Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh sat down with Jon Jansen on Monday night for his weekly appearance on Inside Michigan Football. This week, Harbaugh reflected on Michigan’s emphatic 41-17 beat down of Penn State, discussed bye week expectations, and briefly touched on Michigan State.
As always, Harbaugh started by addressing what he’s learned from his team at this point of the season:
“Undefeated, and done so many good things. I think it’s been the work ethic, just the improvement of the guys. And when you are working like that it really improves the togetherness of the entire team because they see themselves improving. You know both physically and mental toughness, and also athletically. I think when I really look at game one to game seven, the athleticism of the team, all those things have been getting better and improving. I want to keep that going. Got a week here to get refreshed, to get even healthier, and get ready for Michigan State in the stretch run.”
Harbaugh raved about the improvement of several players in what appeared to be his best effort to name the entire roster from memory. Of the players named in the first part, Harbaugh listed: Mazi Smith, Kris Jenkins, Junior Colson, Zak Zinter, Ryan Hayes, Karsen Barnhart, Oli Oluwatimi, Trevor Keegan, Luke Schoonmaker, Cornelius Johnson, AJ Henning, Roman Wilson and Ronnie Bell.
When discussing Bell, Harbaugh elaborated further by first reflecting on last year’s team: “It’s almost a tip of the cap to the ‘21 team that they were able to do so well without Ronnie Bell. As much as Ronnie Bell has done this season: catching the ball, blocking leading.”
Beating Penn State this past week was more important to Bell than most who had the infamous drop late against Penn State in 2019, lost to the Nittany Lions in 2020, and was unable to play last year due to injury.
After discussing both lines of scrimmage, Harbaugh kept coming back to variations of the phrase, “keep getting better.” There seems to be an increased emphasis with Harbaugh and the team, to keep focusing on the next week and continuing to progress.
Turning his attention to his young quarterback, J.J. McCarthy, Harbaugh offered high praise about his ability to learn and continually improve:
“He’s just soaking it all in like a sponge. He doesn't make the same mistakes twice...He’s handling (being a first-year starter) extremely well.”
Harbaugh returned to the name-dropping praise game with the tight ends, singling out Luke Schoonmaker, Erick All, Joel Honigford, freshman Colston Loveland, Max Bredeson, Carter Selzer, and Matthew Hibner, before adding in a cheeky, “am I forgetting anybody?”
Lastly on offense, Harbaugh spent time discussing the the running back duo of Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards, and praised their leadership and love of the game above all else:
“They both lead (by example) and they are both great examples in different ways, with different personalities. It’s so good for our team and the production speaks for itself.”
Discussing the bye week mentality for the offense, Harbaugh is focused on the details and the next steps: “Keep the details...really hone in on some of the situations you would love to have more hours of the week to detail...making sure we are really honed in on our assignments. We put a lot of goof stuff on tape, and now if you can get the good stuff to go with them then we can become even more dangerous.”
Speaking about the defense, Harbaugh was very impressed, but not caught off guard, by the performance against Penn State: “It was a statement game. It really was, I was looking for the defense to become dominant. It’s been a really good defense and you want to take it over the top, and I thought they did that.”
Of the defensive group, when asked about Mike Morris being able to spark big plays and swing momentum, Harbaugh offered about the highest praise by comparing Morris to three Wolverines from last year:
“He’s on a mission. I think he really knows and I think he understands, I think when players really elevate their game is when they know how much the team is counting on him. It just takes them to another level You could see it last year with (Aidan) Hutchinson, (Hassan) Haskins, and (David) Ojabao.”
Lastly, when briefly touching on Michigan State, Harbaugh is wasting no time in getting his team prepared: “We’re going to practice four times this week and it’s all going to be Michigan State...it’s all going to be getting ready for that game.”
Team 143 had four goals before the season: 1) beat Michigan State, 2) beat Ohio State, 3) win the Big Ten Championship, and 4) win the National Championship. The opportunity to check off the first goal will be here in less than two weeks.