Jim Harbaugh On Michigan Quarterbacks, 'Real Playmakers' At Wideout, More
Michigan Wolverines football is six days into training camp, and head coach Jim Harbaugh has loved the intensity his team is practicing with thus far. The offense is beginning to come together, and there's more depth at several different position groups than some fans might expect.
Harbaugh joined host Jon Jansen on the In The Trenches podcast Thursday, and broke down where things stand on the offensive side of the ball.
Cade McNamara, J.J. McCarthy And The Quarterbacks Haven't Missed A Beat
At Big Ten Media Days in late July, Harbaugh spoke highly of the way redshirt freshman Cade McNamara, who he named as the top guy heading into camp, commanded the team in the spring and improved his game in the summer. Freshman J.J McCarthy, an early enrollee, came out of the spring sitting No. 2 on the depth chart, and it appears that it remains that way nearly a week into training camp.
"That just hit me the other day, too — in camp, sometimes it takes a quarterback some time to get up to speed, get the repetition and get firing. But, I think our quarterbacks have, day one ... again, their preparation over the summer was big," Harbaugh said. "They stayed with it; they didn’t take any time off.
"Cade’s leading the way there, doing an outstanding job."
But Mccarthy came out of the gate firing as well, and he continues to push McNamara. The light has gone on for the Illinois native, in a lot of ways.
"It’s real, it’s outstanding. He flashes all the time, every practice," Harbaugh said. "The plays are big plays, they’re excellent throws or using his athleticism.
"But he’s growing in the area of, hey, be a steady Eddie type of player. Who wouldn’t want to be [Tennessee Titans quarterback] Ryan Tannehill? He’s understanding that he has some real playmakers in the backfield and at receiver. He doesn’t have to carry the team every single play. And I think that’s just going to make him an even better quarterback, and he has an understanding of that. That’s what I’ve seen probably the most growth for him, from spring ball to where we are at, in day six.
"It all comes from a good place — he wants to go out there and carry the team. He’s improving in that area of being like a point guard — distributing the ball to these guys, these receivers, these backs, these tight ends, and protecting the offensive line, not holding the ball and running around … learning that football world of how to play quarterback and manage the game."
Best Depth At Wide Receiver Harbaugh Has Seen While Coaching Michigan
The depth at wide receiver has been evident, with part of the reason involving the addition of Jackson State transfer and redshirt junior Daylen Baldwin, who led the SWAC in receiving yards this past spring.
"This is as many good receivers that we’ve had on the team, at one time, since I’ve been here," Harbaugh said. "We’ve had … two really good ones. Now, I can talk about six guys that are all going to play and going to contribute.
"At the top of that list is [junior] Ronnie Bell and [sophomore] Cornelius Johnson — CJ and Ronnie, you can say it that way if you want. They’re both really good. They’re winners; they’re going to make plays and the block.
"The third best, it’s [second-year freshman] Roman Wilson with speed, [sophomore] Mikey Sainristil with his ability to block, get open — it just changes things with his ability to do so many good things. [Second-year freshman] AJ Henning — I think he’s really going to pop this year, and make some plays.
"And Daylen Baldwin, he gives you another chance to … maybe we’ve got two big wide receivers out there, and Ronnie makes a third. There’s some real combinations that can be utilized with that top group of six guys right now."
He added that freshman Andrel Anthony continues to make at least one big play per practice, picking up where he left off during the spring, and classmate Cristian Dixon is "really coming along."
Hassan Haskins And Blake Corum Continue To Shine
Harbaugh said the staff came out of spring ball knowing that two of the running backs — redshirt sophomore Hassan Haskins and second-year freshman Blake Corum — are two of the best players on the team, but even they have elevated their games this fall.
"They’re both tremendous," Harbaugh said. "Again, you tip the hat to [head strength and conditioning coach] Ben Herbert and the entire staff. Yeah, Blake Corum is doing everything that he says he’s doing, and then some. And Hassan Haskins isn’t saying anything, and he’s doing everything that Blake Corum is doing. They’re looking really good. They’re looking really good.
"[Freshman] Donovan Edwards, coming out of spring ball — OK, he’s gonna be a guy, catching the ball and he’s got a level of speed that the top, top backs have. He’s going to do really well.
"Right now, if we were playing a game tomorrow, if we were playing a game today, playing a game next month — it’s going to be Blake Corum and Hassan, Hassan and Blake. Donovan’s going to get some real, good touches and make some plays."
Michigan Tight Ends Are Solidifying Themselves
The tight ends are impressing as well, with the first to garner a mention from Harbaugh being redshirt sophomore Luke Schoonmaker, though he noted that sophomore Erick All "sets the tone" for the room and added some great weight during the summer cycle.
"Luke Schoonmaker, he’s running fast. He put the pads on and he’s running fast — he’s running faster," Harbaugh raved.
Second-year freshman Matt Hibner "came out of nowhere," Harbaugh added, explaining that his blocking has improved as he's added mass to his frame.
Harbaugh Updates Offensive Line Picture
In line with what offensive line coach and co-offensive coordinator Sherrone Moore said in a session with the media, Harbaugh said the Wolverines are still rotating several guys in on the offensive line and he thinks they're "really close" to finding a top five. The top seven or eight are all contenders, Harbaugh added, and the "waters are hot," in terms of competition.
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