What Jim Harbaugh said in his Michigan football press conference before Illinois

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — There aren’t a lot of questions at the moment for Michigan football that we don’t already have the answers to.

The Wolverines have methodically dismantled every team that they’ve faced thus far, and with Illinois up next, considering that the Illini have lost the last two games and are now unranked, the expectation outside of Schembechler Hall is for more of the same. Then, it’s onto Ohio State.

But, for the moment, Jim Harbaugh is focused on Illinois. He met with the media on Monday for his weekly press conference. Here is everything he had to say about the state of the team.

Opening statement

My thoughts, my prayers, a piece of my heart goes out to those who tragically lost their lives at the University of Virginia today. Our football program extends its deepest sympathies to the families of those who were killed and those who were shot, also to the Virginia football program and to Virginia University. Few words can express our sympathy at a time like this, but we’re here to help and support our players. Although it’s been a tough night for (Olu Oluwatimi) and he’s been in contact with his teammates there but we send our thoughts and prayers.

Why did he think the defense would be better this year?

We really didn’t put any limit to the expectations. We thought that our defense could be really good, had the license and the ability to be an outstanding defense. At the time I said, I called it the no-name defense. In some ways, we have guys at each position who are competing to make a name for themselves. And I think that’s transpired — playing great team defense. Each position group is really playing outstanding and they’re playing outstanding together.

Facing Chase Brown

Yeah. Our run wall has been very good, it’s going to be tested this week probably like none other up to this point. So Illinois is very strong at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Outstanding, outstanding runs scheme, outstanding running back. So it’ll be a real challenge and a task for our team this year. And been one of our strengths really both sides of the ball — front, offensive line and defensive line. And I really feel like our offensive line is gonna be tested this week as well. So yeah, big challenge and we’re preparing for it now.

Why has the first offensive drive been so good?

The one thing is just our team is ready to play. Ready to play every game, ready to play the full 60 minutes. They play hard the entire game, including the start — to come out fast and they start fast. And it’s like they’re always ready to play. Like they’re born ready to play. I think that’s been the biggest factor.

Any update on Cade McNamara?

Just that he underwent the surgery, and seems that it’s successful and we’re supporting him in all rehab from here. But very happy there was a successful surgery.

Is he out for the year?

Yeah.

Why have the freshman receivers earned more playing time?

They’ve learned that through practice and then getting into the game and kind of putting an exclamation point on what we’ve seen in practice. Both Amorion, Darrius, Tyler Morris — all three of those receivers

Why he hired Mimi Bolden-Morris

Smart, very much a go-getter, somebody that really wanted the position. Not everybody’s signing up to want to be a coach, want to be a graduate assistant, or get into coaching. I’m trying to talk people into coaching all the time. And education.

So that was the thing that stood out the most was that she really wanted to do it and that she was really smart. And since then, have been a lot of great qualities to work with. I mean, there’s enthusiasm, which she brings daily. When I say go-getter, I had hired her and without me knowing that she was voluntarily working at Georgetown University at the football program to prepare herself for this job. And I thought that spoke volumes. She was so good at it that the Georgetown University football program wanted to hire her in a full-time position there.

So a ton of qualities. Lucky for us to be able to hire the position as a graduate assistant.

On the phenomenon of players hurdling

I don’t have an opinion on the phenomenon of hurdling.

Will Luke Schoonmaker or Donovan Edwards be available this week?

We’ll see, we’ll see as the week transpires. Get an update today.

What is he looking at out of Illinois?

For big game, a lot on the line for them, for us. And the way we always approach a game, every day matters but the games count. So putting in our best effort to prep, preparation for the week to study nutrition, hydration, training, practice. And we’re really going to have to be on point.

Is the passing game not working because receivers aren't getting separation?

We’re trying to improve everything: running game, passing game, coverage, I mean, every phase of the game. In your opinion, the passing game isn’t what the running game is. You know this past game — I mean, there’s an adage in football, you have to make them stop something. If they don’t take it away and they don’t stop it then it’s kind of foolish to not keep attempting to — whether it’s throw the ball or run the ball. But I feel good about, feel really, really good about our offense. Feel really, really happy coming off this last ball game and another really good performance. I can’t remember the last time we turned the ball over.

But it’s playing really good, sound football, playing really good up front. Yeah, there’s things that work on both sides of the ball. We’ll continue to do that.

Is he surprised recruiting isn't better?

Just always happy about the guys we get. And whatever the ranking is, sometimes it changes from now until signing day. It did last year. There’s times where they rewrite them after a year. So yeah, just put more stock into the fit really getting the players that are going to be a great fit for the program, and they’re going to look at our program as a great fit as well.

Does he anticipate a surge before signing day?

Yeah, I’d anticipate that.

How does the COVID year affect scholarship numbers?

Yeah, more people have an extra year of eligibility. Maybe one or two, maybe that would actually use that extra year. We’ll see. I don’t think that’s gonna be a high number. There are guys that have played extremely well. Some will be leaving the program this year after three years. Some will be leaving after four. Most of the leaving after — I won’t say most, but within that five-year window. I think they’ve been developed and played well enough on the field to show their value at the next level that it’s not going to take a sixth-year for them to do that. So that’s credit for them. That’s credit to the program.

On his senior class

Just tremendous. It’s such a large group, I think somewhere around 40-42 or 43. Been a tremendous, tremendous group. I mean, it’s made my day-to-day so good. Just being around the type of guys that they are and they work so hard. They cause me very little grief at any time. Can’t say enough good things, really great guys. They don’t have adult problems. They’re just really good, focused, genuine down to earth guys. So, some will be leaving the program, some will be back, but we support them all. Because they’ve just been so good.

The offensive line shuffling

Yeah, I think they’ve handled it really good. And yeah, we are better and deeper because of the experience that some guys have gotten. So yeah, feel good about that.

Story originally appeared on Wolverines Wire