Everything Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh has done since taking over the Michigan football team has been synonymous with competition.
He wants his injured players to cut their recovery time in half, keeps score of his quarterbacks’ every move on and off the field to decide the starter and even pushed the Wolverines to get the annual team photo taken in under 10 minutes to set a “new record.”
But on Sunday, Michigan officially brought back one of its longstanding competitive efforts, handing out helmet stickers after the team’s 24-17 loss to Utah.
Once a staple during Bo Schembechler and Gary Moeller’s tenures as Michigan coaches, the stickers are used to not only reward good effort, but also to promote friendly competition among teammates.
“I think it’s awesome,” said junior tight end Jake Butt. “It’s another way to create an environment of competition. They’re pretty sweet. We got them put on our helmet the other day … I want my helmet to be decked out by the end of the season.
“Everyone’s competing. You don’t want to be the guy with an empty helmet at the end of the year.”
Butt, who had eight receptions for 93 yards and one score in the game, was second on the team with eight helmet stickers. Redshirt junior wide receiver Amara Darboh, who had eight catches for 101 yards and a touchdown, tallied nine.
The scoring system, according to the two, is a mix of playing in a fixed percentage of the game, reaching individual and unit goals and showing mistake-free play when the game tape is reviewed.
“Coach Harbaugh preaches competition from day one,” Darboh said. “When you go out on the field and do your job, you’ll be rewarded.”
Though competition is the most obvious goal of the stickers’ use, Harbaugh noted on Monday that small mistakes proved to be the Wolverines’ downfall in the loss. Be it freshman receiver Grant Perry’s “not-precise” route running, Rudock’s fourth-quarter pick-six or false starts on the offensive line, Harbaugh felt his team was often out of sync, undermining its potential.
By using video review to pinpoint the missed plays and assignments, Harbaugh hopes to put the emphasis not only on the big plays, but also on consistency throughout the game as well.
“The precision of the unit has to be all 11 (Michigan players on the field),” Harbaugh said. “The times when we did have breakdowns (it was) one guy, one breakdown, one missed assignment … (It) ended up being costly."
“But all of it is fixable, and that’s what we’re working hard to do.”
Notes: Harbaugh said that sophomore wide receiver Freddy Canteen and senior running back Drake Johnson are both in practice, but haven’t yet been cleared to play in Saturday’s game … After both being listed as starting quarterback last week, graduate transfer Jake Rudock was officially listed ahead of junior Shane Morris in Monday’s depth chart.