During his press conference on Aug. 6, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh unloaded more than a half-hour’s worth of quotable material. More than a week later, and after re-listening to the recording, a few of those lines have sparked imagination, essentially asking to be readdressed, discussed and defined.
For some reason, some of Harbaugh’s words ring a little truer this time around. Today, his ideas about being “reborn” and “coming clean” make a little more sense.
Same words. Same meaning.
Nothing’s changed but the time.
Time elapsed can open things for reinterpretation.
Now a week into fall camp, the Wolverines, in all likelihood, are truly beginning to find themselves. By now, they’re probably settling some or most of their depth charts. That’s probably truer for the defensive side than it is for the offensive side, though.
D.J. Durkin’s defense, even if without injured sophomore tackle Bryan Mone, is in pretty good shape from top to bottom. The D-line is in good hands with Greg Mattison, and the secondary has been intact for some time–at least according to coaches Greg Jackson and Mike Zordich, who both referenced a somewhat decided defensive backfield during spring availability.
The No. 1s and No. 2s could change during camp, of course, but those moves will pale in comparison to what should be–and needs to be–done at quarterback, running back and on the O-line. Three of the most crucial areas happen to be three of the most startling and uncertain.
Passing coordinator Jedd Fisch has a heavy workload, and so does offensive coordinator Tim Drevno and running backs coach Tyrone Wheatley–just to name a few.
“It’s like New Year’s–it’s like the start of a New Year,” said Harbaugh, describing the beginning of camp. “It’s like your birthday. It’s like the first day of school. It’s all those things rolled up into one. It’s like being reborn… into football. It’s like coming out of a mother’s womb into… football. You’re in a nice cozy, warm place and then you’re reborn.
You come out to chaos and lights and everybody looking at you–and it’s wonderful. You start living.”
Shane Morris, a junior, needs to figure out whether or not he wants to start on Sept. 3. Back in 2013, he entered Michigan as one of the nation’s top quarterbacks. Having been ranked as a 5-star at one time, he was supposed to be the man by now.
However, today, the 6’3,” 209-pound southpaw has yet to deliver as a former blue-chip should.
Some of it’s his fault, some of it’s on the coaching; but the fact remains: In three years, Morris–who could lose his job to senior transfer Jake Rudock–has completed 43 of 87 passes for 389 yards and five interceptions.
Derrick Green, another former 5-star recruit of the 2013 class, faces a crossroads as well. Like Morris, he’s yet to live up to his hype–and the clock is ticking for the 5’11,” 234-pounder who was once billed as the Wolverines’ next great running back.
Prior to a season-ending injury at Rutgers, Green appeared to be on track. But that doesn’t change the fact that he has rushed 165 times for 741 yards and five touchdowns in three years. Considering expectations, that’s roughly the same output as one regular year.
Michigan has gathered more running backs and will likely test some this season.
Green and Morris have to come clean this fall; they have no other choice.
Then again, Erik Magnuson probably feels the squeeze, too. Back in 2012, he entered Michigan as a 4-star tackle–the No. 9-ranked tackle in the land, actually. Now a 6’6″, 296-pound redshirt junior, Magnuson faces a significant time crunch.
Since the arrival of new offensive coordinator Tim Drevno, the Wolverines have assembled a 2016 class that should rank as one of the best O-line hauls in program history. That means that the older guys better get moving in practice or get moving to another team so they can finish their final year of eligibility.
Magnuson has started 13 times in 20 appearances; he started five times in 2014 and has a few underclassmen on his heels.
It’s time to come clean for Magnuson, who is just another former high school star who’s yet to catch momentum in college.
And there are more–a lot more.
This list could continue with at least six or seven–or eight or nine–names of players who are due for makeovers. The act of “coming clean” evokes images of a program and its players washing away the old and embracing the fresh and new.
What happened in 2014 is now the past. Michigan is intent on not repeating recent history.
What will happen, the future, is all that matters for Harbaugh.
“The beautiful thing about football is that–as our old coach Bo Schembechler used to say–you live clean, you come clean, be clean,” he said when asked about competition. “And the part about coming clean, that… that always resonated with me… because ‘coming clean’ is telling the truth.
You’ve got to tell the truth–that’s what that means: come clean. And when you step out onto a football field, never is that more evident that the truth’s going to get told.”
The truth comes with self evaluation. Submarine jokes aside, whatever they’re doing in camp is only preparing them for transformation on Saturdays.
— Sports in the Mitten (@SITMBigAndKid) August 16, 2015
If players don’t understand that, they’re probably playing for the wrong guy–who, to an extent, seems like he’s wanting to be “reborn” and “cleansed” this season. He’s coming off a nasty split with the San Francisco 49ers and is expected to wave a magic wand over Michigan.
Sure, he’d like to do that. But he’s a seasoned guy with 20-plus years of coaching and a lifetime of football–he knows that things take time. But this is alma mater, so he must want it more; he must want it faster. Imagine his morning mirror pep-talks (it’s safe to assume he does that in some shape or form).
That pent-up energy will likely translate to the Wolverines locker room.
“Who’s best prepared?” said Harbaugh, still responding to a question about competition. “Who wants it the most? Who’s the most talented? What team plays together as a team the very best? (Which is the one) that’s going to stand the best chance of winning? That’s what we’re doing now. We’re becoming who we’re going to become, and we’re working to earn whatever we become.
So, we’re going to come clean. That’s coming.”
Follow Adam Biggers of Today’s U on Twitter @AdamBiggers81