Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh spoke to the media on Monday afternoon outside of the football building to discuss the opening week showdown with Western Michigan and more.
Here’s a recap of the big topics covered, as well as some odds and ends from what was covered in his 20-ish minutes with the Michigan beat.
On Cade McNamara
“Yes, Cade McNamara is our starting quarterback. His constant improvement – he’s really ratcheted it up in a lot of different areas. The biggest one, consistency. Consistency of doing his job, also call it a talent of making everybody else around you better. Maybe that’s the most important job of a quarterback.”
What sticks out about his leadership
“Really locked in. Really knows his assignments. Great work ethic. Just the unselfishness, I think, is probably the biggest thing. Sticks out about his leadership is his desire to get the ball to playmakers and make people around him better. Move the offense a lot.”
On if it’s important for Cade to know he’s the starter early
“How important that is? Those are things earned. I think anybody on the team will tell you we all saw that the same. He’s earned that.”
On pressure this season
“Yeah, we want to play as hard as we can as fast as we can as long as we can while we’re out on the field. Whatever the situation.
“If you know what you’re doing, if you’re prepared, that doesn’t put pressure on you. The times you don’t know what you’re doing, doing any of our jobs, right? Playing sports, the best way to handle that is to know what your assignment is, know what your job is, do that and do it with confidence.”
Western Michigan film takeaways
“I’ll start with the defensive side of the ball. Lou Esposito does a fantastic job. You’re just talking pressure, you’re talking attack–attack defense. And they’re really good at it. Fifth in the country in tackles for loss. The tackles for loss really stand out about them – they average about 8.5 in a game. Really good at sacks, too. Ranked 13th in the NCAA in sacks. A couple of really good defensive linemen. Secondary that’s – they’re covering and they do a really good job. Right now, studied them for a while here, they want a fast outcome in their favor. Get it to where you can’t find the receiver, get it to where you can’t find the one-on-one matchup. They do a good job covering. They do a good job of putting pressure on the offense.
“Them offensively, they’re really good at what they do. They execute really well, at a high level. Quarterback Eleby, really fantastic. When you rank third in the country in pass efficiency, that’s playing really efficient, that’s playing really good football. La’Darius (Jefferson) – a fine running back. All the running backs are really – they’re north-south guys, they hit holes fast. The receivers do an excellent job – 24 (Skyy Moore), 1 (Jaylen Hall) – both really good. Making the catch, but also what they do when they’ve made the catch, what they do with the ball after, yards after the catch – extremely good. The offensive line, as well. They play really well together. Just – they play really good football. They execute their schemes extremely well.”
Mike Macdonald vs. Don Brown
“No real catchphrases or things we’re espousing. We just want to play good defense.
“We’re doing the same thing Western’s trying to do. You want to have a quick outcome, the best outcome in your favor. Sometimes you want to play cover, sometimes you want to simulate a blitz. All different things you’re trying to get done. You’re trying to stop them, try to keep them from getting points on the board, creating field position.”
On Macdonald as a play-caller
“I’ve got a good feel for that. Got a good feel for that. Feel like he’s ready. In fact, we’ve had a ton of situational calls where we didn’t script it. Especially in fall camp. We’ll see them in every situation. It wasn’t able to be scripted the night before – just was on him. He’s come in well-thought-out and come in quick. Got good adjustments, talked about the communication. When your players are communicating, when the players know the calls, know the adjustments, can execute them quick, that’s all of the good studying and good coaching.”
Odds and ends
- Harbaugh said the energy and enthusiasm of the team have been the constant of the offseason through all phases. This includes coaches and players.
- Believes they have to play the games to find out what type of team they have but think they are capable.
- Duties of the captains are to lead by example and how they conduct themselves on the field. Tremendous honor to be elected by teammates but also big responsibility.
- He would not say if J.J. McCarthy will play this season, but said “all options will be open” with playing him or anyone else on the roster.
- Communication has been Harbaugh’s biggest noticed improvement on the defensive side of the ball. This has been consistent through spring and fall camp.
- Walk-ons Hunter Neff, Jake Thaw and Lucas Andrighetto are the only season-ending injuries on the roster right now.
- Harbaugh was not ready to name a starting offensive line, but said they have as many as eight good players they consider starting-caliber.
- The vaccination rate is at “99 percent” for the team. Mask protocols are enforced in the building. Some meetings are being held virtually if they can be.
- Harbaugh says the team has three starting cornerbacks. Gemon Green, Vincent Gray and DJ Turner in no particular order. They feel good about that group.
- He compared having fans back in and around the stadium to a Super Bowl environment. “That many people, that many people around outside the game. Just everything that goes on. Tremendous thrill.”
- Harbaugh says that starting fast and scoring first has been something the staff has put a big emphasis on this offseason.
- Jake Moody and Brad Robbins are locked in as the starting kicker and punter, respectively. He would not name kick and punt return starters.
- Mike Macdonald will be coordinating the defense from the sideline. They have not decided which coaches will be up in the box or on the sideline yet.