Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines football team were knocked down a season ago after a 2-4 record during a pandemic-laden season — but they weren’t down for the count. Harbaugh and the Wolverines got back up off the mat and figured out a way to pave a new path forward, one with hope and a newfound energy.
Harbaugh revamped the Michigan staff on both sides of the football, with key editions such as running backs coach Mike Hart, defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald, Sherrone Moore moving to offensive line coach and co-offensive coordinator. These are just a few of the maneuvers Harbaugh made to change the course and trajectory of the program.
2021 was perceived to be a rebuilding year, but that narrative was shaped from the outside looking in. Harbaugh and the Michigan team had a sense of urgency. Veterans like Aidan Hutchinson, Josh Ross, Hassan Haskins knew their time at Michigan was running out and they needed to win now. Win now they have — they’re the No. 2 team in the nation and will be playing No. 3 Georgia in the College Football Playoff at the Orange Bowl on New Year’s Eve.
Harbaugh’s attitude this week, according to running back Hassan Haskins, has been focused but joyous, realizing there’s a big task at hand but also taking moments to acknowledge how special the opportunity is for Michigan is in Miami.
“His demeanor has been the same. We’ve still got a game to play, so we’ve still got to take things serious, but try to enjoy our time when we can,” Haskins said. “But when we need to lock in, we need to lock in. That’s pretty much his demeanor.”
Quarterback Cade McNamara concurred with Haskins’ assessment.
“He’s been exactly the same. His demeanor has been serious, and we’re taking a level of — we’re taking preparation at the highest extent. I appreciate that from him,” McNamara said.
For captains Aidan Hutchinson and Josh Ross, they’re extremely proud of their head coach. They’ve went through an abundance of ups and downs together — and here they are, with an opportunity to make their dreams a reality.
“I’m so proud of Coach Harbaugh and the way he’s adapted, the way he’s just changed as a person, as a coach throughout his years of me being here. He’s a great coach, and he does a lot of great things,” Ross said. “Just to see how far he’s came, how far this team has came in the position we are now, I couldn’t be more proud of our head guy leading the way.”
Leading the way Harbaugh has. He showed up to Big Ten Media Days in July as slender and in shape as he’s been during his time at Michigan. He told the media he’s back to his playing weight. There was even a video that surfaced of Harbaugh pushing a sled after practice with players rooting him on. Harbaugh’s trying to walk the walk the best he can. Leading by example, leading with action, with strength. That strength has resonated with the team, and the staff.
“To do what he did this year, I think he brought in the perfect chemistry of guys this off-season in terms of coaches, in terms of our defensive staff, which was changed up a lot, and I think he found the perfect blend of guys, and it’s really what makes the team work. That’s part of it is finding the right coaches,” Hutchinson said. “He definitely did that this off-season, and that’s a big head nod to him, but also how he’s adapted over these years and how he’s adapted towards the players over these years. He’s really a great guy and a great coach, and we couldn’t be more proud.”
Michigan wasn’t even ranked in the Top 25 to start the season, they’re the first team to make the playoffs after not starting the year ranked. Through outside noise, through trials, tribulations, and triumphs, Michigan’s players have had Harbaugh’s back — It’s Michigan vs. the world.
“I‘d say that I love Coach Harbaugh, and we always knew since day one it was Michigan versus everybody, and we live by that,” cornerback D.J. Turner said. “So that’s why when we proved everything and just — we’ve got a lot to do left, and it just feels great to do it with my coach, too.”