On Saturday, Michigan will host Ohio State in the latest version of “The Game.”
On Monday, Wolverines’ head coach Jim Harbaugh spoke to the media and here is what he had to say.
Via Wolverines Wire:
On the rivalry and his respect for OSU legend Woody Hayes:
“I have great respect for all of the players and coaches who played in this game.”
On the Michigan offensive line:
“They’re playing at a very good, very high level,” Harbaugh said. “Jon Runyan, Ben Bredeson, Cesar Ruiz, Michael Onwenu and Jalen Mayfield are all playing really well together. Playing very confident, playing very good football.”
On Michigan fanbase expectations and Ohio State:
“I’m very aware of the rivalry, having played in it, having coached in it,” Harbaugh said. “I grew up here and my dad was a coach. As I liken the Michigan State game to a state championship, this is even bigger. This is two-states championship, Michigan and Ohio. We’re excited about it. We’re excited for the challenge.
“My feelings? I’m excited for the game. Excited. Up for and ready for the challenge.”
On Michigan’s offensive improvement:
“I think it’s an improving team, an ascending team,” Harbaugh said. “Playing really good football. Could name a number of position groups that I think are playing outstanding. Starting with the QB Shea Patterson. I think he’s playing great football. Give a lot of credit to Ben McDaniels. Ben’s done a terrific job of coaching Shea. He’s going into these games very confident about his reads. Very confident about his job. Being able to see coverages, anticipate defenses. Playing with great timing, poise, accuracy. Doing tremendous things.
“Our receiver group is playing great football as well. Donovan is catching the ball great. As good, better than he ever has as a Michigan Wolverine. Making contested catches, tough catches, diving catches. Gaining separation. Nico Collins is playing at a very high level. Ronnie Bell is playing at a high level. As a group — Tarik Black’s doing very well. And the young guys, Mike Sainristil and Giles Jackson, also contributing a lot to this football team. So, as a position group, I think they’re playing really well. Talked about it a couple weeks ago, the blocking out of that group. The perimeter blocking is really improved as well.
“Josh Gattis is doing a great job of coaching receivers. I’ve never seen a better coaching job on the receivers, on that group, than I have this year. Aside from coordinating the offense and calling plays, he’s the one that’s coached these receivers up to be where they’re at right now.
“Talked about the offensive line, the tight end group really playing well as well. Pretty much could go through every position group on the team. I think they’re ascending and improving and playing really good football.
“Also think that in every area we’re capable of playing even better. That’s something that’s exciting.”
On the rivalry (again):
“Pretty much had a pretty good understanding of this rivalry at a very young age.”
On Nico Collins:
“He’s catching the contested balls as well as you can,” Harbaugh said. “Drawn a lot of pass interference penalties. At times, they have to grab him because he’s behind them. So he’s getting behind them and getting separation. Defensive backs and in the secondary. Blocking has been improving. He’s still got ways to get better, too. Some of the short-area quickness, you saw him gain separation on the slant route this past week, the crossing routes — gaining that separation, that’s been a big improvement in Nico’s his game. And I think he’s got even more room to grow, as well.”
On OSU head coach Ryan Day and how he’s transformed the team:
“Not comparing any team to team, but the Ohio State team is a heckuva good football team,” Harbaugh said. “Ryan Day and his entire staff have done an outstanding job coaching the team. One of the best defenses in the country. One of the best offenses in the country. They play really well on special teams.
“Position-by-position, they’ve done an extraordinary job developing this team.”
On OSU QB Justin Fields:
“Justin Fields has had a tremendous year, playing winning football at all times,” Harbaugh said. “Really athletic, runs the ball extremely well. Gets a lane, gets a throw, he’ll make the throw. And also when there’s a lane, he’ll escape and he’ll do damage with himself running the football.”
Preparing for OSU:
“I love the competition. This is the biggest game of the year.”
A win on Saturday, what it would mean:
“It’ll be the state championship between two states,” Harbaugh said. “It’d be big, it always is.”
Programs influencing each other:
“I think it’s a pretty longstanding tradition that both programs influencing each other,” Harbaugh said. “Not just recently, but for a very long time.”
On OSU DE Chase Young:
“He’s a tremendous football player, extremely athletic,” Harbaugh said. “Very physical. Shows up at the ball. He’s a tremendous pass rusher.”
On the benefits of homefield advantage:
“We’re excited to play, we’re confident,” Harbaugh said. “Looking forward to today’s preparation. Looking forward to the game, looking forward to playing at home. Looking forward to every possible thing about it.”
On Michigan’s defensive improvement:
“We’re not really gonna talk schematics going into any game, but there’s been a multitude of different fronts, different blitz packages, coverages,” Harbaugh said. “It’s pretty high volume, and (Don Brown) does a great job of calling the defense, he does a great job of making adjustments during the week, in-game. All of it. As well as I’ve ever seen it done.
“And to say everything’s possible. Everything’s possible for this game. Just everything, everything we’ve done, everything that could be done could be changed. Anything could be added. Don’t mind your opponents knowing that. All things are possible, schematically. Specifically schematically.”
Asked about Greg Mattison and Al Washington being at OSU:
“I think Ryan Day has done a tremendous job and I think his coaching staff has done a tremendous job coaching this team,” Harbaugh said. “They’re one heckuva good football team. It’s a challenge, in terms of the preparation during the week. We’ve been doing it and attacking it and feel confident right now, feel good. Excited to get on the field and practice.”
On his ‘anything could happen’ comment:
“I think it’s the same as what you’ve heard about football, it’s football,” Harbaugh said.
On Nico and Josh Gattis’ in-game adjustments:
“They’ve really jelled,” Harbaugh said. “I’ve seen our receivers really hungry to learn and take coaching. Josh is a very — brings the same — he’s the same coach every single day.It’s high enthusiasm. It’s a lot of coaching, it’s a lot of detail. I think our guys really like it.”
Brad Hawkins’ status on Saturday:
“I don’t know.”