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Michigan's Harbaugh tutors NFL prospects Winston, Petty

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

When Michigan hired Jim Harbaugh as head football coach, a number of college football analysts said he would have an edge in recruiting because he could pitch his NFL background.

Harbaugh, a former Michigan quarterback who had a lengthy NFL career as a player and spent the last four seasons coaching the San Francisco 49ers, can tell recruits he knows how to prepare them for the NFL and help them realize that dream, analysts said.

He also is helping to prepare more than Michigan recruits and current players.

Florida State's Jameis Winston and Baylor's Bryce Petty, who work with noted quarterback guru George Whifield, spent some time with Harbaugh, known to develop quarterbacks, on Monday at Schembechler Hall. Harbaugh gave them advice and encouragement regarding the NFL, what to expect and some advice on preparing for this week's NFL combine.

Michigan posted a photo of the three sitting in a meeting room on its Twitter page on Tuesday. Jedd Fisch, who has a long NFL coaching career and currently is Michigan's passing game coordinator and quarterbacks/receivers coach, also met with the quarterbacks.

"Coach Harbaugh is one of the best coaches in football, period," Whitfield told SportsCenter during a live hit from Glick Fieldhouse on Tuesday. "I think he's one of the best coaches in the NFL, he just happens to be here at a Big Ten program.

"So to come back here with Jameis and Bryce Petty, those two to get a chance to sit in there with him and let them absorb the NFL combine experience from him directly. Jedd Fisch was also in there. He's been very instrumental. He's been in a lot of war rooms. So they just gave those guys a lot of context about the experience and a lot of encouragement, which is always great to have when you have somebody of their magnitude say, 'Listen, this is it, you can do this. This is what's going to be taking place.' That means an awful lot. They both were wearing NFL hats a year ago, so to be afforded that opportunity to come here has been incredible."

Winston and Petty have been working with Whitfield in San Diego, doing drills and throwing on the beach. They rented Michigan's indoor facility, Glick Fieldhouse, to make final combine preparations. This allows them to throw indoors and get acclimated to the time change and weather. Winston, however, still is undecided whether he will throw at the combine.

Harbaugh did not, however, work on-field with the quarterbacks.

Harbaugh and Whitfield have known each other for many years. Harbaugh was head coach at the University of San Diego and met Whitfield, a San Diego resident, at that time. Last summer, Whitfield was added as an "intern coach" on the 49ers staff and worked with the quarterbacks through training camp.

During the ESPN interview, Whitfield was asked what role Harbaugh has played with Winston and Petty in their final combine preparations.

"An incredible amount," Whifield said. "First of all, just Coach Harbaugh opening up the doors at the University of Michigan, an iconic school and saying, 'Yes, come on back, you can roll into Indianapolis (for the combine) from Schembechler Hall and the Michigan football program.' That's been incredible."

angelique.chengelis@detroitnews.com

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