Ann Arbor — Jim Harbaugh's Michigan staff has familiar faces from his different coaching stops at San Diego, Stanford and the San Francisco 49ers.
Among his hires was offensive coordinator Tim Drevno, who has worked with Harbaugh longer than anyone on the current staff. Drevno has been with Harbaugh 11 years at three stops, and left after a season at USC to rejoin him with the Wolverines.
Drevno and defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin met with reporters after the team's second spring practice Thursday and was asked why Harbaugh has been so strong at building toughness.
"He demands a lot from you, but in a good way," Drevno said. "He's never demeaning to you, but he brings the best out of you to compete at the highest level. He's competitive, and he always thinks outside the box and is very creative.
"He is the smartest man I've ever been around. He's unique in a great way. He's got some unbelievable DNA. I've never been around a guy like this."
Durkin said he wants Michigan's defense to have a blue-collar approach and the ability to play multiple fronts.
He said the players will have a clean slate, a point that has been stressed by Harbaugh and Drevno, to earn their way onto the field. But one difference for Durkin is the fact he has Greg Mattison on staff as his defensive line coach.
Mattison spent the last four seasons under former coach Brady Hoke as the defensive coordinator, so he knows the personnel better than anyone.
"We have to start out with some sort of depth chart, (and) he was helpful with that," Durkin said Thursday after practice No. 2. "More than anything, (Mattison will) help us to get to know these guys as people, because we weren't here to recruit them."
Jabrill Peppers had the highest of high expectations entering last season as a freshman defensive back, but his season was cut short by ankle and knee injuries. He received a medical redshirt.
Durkin said Peppers will play several spots in the secondary during spring practice.
"We'll move him around to find the best fit for everyone," Durkin said. "(Jabrill is) a high-energy guy. He's explosive. We have high expectations for Jabrill, and he has high expectations for himself."
Greg Jackson is working more with the safeties, and Mike Zordich is handling the cornerbacks during spring practice, Durkin said.
Drevno deflected a question about Michigan's quarterbacks, saying Harbaugh and Jedd Fisch, the receivers coach and pass game coordinator, are more entrenched in that position.