In his press conference-video interview earlier this week, Michigan head football coach Jim Harbaugh was his usual upbeat, positive and focused self. He looked good and certainly feels good about his 2020 Michigan Wolverines.
It’s a late start for the Maize and Blue. And it’s certainly a different start. But this is where it all starts – on Saturday night in Minnesota against the Golden Gophers.
And Harbaugh is eager to get it going.
“The players have been through a lot, and they are really excited (to be playing on Saturday),” Harbaugh said about facing the Golden Gophers. “They’ve done a great job.”
Harbaugh says he feels “great” about his team and how they have looked in this strange off-season.
“There is nothing more important than one-ness, and I feel like we are at a championship level in terms of that,” he said. “What we are drilling down the most on right now is assignments and chasing perfection.”
Michigan has never caught perfection under the one-time standout U-M player and now popular head football coach. But the Wolverines have shown a consistency of success under the former San Francisco 49ers head coach.
Michigan has won 10 games in three of Harbaugh’s five seasons and has won 47 games to just 18 loses.
This will be the first time in school history that Michigan plays only conference opponents and there will be plenty of other “firsts” during this challenging year. The biggest challenge isn’t stopping the run, protecting the quarterback or not turning the ball over – although they are important – but keeping everyone safe.
And it’s a challenge Harbaugh and his staff are taking very serious.
He says following all the safety protocols and listening to their team doctors to keep everyone safe has been “a huge priority since back in March.”
“(Getting the virus) can happen to anyone, anyone can get it,” said Harbaugh, who did say there have been positive cases within the program since September. “We are being virus strong and sticking together and doing as much as we can to keep ourselves safe and healthy and others as well. We continue to stay vigilant and I’m proud of our guys.”
The Wolverines – players and coaches – are tested daily and must test negative before they can step on the practice field. They also will be tested prior to Saturday’s game.
“We hope to stay positive and test negative so we can play,” Harbaugh said.
Harbaugh wouldn’t commit to naming Joe Milton the team’s starting QB on Saturday night, but the junior from Florida has been working with the first team during practices.
“Naming a starter at this point is a daily thing right up until game time,” Harbaugh said. “It’s tough for me to say anyone is going to be starting at this point. We have to test on Friday before we leave in order to make the trip, and if they test negative on game day they won’t be able to play.”
Harbaugh would commit that Milton has shown “a lot of great things” in practice.
“He’s made a lot of strides, has gotten a lot reps and he’s shown a good command of the offense, savviness and a lot of talent,” Harbaugh said.
Milton is the only QB on the roster with collegiate game experience for the Wolverines. He played quarterback in eight career contests, completing 6-of-11 passes for 117 yards and one TD with two interceptions. He played in four games during the 2019 season, passing for 59 yards and rushing for 16 yards.
The Wolverines return nine starters on offense (four) and defense (five) along with four returning specialists.
“In terms of talent, I feel really good about them,” Harbaugh said. “I’m excited to watch all our guys compete in the game.”
U-M Season Opener
What: #17/#18 University of Michigan Wolverines (0-0) at #21 University of Minnesota Golden Gophers (0-0)
Where: TCF Bank Stadium • Minneapolis, Minn.
When: Saturday, 7:44 p.m.
Radio: Michigan/IMG Sports Network
Live Stats: MGoBlue.com
Worth Noting: U-M begins its 141st season of gridiron action in 2020. This will be the 97th meeting for the Little Brown Jug; U-M has a 71-23-2 record for the trophy.