Harbaugh ‘avoiding all fun stuff’ as Michigan camp nears

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Jim Harbaugh listens to a question during Big Ten media days Tuesday in Chicago.

Chicago – Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh looked like he was heading to work on Tuesday during his appearance at Big Ten media days.

While the rest of his Big Ten coaching colleagues wore suits, Harbaugh was in his trademark khakis and blue Michigan long sleeve shirt, with his ever-present skinny Block M hat atop his head.

Harbaugh joked he packed light for the event.

“I packed a toothbrush and a good attitude,” he said, laughing.

But he’s not laughing as the Wolverines, who lost all but five starters from last year’s team, prepare for the start of preseason camp on Monday. Harbaugh, who looked like he was ready to get on the field and coach Tuesday, mentioned several times how the Wolverines lost three of their final four games last season.

“I’m avoiding all fun stuff,” Harbaugh said when asked if he had done anything fun while in Chicago. “Concentrating on preparing ourselves for the season. Avoiding all fun things.

“We lost three of our last four games last year, two by one point and one by three points in overtime. Didn’t like that feeling, and it’s motivated us to put more time into the football team and our jobs and give more effort and pour more of our heart and soul into it and avoid fun stuff.”

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Michigan lost at Iowa 14-13 on Nov. 12 and at Ohio State 30-27 in double overtime on Nov. 26, before the one-point setback against Florida State, 33-32, in the Orange Bowl.

Harbaugh said the returning players learned from that finish, as well: “I hope they have the same feeling. I hope they didn’t like those losing those ballgames, because they won a lot of ballgames, too. They won like nine straight games. Nothing better than a high five after a ballgame. That feeling compared to where you’re losing a game in overtime or by one point – much better to get the high five.

“A lot of guys on our team have learned that. I think that’s made things a little hotter, a little more competitive in spring practice and during summer conditioning, and we’ll find out where their mindset is next Monday when we started practice.”

Michigan defensive tackle Maurice Hurst answers questions during Big Ten media days on Tuesday.

Senior defensive tackle Maurice Hurst said the players definitely have the same feeling, especially since the Wolverines closed with a loss.

“Yeah, that’s definitely motivation,” Hurst said. “Losing such a close game and having that bitter taste in your mouth for the entire offseason, because that’s the last impression of your team and your defense. I mean, it hurts, and you want to get that taste out of your mouth with a big game coming up first (against Florida in the opener).”

Mason Cole, a senior offensive lineman, thinks it’s important for the Wolverines to embrace how close they were to a perfect season.

“We were six points away from being undefeated,” he said. “The guys that were here last year know how good we can be. Now we’ve got to finish.”

Harbaugh has chosen to make the aftermath of losing three of the last four a positive.

“Now I say good, glad that happened,” Harbaugh said. “Hopefully that will motivate us to be better next year. Use that as coming to an understanding we have to put more into this. More of our talent, more of our effort, more of our heart into coaching these guys, and the guys that are playing need to do the same thing.”

Ohio State is considered the favorite to win the Big Ten East, and defending conference champion Penn State is considered a major contender.

Harbaugh doesn’t agree that Michigan is an under-the-radar team.

“I don’t know that we are,” he said. “I don’t know that matters. It’s irrelevant. I don’t think we are. We’re just going to work on Monday with the license and the ability to be good. Tough to beat.”

Hurst has heard the predictions that Michigan will finish third in the Big Ten for the third straight season.

“We kind of just laugh and let it motivate us,” he said. “That’s what you’ve got to do. You have to use all the outside noise and just let it motivate you to play even better. Even if it’s good stuff being said, you want to be the best team. If they’re saying you’re the best team, you want to be even better.”