Jim Harbaugh Talks Joe Milton, Jalen Mayfield, Emerging Leaders & More
Michigan Wolverines football head coach Jim Harbaugh joined host Jon Jansen on the 'Inside Michigan Football' radio show Monday night to discuss the season being reinstated, what he likes about his team and more.
Harbaugh broke down redshirt sophomore quarterback Joe Milton and redshirt freshman signal caller Cade McNamara, while also updating the status of redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Jalen Mayfield, who Harbaugh says has been cleared by the NCAA to be eligible for this upcoming season.
Here's everything Harbaugh said on the show:
On his reaction when the season was reinstated
"Very excited about it. Very good news. The original, we weren’t playing, season was canceled, that was very tough to see. Tough to see warriors like ours under the white flag of others. We wish we were playing now, but we're preparing for our game on Oct. 24."
On how excited the players and staff were to the season reinstatement
"There was definitely an uptick in enthusiasm. We never did pause. We were practicing and preparing for the Sept. 5 game, training, doing the training we needed while staying as safe and healthy as possible.
"Then, when we got the news the season was back on and we were playing in the fall, there was much greater enthusiasm. It was exciting for the players and staff."
On what he was doing to keep the players engaged when the season was postponed
"Well, back in the first week of August, we actually started the training camp — helmets and no pads. We've pretty much been in that phase since August 11th or 12th — 12 hours a week of skill development. That's continued and now we're in 20 hours a week of the same kind of thing: skill development and individual. Doing the things to get you ready for playing the season.
"Now, we're going to get the green light to get the pads on to continue that preparation. Possibly Sept. 30. Possibly Wednesday or Thursday, is what we're told."
On how Michigan has shown — more than other programs — that it can stay safe and have limited numbers of positive tests
"I'm not for sure; I can't really compare with other programs across the country. Our guys have been very diligent about it.
"I remember standing up in front of the team and talking to them about wearing the masks, social distancing, washing their hands and all the different protocols. And there were so many that were put in here on campus and inside of Schembechler Hall that the guys are doing a great job of following.
"Now, the players talk in front of the team and say the same things. It's coming from them. I think their diligence and keeping each other safe protects us. We protect each other, living in these pandemic times.
"I think our guys have been a really good role model to each other and others on campus of testing negative, staying positive and getting ready to play a season."
On his optimism that they can play in games and not have cancellations
"We're very optimistic that it can be done. It's not easy; it is hard. And the health and safety of everybody individually, too. I don't think that can be overlooked. You can't bring something down to zero risk, but you can mitigate risk and you can take precautions to keep yourself, your family, your friends and society relatively safe. If you work at it, then it can be done."
On the excitement to put together a game plan for the Minnesota game
"It's been good. We're preparing for an opponent like you normally would, but also logistic preparation — that's going to be a big factor, as opposed to seasons of the past, as far as how the team travels, where we meet, how many people meet, logistically traveling to the game. That's going to be different for all of us, understanding that. The first game will be on the road. We're preparing for that."
On the quarterback room
"I think one of the big things is they're very talented. Both guys are really competitive and smart, and they want to play. That's very exciting. Put a talented guy out there and see how it goes.
"We were watching them practice the other day, and it's going really well.
"The leadership — we've had a lot of guys step up in leadership capacities, but definitely Joe Milton has done that. Cade is a little bit younger, but he's doing that as well. Really like what we're seeing. Put a talented guy out there and see how it goes."
On Michigan's 'loaded' running back room
"There's a lot of good ones. [Sophomore] Zach Charbonnet is really playing well. He is 100 percent. He was working through something last year, but now he's really shining.
"[Fifth-year senior] Chris Evans is back on the team providing a lot of great leadership and a tremendous skillset.
"[Redshirt sophomore] Hassan Haskins is another player who's got some experience, is really talented. He does so many things really well. He's a power back, but also an elusive back and catches the ball out of the backfield extremely well.
"[True freshman] Blake Corum is just a freshman but he looks extremely good as well.
"[Redshirt sophomore] Lucas Andrighetto is another really talented back. He's playing extremely well.
"All those guys I mentioned are also contributing on special teams.
"It's a loaded room, it's really doing well and I think it's going to be a real strength for us this year."
On the eligibility of players who previously opted out and signed with agents
"In the case of Jalen Mayfield, he did submit a waiver to be able to come back and play, and that waiver has been granted. I think there's a few stipulations that he has to do, but that waiver has been granted that he can return.
"Now, at this point, Jalen was the only one who submitted that waiver to opt back in."
On Michigan's revamped offensive line
"It's coming along really well. There has been a lot of time, a lot of skill development that we've been able to do over the last month, month and a half, which has been excellent. I'm feeling really good about the offensive line.
"I'll mention some other guys that have really stepped up in a leadership capacity. [Fifth-year senior] Andrew Vastardis is really emerging as a starting offensive lineman and fifth-year player and a tremendous leader on the offensive line. I think that's been tremendous. I feel like he's an experienced player, but also going to be a very fine player for us at center.
"[Redshirt sophomore] Ryan Hayes, the left tackle, I really feel good about him and his experience.
"And then [redshirt junior] Andrew Stueber, who missed last season with an ACL, is back now and in the starting lineup at right guard. He's doing really well and is fully recovered.
"Right tackle, Jalen Mayfield. That's the position where Jalen started at last year. [Redshirt sophomore] Karsen Barnhart has been at right tackle for the last month and a half. He's done extremely well.
"And then the other person to note is [redshirt junior] Chuck Filiaga, who's had a tremendous August and September. He's looking big, strong and more agile, more athletic. He's doing a terrific job.
"So overall, there's a real chance, a real hope that our offensive line could be bigger, could be more athletic and could be just as talented as what we've had in the past. And the key is for them to jell.
"Very, very excited. Just like I said about the quarterback position, put a talented guy out there and see how it goes. I feel really optimistic about our offensive line."
On what he likes the most about his team heading into training camp
"I just like 'em. Probably the big thing — it's been a different kind of a year. There's been some things that have been less structured and not as clear cut for the guys, and they've had their challenges. But the way that they're supported each other, the way that they've looked after each other and helped each other ... You can really just see it coming together in a way that's so encouraging.
"And the players have really stepped up into those leadership roles: [junior defensive end] Aidan Hutchinson has been so good. [Fifth-year senior defensive tackle] Carlo Kemp has always been a great leader for us. Josh Ross has been a stalwart in that leadership type of capacity. [Senior fullback] Ben Mason is a great leader, tough, "get it done" attitude. I mentioned Andrew Vastardis. [senior defensive end] Kwity Paye, [fifth-year senior tight end] Nick Eubanks and [fifth-year senior kicker] Quinn Nordin. And I talked about the quarterbacks.
"There's just been so many guys. And maybe it's the times. There's been so many things, maybe with the structure not being the same and the certainty not being there has facilitated into this environment where the players have stepped up and led by example, pulling other guys along.
"There's nothing more important than oneness. We say it all the time here — 'The Team, The Team, The Team' — but there is nothing more important than oneness, and the way the players that I mentioned, and others, have responded has been the most encouraging thing that I can point to."
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