Chicago — Michigan running back Karan Higdon has never been able to bring himself to watch film of the Wolverines’ dreadful offensive performance in the Outback Bowl loss to South Carolina on New Year’s Day.
The Wolverines wrapped up the 2017 season at 8-5 after losing the bowl game, 26-19.
But that loss was a springboard into this season for Michigan. Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh made several staff changes, and the players refocused, reassessed and became re-energized heading into winter conditioning and camp.
“It’s been very motivating considering everything that transpired in that game,” Higdon said Monday during Big Ten media days. “It seemed like everything went wrong, from handing it off to a tight end in the backfield, to fumbles, to interceptions. Whatever it was, it seemed like everything just went wrong.
“I think that was the turning point from where we had been as Michigan Wolverines to where we’re about to go now in 2018.”
The team was followed closely by Amazon Prime cameras that documented last season for the “All or Nothing” series.
“(It was) definitely the lowest of moments since I’ve been here,” Higdon said of the bowl loss. “I’ve never seen anything like it. I just think things happen for a reason and every success story has a great struggle, and I think that was our struggle.
“And I think it’s so ironic that last season was documented. If we come out this year and do what we need to do, I think it’s going to make it that much more inspirational.”
Higdon said he hasn’t watched film of the game because it was such an “upside-down day.”
“And I don’t think that defines who we are as a team,” he said. “Obviously we played in it, we know what happened.”
That game was what the team thought about every workout, Higdon said. They released it for the most part once spring practice began.
“We won’t completely let it go until we win in Notre Dame,” he said.
The Wolverines open the season at Notre Dame in a renewal of the series under the lights.
“That’s the pedestal,” Higdon said. “You know you’re going to be judged off that game. That means we’ve got to do everything to prepare and make sure we’re in the best position possible when Sept. 1 comes that we walk out of there with a win because that’s going to identify us as 2018 Michigan Wolverines.”
Offensive tackle Grant Newsome hasn’t played since suffering a gruesome knee injury during the 2016 season, and a nerve issue continues to hold him back.
“He’s been training hard,” Harbaugh said. “We’re going to see where he’s at at this point in time and go out on the field and look. I anticipate that in the next week.
“And it’s a lot (about) the nerve. How is the nerve going to come back? That’s really the whole ballgame that nobody really knows. Everybody is confident it will. When will it, we don’t know. It’s not in his control. Until that fully comes back, he won’t be playing football. Praying and pulling hard that it does.”
Still no offensive coordinator?
Harbaugh likes the way his offensive staff has taken to a collaborative process to run the offense, and he said they “might” have an offensive coordinator this season.
“We’re confident in each other,” he said. “The collaboration has been outstanding. We really respect each guy that’s in there and how they’re going about their business. I made an effort to have it be that way, have a real collaboration.”
It’s an atypical approach, but Harbaugh likes what he has seen. He grew frustrated when asked about having an offensive coordinator.
“I’m not going to try to explain it anymore,” Harbaugh said. “We feel good about what we’ve got going right now. We’re going to keep going in that direction.”