuck with me with Harbaugh is him saying it takes 100 reps to break a bad habit. Although he’s talking about QB’s here, the same can be said for any position on the football field, or in my case, my golf swing. Thanks, coach.

Also included in the series: Running backs coach Jay Harbaugh, tight ends coach Sherrone Moore, QB’s coach Ben McDaniels, safeties coach Chris Partridge, secondary coach Mike Zordich, and offensive line coach Ed Warinner.

If you want to know more about the series, click here.