Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said he feels good about his team and referred to the upcoming season as a “bold beginning.”
Harbaugh appeared Sunday on the Barstool Sports “Pardon my Take” podcast and was asked whether he feels pressure heading into his fifth season as the Wolverines’ coach. He reiterated what he had said a few weeks ago at Big Ten media days that he and his players look at it as a “challenge” -- a challenge that ends against an Ohio State program he has yet to beat.
Michigan began preseason camp last Friday and open the season Aug. 31 against Middle Tennessee State at Michigan Stadium.
“We’ve done a lot of good, including last year, we were co-Big Ten champions, but we haven’t got to be Big Ten champions and we haven’t made the playoffs and beat Ohio State,” said Harbaugh, whose team lost its final two games last year to finish 10-3. “Our goal is to win multiple championships. Our goal is to win the next game. And the last game for us defines the season. We have big goals, big aspirations.”
He was asked if it’s all about the last game, "The Game" against Ohio State.
“It defines the season, but there’s also 11 important games in front of that that dictate and define whether you win the Big Ten championship and whether you go to the playoffs, and the last game defines the entire season,” Harbaugh said on the podcast.
Sometimes coaches reserve an assessment of their team until camp concludes or even after a few games. Harbaugh said he already knows a lot about this 2019 team, which must replace four key starters on defense and determine a starter at right tackle on the offensive line, and see how the running back situation shakes out.
“I think we’ve got a special team right now,” Harbaugh said. “It’s a young and enthusiastic team but a very experienced team. Really good at the quarterback position, really good up front in the offensive line. I think people are going to be surprised how good we are on the defensive line, because we lost quite a few good players, but we’ve got some good young players that we’re excited to see. Faster. Maybe the fastest defensive line we’ve had. Running back position is another good one for us, even though it’s not a lot of names people recognize. Couldn’t be more excited going into the season with the guys we’ve got.”
Other highlights from the podcast:
► On if he thinks not playing in a bowl game hurts the players: “Yeah, I do, and I think it hurts their actual legacy too, just what they’re about. A competitor is going to compete. Everybody talks about they’re a competitor, ‘I’m a competitor, I’ll compete at anything. I'll compete at golf. I'll compete at tiddly winks.’ You hear people say that all the time. But then they actually don’t go play in a football game. That’s, to me, you have a problem with who you are as a competitor and your legacy. (But) everybody has the right to make their own decisions.”
► On his favorite part of being back with his team: “The favorite part is the smell of the grass, the fresh-cut grass when you come out in the morning. The cleats clanking on the cement. It’s a rebirth.”
► On defensive tackle/running back Ben Mason: “I love just about everything he does. He attacks everything and anything. He can’t get enough. He wants to eat up everything. He’s up to 272. He looks amazing.”
► On whether he still plays some quarterback in practice: Harbaugh said it’s been about a year and a half since he has and is now wearing a knee brace. “Bone on bone going on in the right knee. (Wearing a brace) that’s going to kick the knee in a little bit so I can run.”
► On if he worried about his players making guarantees as he did as UM quarterback heading into the Ohio State game: “I don’t like when people do stuff that’s already been done. Do something different. What are you actually guaranteeing? Or what? Your money back?”