Day one of the 2022 Big Ten Media Days saw some appearances from Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh and a few of his players, including starting quarterback Cade McNamara. With a wide range of subjects covered and the 2022 season looming in the near future, here are three things that stood out from everything Harbaugh had to say.
Confidence in another DC
When Mike Macdonald got the defensive coordinator job last year, there was already some uncertainty surrounding Michigan’s defense heading into the 2021 season. It didn’t feel misplaced either. No one knew anything, but they hoped some newness could spur the Wolverines out of their slump. Sitting here now after coming off a Big Ten championship and a win over Ohio State, we all know now Macdonald came as almost a gift from Harbaugh’s brother John from the Baltimore Ravens.
Macdonald returned to the Baltimore Ravens to take their defensive coordinator job, so Michigan once again faces some newness in that role, but Harbaugh shared his confidence on Michigan continuing its success it found last season.
“I’d have to go back to before the 2021 season when I was looking for a defensive coordinator,” Harbaugh said. “My brother John recommended two coaches to me. He said you can have Mike Macdonald or Jesse Minter, really take your pick, they’re both great.”
Obviously Macdonald ended up with the job, but once he went back to Baltimore, Harbaugh reached back out to Minter.
“I talked to Minter right when Mike left and just felt it was the absolutely best thing for our team,” Harbaugh said. “And an added bonus is that Jesse Minter got a year of defensive play calling under his belt as the defensive coordinator at Vanderbilt.”
Knowing what Macdonald brought to the table, and having both Macdonald and Minter being seriously considered after the 2020 season, helps in maintaining confidence in the defensive system. We saw the work and effort from last year’s senior leaders and where it got them, so the younger defenders will be eager to continue along that same path.
The competition for starting QB
In his more usual fashion, Harbaugh remained anything but forthright with who held the starting quarterback job. He said both Cade McNamara and J.J. McCarthy “will be tough” to beat for the job.
Later during the media scrum, however, he declared McNamara as the starter heading into fall camp. But just because he’s the starter now doesn’t mean he will hold that title all year.
“The best player is going to play,” Harbaugh said.
There is no question Michigan has a ton of potential in the quarterback room. McCarthy came in as a highly ranked recruit with a lot of talent exhibited in his appearances last season. McNamara was obviously at the helm for Michigan’s bounce back performance in 2021, with Harbaugh saying more than 50% of McNamara’s drives ended with points on the board, whether that be a field goal or a touchdown.
Don’t expect for this to be the final time the quarterback competition is discussed. It is sure to be played out through fall camp and into the season.
Building off last year’s success and going to Columbus
There will be a lot of outside noise surrounding the Wolverines this upcoming season. A lot of people wonder if they can repeat as Big Ten champs.
Harbaugh addressed this directly stating, “We’re going to continue to attack. That’s what I really love about his team. They literally attack everything that’s put in front of them.”
This offseason, according to Harbaugh, has seen a continuation of last year’s mindset, with players well focused on repeating the success they got for the work they put in last year.
Later, along this same vein, the road rivalry game against Ohio State at the end of the regular season was brought up. Michigan hasn’t played in Columbus since 2018, after Michigan was unable to play there in 2020 due to a COVID outbreak in the program.
After finally snapping a nine-year, eight-game losing streak to the Buckeyes this past season in the Big House, Michigan has to set its sights on another drought. Not only has the crushing defeat from 2018 been looming, but the Wolverines haven’t beaten OSU in Columbus since 2000.
With talk coming from OSU about their defeat last year being on their minds and motivating them for the upcoming season, Harbaugh was quick to share he and the Wolverines will be prepared to hit back.
“They don’t flinch,” said Harbaugh, “They don’t blink, they don’t flinch and they just keep attacking and building, and that’s definitely our goal to win the championship again.”