Jim Harbaugh, Michigan football not overlooking Western Michigan
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — While fans and the media won’t look at Michigan football’s season opener against Western Michigan as one of the challenging variety, don’t tell that to Jim Harbaugh & co.
When Harbaugh analyzes what the Broncos — under head coach Tim Lester — bring to the table, he sees a tough football team, led by defense. In 2020, WMU had the 57th-best defensive attack in the nation in yards allowed, surrendering just under 400 yards-per-game. Of course, the MAC school only played other MAC schools due to the pandemic year, but Harbaugh sees an attacking defense all the same.
“I’ll start with the defensive side of the ball,” Harbaugh said. “Lou Esposito does a fantastic job. You’re just talking pressure, you’re talking attack – attack defense. And they’re really good at it. Fifth in the country in tackles for loss. The tackles for loss really stand out about them – they average about 8.5 in a game. Really good at sacks, too. Ranked 13th in the NCAA in sacks (Ed. note: the Broncos were 60th in sacks in 2020 and tied for 21st — along with Michigan — in 2019). A couple of really good defensive linemen. Secondary that’s – they’re covering and they do a really good job. Right now, studied them for a while here, they want a fast outcome in their favor. Get it to where you can’t find the receiver, get it to where you can’t find the one-on-one matchup. They do a good job covering. They do a good job of putting pressure on the offense.”
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The offensive side of the ball is the one to pay attention to. The Broncos had the 16th-best offense in the country in 2020 and the 25th-best offensive attack in 2019. Quarterback Kaleb Eleby enters his third year of playing time in four years and he’s consistently a 60-plus percent passer. The Broncos were 23rd in 2020 averaging 286.5 yards-per-game.
“Them offensively, they’re really good at what they do,” Harbaugh said. “They execute really well, at a high level. Quarterback Eleby, really fantastic. When you rank third in the country in pass efficiency, that’s playing really efficient, that’s playing really good football. La’Darius (Jefferson) – a fine running back. All the running backs are really – they’re north-south guys, they hit holes fast. The receivers do an excellent job – 24 (Skyy Moore), 1 (Jaylen Hall) – both really good. Making the catch, but also what they do when they’ve made the catch, what they do with the ball after, yards after catch – extremely good. The offensive line, as well. They play really good together. Just – they play really good football. They execute their schemes extremely well.”
WMU also is 31st in the country in terms of returning experience, with 85% of its production from the previous years coming back in 2021. That makes the Broncos the second-most experienced team that the Wolverines will face in 2021.
Regardless if the directional school isn’t considered to be much of a match for the Wolverines, starting quarterback Cade McNamara says that the team cannot overlook a program that’s supposed to be an easy win on Saturday.
“I think every team we face, no matter what the team or what the ranking is, we should never take lightly,” McNamara said. “I think every defense has its own things. We’ve consistently looked at opposing teams this offseason. We’re looking forward to the matchup of Western. We’re confident and excited.”