Michigan Wolverines head football coach Jim Harbaugh opened the first game week of the year on Monday afternoon, speaking to the media ahead of the season opener against Minnesota on Saturday night.
It was a little bit different than a usual game week, as has been the case throughout 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Instead of reporters gathering at Schembechler Hall, the media instead tuned in and asked questions via Zoom, which has been the new normal for these press settings in the world we currently live in.
Without further ado, here is a recap of the topics that were covered on Monday afternoon:
- “It means a lot. We’re excited about it.” when references seniors that were unsure they would even have a season. Likes the talent and cohesiveness of the roster.
- On the state of the offensive line with four new starters: “Feel very good... big, a lot of length. Good athleticism.” Cites Karsen Barnhart, Chuck Filiaga, Andrew Stueber, Andrew Vastardis (confirmed to be starting center) as standouts inside. Likes the two “experienced” tackles they have in Ryan Hayes and Jalen Mayfield.
- “It can happen to anybody. Anybody can get it. Being virus-strong and sticking together” in reference to Jeff Brohm testing positive at Purdue and if the Big Ten can get through a season. Says he is proud of the team’s response. “Continuing to stay positive and test negative.”
- There are no updates on contract talks between Harbaugh and Michigan. When asked, he said there were “bigger fish to fry.”
- Harbaugh says his team is at a championship level in terms of “oneness.” Likes the talent and cohesiveness of the group and is excited to see them play.
- “He’s been showing a lot of great things. Joe (Milton) has been running with the ones. He has made a lot of great strides.” — Harbaugh on QB situation. “Really good command and savviness in the offense. And a lot of talent.” Also says that Cade McNamara has closed gaps as well.
- Harbaugh will not name any starters officially with concerns about potential positive COVID tests ahead of Saturday. No Michigan players are currently known to be in danger of missing the game.
- Milton has been throwing a much more catchable ball this offseason.
- Harbaugh categorizes the idea that the pandemic has brought the team together as a true statement. Says they have a lot of guys that like each other and like football. Feels the team has great leaders and guys that want to be as good as they can possibly be.
- Gemon Green, Sammy Faustin, Jalen Perry and DJ Turner have been battling for the No. 2 cornerback job opposite Vincent Gray.
- Harbaugh asked about recruiting in a pandemic with some players not playing, says that they have been impressed with creative ways that players have been working on getting him film.
- There have been a few positive COVID cases within the program since September, but it sounds as if none currently.
- Both Quinn Nordin and Jake Moody are still locked in the competition to take most of the extra points and field goals. There is a battle with Brad Robbins and Will Hart at punter still, as well. All players should see action.
- Asked if he had a message for recruits as the only Power 5 coach with less than two years left on his deal: “Go Blue.”
- On Minnesota, raves about the talent of Rashod Bateman at wide receiver and Tanner Morgan at quarterback. Also the “super-athletic” tackle Daniel Faalele. “Lost some starters on defense, but really good at playing the concepts on both sides of the ball.” Says that if Michigan is mentally sharp, they will be tough to beat, as well.
- Receivers have been “really good” and there are “a lot of them.” Receiving growth and the ability to get and increase separation has been impressive to him. Runs through just about every name on the depth chart. Says that Nico Collins is “not participating in football right now” and he does not have a crystal ball on if that will change or not. He is not currently on the team. (FWIW, Collins is no longer listed on Michigan’s roster).
- Harbaugh compliments the play of Andrew Vastardis at center so far.
- Asked if every team in the Big Ten deserves the shot to play for a playoff spot this year by starting so late, Harbaugh says that he is excited about competing and the opportunity means the most to them.
We will have more from Harbaugh and the Michigan players that spoke to the media throughout the day.