Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh knows he has a young team but it boasts plenty of talent.
Harbaugh appeared Monday afternoon on the Rich Eisen Show and said while there are plenty of holes left vacant by players who have moved on to professional football, there’s been an uptick in competition for those who want to move into starting roles.
“You can look at part of the depth chart, maybe five or six, maybe seven that are returning as starters,” Harbaugh said on the show. “A lot of the depth chart has been wiped clean at the first-string level, so that as created a lot of competition and created opportunities for the fellas that have been sitting behind a guy for a year or two years and now their opportunity is to be the full-time starter and show what they can do.
“The waters are hot in that regard. It’s been a fun team to be coaching. We’ve been working since winter conditioning, spring ball, now we’re into summer conditioning. We’ve got a young team, and we’ve got some good returning starters as well at some key positions, which is good. But it’s a young and talented team and it’s our job to coach them and get them ready, and their job is to get themselves prepared to carry the load. But it’s much better than having a young and untalented team. That would be the worst possible (scenario).”
Here are some highlights from the interview:
■ Harbaugh on Big Ten teams playing on Friday nights: “I’m not for it at all. Friday night is for high school football.”
■ On how to fight that trend: “(It’s) not set it stone, nor should it be. To voice the opposition of playing college football games on Friday nights should be voiced.”
■ Harbaugh on whether the team got out of visiting Rome what he expected: “All and more. It was an incredible trip. The best thing I’ve ever been a part of on a football team. The wonderful thing, it was all about the players. Not all learning is done in the classroom, not all learning is done on a football field. From an educational standpoint, from a team-bonding standpoint, experience, it had everything. It was spiritual, it was football, it was teamwork, it was enlightening on a lot of levels.”
■ On what the players learned in Rome: “It starts with seeing things you’ve never seen before, tasting food you’ve never tasted before, hearing a language you’ve never heard. Imagine seeing the Colosseum that was active with events there for 600 years. The Pantheon was built 80 years after the death of Christ, 2,000 years ago. And then hearing some of the guys talk, like, ‘Wow, that building is 450 years old. The McDonald’s down the street has been there since 1972. We thought that was a landmark.’ So many things. You experience yourself and then experience through others on the team. That’s what makes a group trip so wonderful. It’s not just your own experience, it’s everybody else on the trip as well and how they’re seeing it and what their reaction to it is.”
■ On the players after Rome: “One thing I’m really proud of, after the trip was over, 25 to 28 of our players did study abroad, then another five did European internships and another 10 or so traveled through Europe. Our guys had options in the month of May. The could do those things, the could come home and do spring term at the University of Michigan, they could go home to their homes, they could do internships in the United States. Football players had options which long had not been the case. And throughout the entire month, whether they were abroad or whether they were here studying or back home, we didn’t have any incidents of any kind. Anybody who knows 18- to 22-year-olds, it’s quite remarkable but we’re very proud.”
■ On Michigan’s record-setting draft: “First, what a great example so many of the players said the way they prepared themselves the three or four years that they were here at the University of Michigan put themselves in positions to play at the highest level, we like that a lot. It’s great examples for our younger players and our incoming players. There’s a template there of how you go about developing. Player development. The youngsters accomplished it, the ones who were drafted and the other eight who were signed to free-agent contracts, they carried the majority of the water. It’s their accomplishment, but it does set a great example for or younger players.”
■ On if Harbaugh has the honorary captains lined up this fall: “There’s going to be some good ones. We’re putting that together now.”