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Jim Harbaugh on his team heading into the Big Ten opener: ‘They know what time it is’

The Michigan head coach radiated confidence and excitement on Inside Michigan Football.

Hawaii v Michigan Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh joined Jon Jansen for his weekly appearance on Inside Michigan Football Monday night, following a blowout victory this past weekend against UConn. Harbaugh provided thoughts on the season, roster updates and the challenge Maryland represents on this Saturday’s Big Ten opener.

When asked about what he has learned over the course of the first three games of the season, Harbaugh simply replied, “A lot,” until the true answer hit him. Momentum.

“The thing we know now is the momentum built last season. And the momentum built in the offseason and has continued into the season.”

Harbaugh also raved about the special teams unit’s performance against UConn, which included a blocked a punt and a punt return touchdown.

Apparently, several guys are trying to get in on the action, as Harbaugh discussed numerous players “chomping at the bit” for the opportunity to play special teams this season. The often overlooked third side of the ball remains a strength for the Wolverines under special teams coordinator Jay Harbaugh.

Offense

Harbaugh expressed pride to see quarterback J.J. McCarthy and running back Blake Corum back at practice today continuing to learn and setting the tone for the week. But what really excites Harbaugh is the wide receivers’ acceptance of position coach Ron Bellamy’s challenge of blocking.

“They've taken the challenge and want to see how good they can get.” Harbaugh went as far to say the perimeter blocking is the “best he has ever seen it at Michigan.”

With regards to injuries, left guard Trevor Keegan is “probable” for this weekend, while utility sixth linemen Karsen Barnhart is trending upwards as well: “We’ll see if that’s this week or the next.”

Harbaugh gave no timetable on quarterback Cade McNamara or running back Donovan Edwards, but seemed to light up when discussing the sophomore’s energy and approach to his rehab.

“I told him just do you, Donovan. He’s working hard on it. He’s doing good,” Harbaugh said.

And for McNamara, Harbaugh expressed uncertainty and how three different quarterbacks will be deployed in a potential backup role behind McCarthy.

Defense

Harbaugh name dropped several players in gratitude and mentioned Mazi Smith’s “freakish strength” and Michael Barrett’s indispensable adaptability: “He’s always such a good guy, such a focused player. Does whatever you ask him to do.”

Edge rusher Braiden McGregor has been one of the early risers in the season, and Harbaugh attributes that to his ability to now “get off blocks” after initial contact.

On the back end, Harbaugh raved about having “three starting corners” (Mikey Sainristil, Gemon Green, DJ Turner), and three starting safeties (RJ Moten, Rod Moore, Makari Page).

“The secondary jumps out at you as they are really playing good.” He specifically spent time on Paige and his development in becoming a “hitter.”

Maryland

Harbaugh has kept his message to the team entering Big Ten play simple and consistent: “Win the next game, that’s first and foremost.” He has frequently discussed how conference games “count as two” and said the team is “excited about the challenge of defending the Big Ten title. They know what time it is.”

When evaluating Maryland’s offense, Harbaugh was very complimentary of every position group and summed it up with: “They’re really talented. It’s going to be a great challenge for us.”

Questions persist about Maryland’s 10th-ranked scoring defense in the conference, but Harbaugh called them, “very solid” when discussing their multiple fronts and coverages.

The Terrapins may not be the best team in the Big Ten, but they will be the best team Michigan has played all season and feature a passing offense that is as potent as any team not named Ohio State.