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Michigan Football News & Views: Dissecting Jim Harbaugh’s Comments

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Harbaugh and Michigan are 2-1 and set to face Nebraska Saturday.

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Michigan will face Nebraska Saturday at noon at Michigan Stadium. Jim Harbaugh talked about the Cornhuskers and more this week, and we tackle his comments in News & Views format:

NEWS: Junior linebacker Devin Bush is playing at an All-Big Ten level through three games. He’s notched 22 tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack. Harbaugh was asked about improving sophomore Josh Ross, but he couldn’t help but mention Bush.

HARBAUGH: “[Ross] is improving. He got a penalty in the SMU game they thought was pass interference, but that’s another one we’re asking for clarification. I thought he just redirected a receiver. He’s playing well.

“They’ve all got a great example in Devin Bush to watch. Devin is playing at a super high level in all regards. [Redshirt sophomore] Devin Gil also turned in a solid game, but you can’t have a greater example than Devin Bush.”

VIEWS: Bush and fifth-year senior end Chase Winovich have been the two leaders on defense, and both are playing Michigan football — relentless, sacrificing their bodies on every play and never taking a play off. Will Bush be here next year? We don’t know, and his smallish frame doesn’t make him the perfect NFL candidate, but he dominates the position at this level.

Bush’s heart matches his unbelievable speed and skill, and that’s something you can’t teach. He’s a worthy captain.

NEWS: Fifth-year senior cornerback Brandon Watson is right up there with junior David Long as the Wolverines’ top cornerback this year.

HARBAUGH: “He was our player of the game last week [against Western Michigan], defensive player of the game. He had tackles last week, PBUs [passes broken up], three of them. He’s been consistently playing well for our team. The first game, he had an interception.”

VIEWS: On the flip side, junior Lavert Hill has had some problems, seemingly struggling with some concentration issues. Watson’s emergence hasn’t only been huge for depth … it’s been necessary.

Watson has been this team’s most pleasant surprise on defense. Some wondered if he’d be asked back for a fifth year before the season started. He’s left no doubt he more than fits in with what has the potential to be an outstanding defense.

NEWS: Michigan senior captain and running back Karan Higdon sat out the SMU game with an undisclosed injury. Harbaugh was asked if he could have played.

HARBAUGH: “No, he didn’t feel like he could.”

VIEWS: Some have tried to dissect Harbaugh’s comments and called them an “interesting choice of words.” Others close to it were surprised he didn’t go. There’s a difference between being hurt and injured — guys are expected to play through the former — but Higdon has earned the benefit of the doubt (and he'd better play if he can play, being a captain and all).

It also gave junior and former walk-on Tru Wilson a chance to show what he could do, and he impressed (again). He pass blocks and sacrifices his body like Mike Hart, and is by far the best on the team in that area. He has earned more reps, and he could be one of the reasons if the coaches decide to turn Shea Patterson loose a bit more at times.

The junior quarterback has a back he can trust to help keep him clean.

NEWS: Junior linebacker Khaleke Hudson will miss the first half of Saturday’s game after getting ejected for targeting on a hit Saturday.

HARBAUGH: “The target moves. If somebody is running through a hole, that ball carrier is moving. The standard if you just happen to hit helmets … that’s going to happen a lot. People are going to touch helmets. An individual may not be targeting somebody, but could hit [the opponent in the helmet]. That happens a lot in football.”

VIEWS: First, Michigan should be fine replacing Hudson for a half. He’s been strangely quiet in his first three games, and guys like fifth-year senior Noah Furbush are playing well and can step up in his absence.

As for targeting, this has become like pass interference in that it’s so subjective, nobody really knows what it is. You’ll literally see 10 helmet-to-helmet hits per game, and while it was initially supposed to be about intent, it’s become anything but. There have been a ton of penalties called in which it’s been just incidental contact.

Between that, the lousy roughing-the-passer rules and everything else, the game is different. We’re all for safety, but we wouldn’t say it’s changed for the better.

NEWS: Michigan’s coaching staff seems to have a great rapport, despite having added four new faces.

HARBAUGH: “It’s good, just everybody doing a good job. They’re really good at what they do, and collectively they’re really good and jelling. Productive.”

VIEWS: Young guys Sherrone Moore (tight ends) and Al Washington (linebackers) are rising stars and elite recruiters, something that had been lacking. Offensive line coach Ed Warinner and wide receivers coach Jim McElwain are like having overqualified position coaches … they’re also great offensive minds.

We still don’t know the dynamics of the play calling, and there are some question marks there, but we don’t doubt that the guys coaching positions are really, really good at their jobs. This team should improve each week because of it and it still needs to, especially up front.

NEWS: The running game struggled last week, notching 88 yards on the first 33 carries before kicking into gear. A lot of the struggle was missed on missed assignments.

HARBAUGH: “We’ve been good; been productive. We still have some timing issues there … but we’re successful when we’re on the right guy. That’s encouraging, but not where we want it to be yet. We’re chasing perfection.”

VIEWS: They’re far from it right now. Guys simply can’t make the mistakes they’ve been making up front, where the mistakes have been more mental than physical.

Folks can talk about stubbornness in play calling, etc., all they want, but it’s up to the guys up front (and the backs) to do their jobs. If they’re missing assignments, they’re going to struggle whether they’re running or throwing the ball.

At some point, the players need to be accountable.

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