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Michigan Football News & Views: Jim Harbaugh Monday Presser Thoughts

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Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh talked Notre Dame and more Monday. We tackle his thoughts in News & Views format:

NEWS: Shea Patterson is Michigan’s starter for Saturday’s game at Notre Dame. The elusive junior is a threat as a passer and a runner.

HARBAUGH: “When he drops back into the pocket, goes through progressions, there’s an internal clock where he [moves to] the check down. It starts by finding the quiet spot in pocket, and you use mobility to do that. Sometimes it becomes necessary to escape the pocket … he has the ability to do that.”

VIEWS: Harbaugh went on to explain the whys of leaving the pocket, but they’re obvious — covered receivers, missed blocks, etc. The point is the Wolverines now have an escapable guy to go along with what appears to be a vastly improved offensive line.

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Shea Patterson will start Saturday night at quarterback for Michigan at Notre Dame.
Brandon Brown

Patterson is much like Harbaugh was as a collegiate quarterback when it comes to escaping pressure. He’s a risk taker, and he’ll circle around, etc., until he finds safety. But he’s also able to throw on the run, and his receivers will need to do their part to keep moving back to the ball when things break down, something they didn’t do well enough last year.

Patterson, though, has all the tools to be a championship quarterback.

“He’s focused and intense every single day,” Harbaugh said.

NEWS: Senior safety Tyree Kinnel, senior running back Karan Higdon, junior guard Ben Bredeson and junior linebacker Devin Bush Jr. are the four team captains — but they are far from the only leaders on the squad.

HARBAUGH: “They’ve invested a lot like all seniors have, seniors and fifth years. They’ve invested the most. It means they have the best attitude along with the rest of our senior class. With the fifth-year guys, I feel really good about the leadership of the ball club.”

VIEWS: Harbaugh ripped off the names of fifth-year senior defensive end Chase Winovich, redshirt junior tight end Zach Gentry, fifth-year cornerback Brandon Watson (“he has really emerged as a leader”), redshirt junior offensive tackle Jon Runyan, fifth-year senior defensive tackle Bryan Mone, fifth-year senior offensive tackle Juwann Bushell-Beatty and many others as guys they’ll lean on, too.

But it’s up to the guys who weren’t voted captain to put that disappointment behind them and lead, regardless. That’s going to be tougher for some — Winovich, for one, mentioned in the summer how much being a captain would mean to him — but it’s still the expectation here.

By all accounts, however, there’s great leadership on this team. That’s one of the necessary elements to win a title.

NEWS: Coordinator Don Brown’s defense has a chance to be his best yet.

HARBAUGH: “I think it is a well-rounded defense — good players and excellent scheme, the players understand it and know it. They hustle to the ball, guys on the ground are not on the ground long … they’re getting up and pursuing. Tackling … that’s what you want to see out of your defense. I feel like it’s going to be a stingy defense.”

VIEWS: Brown has said it repeatedly … 2016 was a great defense, but this group has the advantage of having a couple years in his system. There are veterans on offense, too, so it shouldn’t be surprising that that group has improved, too.

“It’s been pretty consistent,” Harbaugh said. “You learn a system, play, get experience. You’re always better six months later than it was when you first started. A year later its certainly noticeable, two years later two years it’s very noticeable. I’ve noticed it.”

Bottom line — this should be a really good football team.

NEWS: Players say Harbaugh has been more receptive to their ideas than he has been in the past.

HARBAUGH: “I don't think I’ve changed too much. I always look at things, wherever ideas come from, that will be better for an individual player or the ball club. Does it help us or not … that’s what I usually judge it by.”

VIEWS: Former offensive tackle and new student assistant Grant Newsome was one who wouldn’t say what he recommended to Harbaugh, keeping it between player and coach.

It seems clear, though, that Harbaugh did some soul searching in the offseason, and that’s a good thing. Changes were made that needed to be made, and in that respect, an 8-5 season (while never a positive development) might have been a necessary thing. Had they won the Outback Bowl and gone on with business as usual, who’s to say how the summer and fall would have gone?

And yes, there’s still plenty of proving to do this season.

NEWS: Harbaugh wouldn’t comment on individual safety depth, including sophomores J’Marick Woods and Jaylen Kelly-Powell or graduate transfer Casey Hughes, other than to say “the depth is good.”

HARBAUGH: “The safety position … [senior walk-on] Louis Grodman is also doing a really nice job. There have been some young players that have emerged that will show up in the depth, as well. We’re feeling pretty good about our secondary right now.”

VIEWS: There’s been next to no talk about Hughes. Take that as you will. Woods is still growing, but there’s much expected of Kelly-Powell this fall. Brown has singled him out as one to watch closely.

RELATED LINKS:

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• Podcast: Angelique Chengelis With John Borton

• Audio: Chris Balas on the Huge Show, Aug. 14

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