Michigan Wolverines Football: Jim Harbaugh Says Team Remains ‘Locked In’
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Michigan Wolverines Football: Jim Harbaugh Says Team Remains ‘Locked In’

Michigan sits at No. 6 in the polls heading into a game with a Northwestern team coming off its first Big Ten win of the year. Head coach Jim Harbaugh gave his players some days off — here’s what he saw when they returned.

While many of the starters rested for much of the week, especially those who have been ‘banged up’ (offensive guards Trevor Keegan and Zak Zinter, linebacker Josh Ross, others), the young guys got their chance to shine. The veterans, however, came back from an off weekend with a vengeance.

"The team has been very locked in,” Harbaugh said. “Daily, weekly … one thing I really continue to be pleased with is how they attack every single day. They didn’t practice Friday or Saturday, came back Sunday … we had as good a practice in terms of guys moving around, knowing what they were doing, locked in, focused, as I’ve ever seen a team coming off a two and a half day break.

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Jim Harbaugh's seventh Michigan Wolverines football team might be his tightest.
Jim Harbaugh's seventh Michigan Wolverines football team might be his tightest. (Lon Horwedel / The Wolverine)

“That was really exciting.”

The coaches, meanwhile, did plenty of self-scouting and preparation for the second half of the season. They aren’t overlooking the Wildcats, of course, a team coming off a 21-7 victory over Rutgers, but they have undefeated Michigan State coming up the following week, and they assuredly spent time planning for the Spartans, as well.

Harbaugh was asked specifically about some of the long passes redshirt freshman quarterback Cade McNamara has missed (though, in fairness, he’s hit plenty this year, too). He insisted improvement could be made in all areas, not just that one in particular.

“We came up with stuff. Just different areas we want to … we think we’re really close and can really improve,” he continued. “Our return game, especially kickoff return. Just some places where there’s some meat on the bone. We se that on offense, see that on defense kind of equally, where we’ve been really good and have some room to get better, as well.

“I don’t really want to say [specifics on offense]. There are some small competitive advantages there, but I’m not saying exactly what we’re going to do this week … there probably is, so we’re probably going to just hold those cards closer to the vest, just in case.”

The offensive line has been every bit as good as hoped, Harbaugh said, and he and his staff expected it would be a team strength heading into the season. The defensive line, though, has exceeded expectations.

“Probably equally as good in terms of the two lines,” he said. “We felt our O-Line was going to be a strength for us, but I see our D-Line equally as good at this point between Mazi Smith, Chris Hinton … obviously Aidan Hutchinson, David Ojabo and a group of players much like the O-Line, really good starters and guys that are going to have to play. Really good backups, too, and they always play on the O-line and the D-Line.

“There are really some guys that have leveled up. Mazi Smith, Chris Hinton, both those guys are coming off their best game of the season. There’s just been a lot of growth. We talked earlier before the season, that’s a position that’s going to need some guys to ascend, rise up, and they have.”

The same can be said for many of their position groups, one of the reasons the Wolverines are in the top 10 nationally. Harbaugh said his team wouldn’t overlook the Wildcats this Saturday.

“Continually, you see the Northwestern team get better every single week,” he said. “This year, last year, the year before that, the year before that … when you play Northwestern in the middle of the season or later in the season, they’re in form.”

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