Ahead of the opening of training camp Monday, Jim Harbaugh addressed reporters at Michigan Football Media Day on Sunday.
Question: Coach, could you talk about Jabrill Peppers’ versatility, and how do you balance taking advantage of his many talents but not wearing him out?
Jim Harbaugh: We always feel like there’s a … in football, very common to be two-way player. Normally, that’s an offensive and special teams as the two ways, or a defensive player and also a special teams. Jabrill, and also the other candidates — Jourdan Lewis would be another — that could be three-way players, offense, defense and special teams. I feel like … around that 90, 95 play, 100 being the really high per game. Somewhere in there, there’s a sweet spot, depending on the mental capability of the athlete. But just in terms of load, the 95, 100 is probably the max that we’re looking at right now. That answer your question?
Q: Jim, in terms of comparing this season to last year installation-wise, organization-wise, how much more control, how much more of a hold do you have on it, and is it easier or less tedious?
JH: I don’t know if any of those words really come to mind as describing what it is. You’re doing something for the second time, there’s advantages to that. Everything that we’re doing as a football program, with the exception of the new players coming to the team, we’re doing for a second time. So there’s an advantage there.
Q: Jim, heading into camp, do you like where your quarterback battle is, or do you wish somebody had really jumped out, seized command earlier?
JH: The last four months, really they’ve been working with the team, working on their own and we’ll see exactly where that’s at starting tomorrow. So I’ll defer answering that question until down the road a little bit.
Q: Jim, you mentioned a three-way player, Jourdan Lewis. Are you thinking of giving him a look at receiver?
JH: Yeah. In offense, I think there’s multiple ways that he could contribute offensively. We know that he can as a returner, hold-up person, gunner, kick and punt return. He’s got those abilities and capabilities. Not going too far out on a limb to say that he could help us offensively as well.
Q: One other thing, these upperclassmen have mentioned how competitive these freshmen are, how they really push the envelope. Talk about the personality of your freshman class.
JH: It’s been very good reports with the whole team. Guys have commented on how quickly different players are picking things up and how they’re performing athletically, et cetera. They’ve been just passing comments. We’ll really look when we start practice to start looking at the freshmen, the incoming players, new players, and see if they’re tracking to be starters, backups, contributors, role players. We’re starting to get all those determinations once practice starts.
Q: Is there any other guy you’d like to see if he can play two ways other than Jourdan and Jabrill? Is there anybody else that you’d like to see what they can do at a different spots?
JH: Yes, there are those I’d like to see be able to do it. Those are the two that jump out right away, and [I] have some thoughts on a few others that we’ll start implementing.
Q: Can you share some names of some guys?
JH: Jourdan and Jabrill are the two that really jump off the roster sheet.
Q: Jim, what is the mentality, the psychology that you want your team to take in your second year as head coach now that they know you, now that they know the staff, now that they know the expectations?
JH: The attitude, the mentality, set their goals high. Dream big, and realize that all those can be accomplished once the work is realized. If people aren’t making fun of you for what your dreams are and what your goals are, then you haven’t set those goals and dreams high enough.”
Q: Jim, can you talk about the offensive line, the development of Grant Newsome and the ability to close games out and maybe pick up a first down late in the game, and how that’s going to develop for you.
JH: Feel good, feel confident the way Grant performed last year as a true freshman. Also, his contribution and performance in spring ball. He gives great effort, has talent, we know him right now as a starting offensive lineman. We’ll go into preseason practices with him at left tackle and Mason Cole at center. And we’ll eventually get to our five best. There’s others that may not be on the first string right now that have the license and the ability to compete, maybe take one of the starting positions away from somebody that’s on the line. That’ll be the meritocracy of preseason fall camp.
Q: Jim, you mentioned the expectations for this team, nationally, locally, seemingly rising by the day. Do you feel compelled at all to address that with your team and not get ahead of yourself, that type of thing? Is that ever an issue between the coach and your players?
JH: As you said, those outside expectations, perceptions, they do rise and fall with the day, sometimes by the hour. As I said before, our expectations are going to be very high, and as a coach, my expectations are very high for tomorrow’s practice. The meetings, the expectations, the drills and practice, scrimmaging, the competition. I have very high expectations for that tomorrow.
Q: Jim, I wanted to go back to last weekend. A lot of excitement about the Nike launch and on the shoot at State Street. Could you describe your view of that energy and that crowd when you’re up on the stage, and also, describe from your view as a former athlete, Michael Jordan’s staying power and his ability to stay relevant as a brand and a pop culture figure so long beyond his playing days?
JH: Well, they do a tremendous job. The Jordan Brand has knocked our socks off, blown us away, with how good they are in all facets — the quality of the product, the hands-on approach. This is important to them, because they know that we’re pouring our heart and soul into being good, and I feel great respect for what the Jordan Brand has put into this in terms of their efforts. State Street was one of those things that again knocked our socks off. I was dazzled. It felt like a victory celebration. It felt like a championship celebration and also motivated me personally and other guys that I’ve talked to on the team and on the staff — let’s win a championship and do one of these, shut down State Street. That’s what it was felt like. It was awesome. With a capital “A.”
Q: What have you liked about John O’Korn since he’s been here, and then the same individual question for Wilton Speight since you’ve had him under your teaching?
JH: Multiple things. They’re two frontrunners coming out of spring practice, competing for the job. The thing I like about both of them is how important it is to both those young men and players in the competitive situation that they’re in, that they’re embracing it. I would say that about both Wilton and John.
Q: You were talking about the Nike thing feeling like a championship celebration. Are you worried at all about your team having too many championship-type celebrations before winning a championship? Do you feel like that has to be toned down at all or [inaudible]?
JH: That was, to me, spur of the moment. That was, I wasn’t expecting that, I was blown away by it. It wasn’t organized by our players — that I was aware of.
Q: How excited are you to get the season started? It’s like Christmas Day. How do you feel?
JH: It’s the beginning of the year. One of the two special days to me in the entire calendar. I’ve said it before, a lot of people look at Jan. 1 as being the start of the New Year. People look at it, those who espouse Christianity, Catholicism, look at Christmas is the start of the liturgical year, but us in football, first day of preseason training camp is the new year. It’s like being reborn in football, coming out of the womb into the bright lights, into the chaos, into everybody looking at you. It’s where the team is forged, under the sun in the August heat. The sun’s shaping the body, carving the mind. Very excited about it.
Q: Jim, in terms of captains, is that something you’re going to do early in camp or late in camp, and who do you expect to kind of be the leaders on this team?
JH: That’ll be voted on by the players exclusively toward the end of camp.
Q: And are there certain guys you feel will take the leadership role early in camp until then?
JH: I’ve always said that I think anyone could take the leadership role from anywhere they sit — any class that they’re in, but the seniors will be the ones that will be eligible to be the captains, and it’s always interesting to me to see what the players think and who their vote is for the captain positions. I enjoy watching that.
Q: Defensively, with the addition of Don Brown and the track record of Greg Mattison, can you assess the defense going into camp? How strong of a feeling is it among particularly the front four?
JH: We’re very excited about our coaches’ track record. Don Brown, Greg Mattison, Chris Partridge, Brian Smith, Michael Zordich. Those coaches have been outstanding, and everybody has great confidence in our defensive staff, players and other coaches. Feel like it’s coming. It has a chance to be something really good and can’t wait to get out onto the field and compete and watch the guys have at it.