Michigan Wolverines Football: Turnovers 'Are Like Olive Jars,' More From Michigan Football's Jim Harbaugh
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Turnovers 'Are Like Olive Jars,' More From Michigan Football's Jim Harbaugh

Michigan Wolverines head football coach Jim Harbaugh doesn't have many complaints from his team's 63-10 win over Northern Illinois last week. The Maize and Blue went unscathed in the non-conference portion of the schedule, and now Big Ten play starts this week at home against Rutgers.

"Super happy about it," Harbaugh told fellow former Michigan All-American Jon Jansen on the Inside Michigan Football radio show Monday night. "Super pleased with the way the players are playing, with great emotion, energy, all out and playing hard.

Added Harbaugh of his team: "If they could do what we did on Saturday every week, that would be a heck of a thing. We had one of those days where everybody was executing, doing their job. Very few missed assignments. You can tell when guys are doing their job and doing it well and there’s great results."

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Michigan Wolverines head football coach Jim Harbaugh picked up his 52nd win as U-M's head man.
Michigan Wolverines head football coach Jim Harbaugh picked up his 52nd win as U-M's head man. (AP Images)

Harbaugh is most proud of the energy and passion the Wolverines are playing with. That, coupled with high-level execution, is a recipe for success, as evidenced by the first three weeks. In comparison to last year, when Michigan posted a 2-4 record, it's a big difference.

"If they can keep playing as hard as they can the way they have been doing on all sides of the ball, there are ways to improve, but good things happen when you play hard," Harbaugh said. "And have fun. That’s the other thing, too — these guys are having fun; I can see it in their eyes in practice, as well, just a tremendous vibe."

The head man made major changes to his coaching and support staffs this past offseason, but he insists the energy cannot be forced; it's been infused in an organic way.

"It’s gotta be au naturel," Harbaugh said. "It’s gotta come from everybody — coaches, players. Guys that really like football and then they jell, you get the chemistry. Also guys that are unselfish, playing for each other — that’s always a huge key. It’s something that you don’t just manufacture — it’s gotta be au naturel."

The ball finds energy, and energy finds the ball, Harbaugh said. That theory was on full display when redshirt sophomore cornerback Gemon Green registered Michigan's first interception of the season last week. Harbaugh said it's also in line with another theory he has.

"It was great to get the turnover ... You’ve just gotta get that first one, that first turnover or first interception," Harbaugh explained. "It’s like an [olive] jar. The [olives] are in there so tight when you open up a new jar — you turn it over with the top open and nothing comes out. If you can just get one of those to come out, then they all start plopping out.

"The hope is that now that we’ve got the first one, we’ll start getting a bunch more. Great to see Gemon get that interception and really smell the goal line, did everything he could to get that ball in the end zone. It was great to see, great field position to set up."

The reckless abandon Michigan has played with is showing up in other areas, too, including the offensive line's blocking. After all, the group has paved the way for the nation's leading scorer, second-year freshman running back Blake Corum (nine touchdowns), and the country's top rushing offense (350.3 yards per game).

"I thought [redshirt sophomore left tackle Ryan Hayes] had the best game of anybody on the offensive line — had some great blocks," Harbaugh said, noting the entire unit was outstanding. "The other thing that’s been great to see is the way the offensive line pursues down the field. Some of the touchdown blocks have been occurring 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 yards down the field. So a lot of really encouraging things, and want to keep that up."

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Jim Harbaugh Discusses More Michigan Football Standouts From Northern Illinois Win

• On sophomore wide receiver Cornelius Johnson: "Cornelius Johnson had a heck of a game; he was one of our players of the game. He had over 100 yards catching, including the 87-yard touchdown pass — a great route, great throw, and finished it off in the end zone.

"He ran a heck of a post where he was behind the defense, and we overthrew it a little bit. And there was another one — a 50-50 ball — that could’ve been called for pass interference but wasn’t, and another catch where he made the defender miss. I thought he played really well."

• On second-year wideout A.J. Henning: "A.J. Henning has really come on the scene — special teams player of the week for the great job he did in the punt return game. It seemed like every drive in the game, especially early, he was getting us across mid-field, whether it was the punt return or the reverse or the fly sweep. One went for 26, one went for 24. He was really accounting for a lot of those yards on those early drives."

• On defensive players of the game: We had two players of the game — Gemon Green and [sophomore defensive tackle] Chris Hinton. Chris Hinton played extremely well. Had some tackles and things that, just overall … a lot of snaps and played extremely good in the middle.

• On an ascending secondary: "I’ve seen a real improvement with Gemon, [redshirt freshman corner] DJ Turner, [redshirt sophomore corner] Vince Gray. Great, consistent play from [sophomore safety] Dax Hill, again. [Fifth-year senior safety] Brad Hawkins is playing extremely. We had to get him on the jugs machine. He had a chance for an interception as well. [Second-year freshman safety] R.J. Moten is playing really good, making his first games that he’s played in. Still very young but picking it up fast."

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