Foster: Jim Harbaugh will bring toughness back to UM

Terry Foster
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor — Jamie Morris, the old Michigan running back with the slashing moves, returned to his old form.

He put both hands on his thighs as if he were in the I-formation to receive a handoff from his old quarterback, Jim Harbaugh, who was brought back Tuesday to pull the program out of a seven-year hibernation. Morris talked about a drill called "Line Buck," a painful show of power that his former coach, Bo Schembechler, unleashed to instill toughness and spruce up the running attack usually around the time Michigan was about to play Ohio State or Michigan State.

They threw sacks on the hash marks and stuffed a lineman, fullback and tailback into a 5-yard vertical box against a defensive tackle, linebacker and safety. You were not allowed to run outside the sacks. It was between the tackles play after play after play. The crunching of shoulder pads was exhausting as players lined around this circle of pain and cheered.

"Run it again," Schembechler screamed.

"Your job was to hit that hole," Morris said.

Let's get beyond the romance and folksy stories of Harbaugh. One of his missions will be to make the Wolverines ram tough again. That's something that left the program when Rich Rodriguez took over for Lloyd Carr, and totally flew the coop when Brady Hoke stepped in.

In other words, Michigan players should not be surprised to see the return of "Line Buck" or some new forms of physical and mental challenges to test them.

The word in opposing dressing rooms was that the Wolverines could be broken mentally with a long drive, a big play or a big hit. Michigan, 5-7 this season, literally folded its tents and said "see you next week."

It happened against Utah, Michigan State and especially Notre Dame.

"Yeah I heard that," Morris said, gritting his teeth. "Let me tell you something. Bo Schembechler would tell you what a Wolverine was. It was an animal that never gave up. It would fight to the end. So to hear that was disturbing."

Harbaugh is here to win. He also is here to make the Wolverines tough again. It is painful for a Wolverine to lose to a Spartan. It hurts even more when fans watched their guys get punched in the face and have their milk money stolen.

Morris said he does not believe Harbaugh knows fully how things have fallen off. But he will know soon.

"I think he is going to learn that," Morris said. "He will be told by a couple of people. He has a peer group that knows. Some former players will tell him what they saw. He will establish toughness real quick."

Running back Drake Johnson would not admit weakness on this year's team, but admitted change is needed and everybody might not be on board.

"There might be natural resistance from an emotional level," Johnson said. "But I think people know we need to start winning and this guy is going to get it going and you have to hop on the train and get it going."

I told Johnson that Harbaugh does not play around. He will make this team tougher.

"We need it," he said. "I am perfectly open to that."

There really isn't much choice.

Some players will embrace it. Others will not.

"They won't be here long," Morris said of the non-believers. "You either get with the program or you are gone. It is a style of coaching they might not agree with. They will either fall in the lanes or they will fall out of favor."

One of the interesting parts of the Harbaugh press conference Tuesday was how he thanked and honored every Michigan coach for the past 50 years except Rodriguez. He even thanked Hoke, a great guy who was in over his head.

But trust me on this one. Harbaugh's coaching style will be closer to Rodriguez's than Hoke's. Do you remember how players talked about Rodriguez being too R-rated and not family-friendly?

They think Harbaugh will be easy on them?

Just wait.