Even if its season-opening road loss to Utah went mostly as expected, the Michigan football team was far from content to accept it.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday at Schembechler Hall, the Wolverines detailed the ways they’ve tried to rebound from the defeat.
Junior running back De’Veon Smith said that as soon as he got on the bus after Thursday’s 24-17 loss to the Utes, he dove into the game film and could tell immediately what went wrong.
“I graded out myself and I gave myself a ‘C,’ ” Smith said. “(I was) missing the holes, dropping passes, not getting out quick enough on protections and into your route, it all comes into a factor. … I noticed every little mistake I did.”
Smith’s self-evaluation is fair, based on the numbers — he averaged 2.8 yards per carry, and his longest rush of the day went for just seven yards. He consistently broke away from arm tackles, but he wasn’t able to turn them into big gains.
Likewise, senior center Graham Glasgow and the rest of the offensive line were able to catch their mistakes on film. But when asked about seeing flashes of the offense’s potential against Utah, Glasgow took an especially positive stance.
“I felt better in this loss than I would after some of our wins last year,” Glasgow said. “I feel that we had some mistakes that we needed to correct, but they’re not like glaring. There are some things, but it’s pad level and things that we can correct right away.”
Harbaugh said Monday that Glasgow graded out as the highest-rated offensive lineman from the Utah game, a good sign for a player who previously had limited collegiate experience at center.
It wasn’t a perfect performance, but the coaching staff easily isolated the areas it felt hurt Michigan the most. This week, the offensive line has been working extra time with chutes in practice to force their pad level low and in position while moving forward and laterally.
In practice after the game, Harbaugh instituted an activity called “The Michigan Mile.” Players weren’t given much instruction, simply to run a certain number of laps around the outermost perimeter of the field, which supposedly amounts to a mile.
And as is the case with nearly every drill under Harbaugh, its effect has been more competition. Ojemudia and Smith identified redshirt freshman receiver Moe Ways as the winner of this week’s mile, but it didn’t sound like much fuss was made over the winner.
“If you win, you get the satisfaction of winning,” Ojemudia said. “It’s a race if you’re racing it, but mostly it’s for conditioning.”
What’s more, Harbaugh and the staff doubled down on film sessions by having them watch film both as an offense or defense and again as a specific position group.
For redshirt freshman safety Jabrill Peppers, that meant getting called out in front of the entire room when he missed assignments. When asked how intense the teaching time was, Peppers couldn’t help but chuckle.
“It was pretty intense, it was pretty intense,” Peppers said. “I’m not going to go into too much detail, (but) they definitely got after us, and me in particular.”
But according to Peppers, he took it in stride, embracing the criticism rather than running from it.
“That’s one of the things about being coachable — handling constructive criticism and when you know you can do better,” Peppers said. “So they’re honest with us, and they hold each and every one of us accountable. They’ve seen what I put forth in camp and all spring, and going out there and laying an egg like that on the first game, it’s just not acceptable.”