Harbaugh: Notre Dame will bring UM's strengths, weaknesses into focus

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Jim Harbaugh

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh made several offensive staff changes in an effort to take the team from “mediocre” to “great.”

Harbaugh hired Ed Warinner, who is now coaching the offensive line, former Florida coach Jim McElwain, who coaches the receivers, and Sherrone Moore to coach the tight ends after the Wolverines finished 8-5 last season in large part because of a lack of offensive production.

Michigan will play at Notre Dame in the season opener Saturday night. Harbaugh appeared Wednesday morning during his in-season weekly appearance on the “Jamie and Stoney” show on 97.1 FM, The Ticket.

“I felt like, the way I always do, you look and assess where you are, where you’re going,” Harbaugh said of evaluating his staff. “When things are really good, you say, ‘OK, that’s good, that’s great, we want to keep that great.’ If something’s mediocre, then you want to get it to great.

“Even things that are great, you always look like, ‘Gosh darn, we’re in a great spot as it relates to this, but if we could just get that a little better, too.’ It’s a constant process of improving.”

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Here are highlights from his radio appearance:

On the night game at Notre Dame: “You want to get things started. You want to get the season started and going and find out what your team is about and also where you go next, where do you improve from there. You find out a lot about it playing a very good opponent on the road. So many things will have begun and will be in focus as a result of this game.”

On starting quarterback Shea Patterson and opening the playbook: “He’s that type of quarterback that does so many things well. Athletic, very good arm talent, understands, he’s smart. He’s always focused. He can keep his mind on what’s important at that moment. Just so many good things. There’s a lot that a quarterback that’s athletic and can throw it and is a dual-threat can bring to our offense. It does open up what you can do.”

On having Patterson (a transfer) being with the team since the start of the year: “There’s no question about it. Any player in any system at any position, there’s a place that they’re at when they first start learning a system, and then six months later, they’re gonna be in a much better place. In a year, they’re gonna be even higher level after two years in the same system. At that point you can be an expert and start teaching it to other people. There’s a process to that. Having him in spring ball was tremendous.”

On Patterson having a swagger: “Let me put it this way, your quarterback has to have confidence in himself, that’s his job. And then it’s his job by how he plays to make others believe in him. He’s done both of those things.”

On the defense wanting to be one of the best UM defenses ever: “From the way we’ve been competing on defense throughout the spring and throughout the fall camp, you see that pride that they take in their unit and the pride our defense has in whoever they’re competing against, whether it’s our offense or the opposing offense. It’s there, you see it. You see the pride they take in being good.”

On Michigan’s success hinging on the offensive line: “It’s a factor, one of the biggest. There’s no question about it. I always look at the lines, the offensive line, the defense line and you point to those two things. You want to feel good physically there, that you’re proven and good in those two faces. that’s always been the case.”

On whether he feels pressure: “Our goal is win the next game. That game Saturday is the one that we’re putting our focus on, our intensity on. You can’t win two until you win one. You’ve got to get that first win. What an exciting set of circumstances we have here traveling down to South Bend to play in a big game in the opener.”

On Notre Dame: “They’ve got a veteran defense, very good, very athletic, very physical. Offensively, the linemen they lost, we know there’s good linemen behind them. We recruited many of those guys and know them well and they played in ballgames last year, so the quarterback’s (Brandon Wimbush) really good, athletic quarterback that has really good arm talent, as well. Across the board, there’s some similarities to both teams. Should be a whale of a game.”