Michigan offensive line coach Ed Warinner speaks to the media on Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018, in Ann Arbor.
Nick Baumgardner, Freep
In reality, they were all Jim Harbaugh’s guys.
The players who helped Michigan double its win total from a year prior during Harbaugh’s first season in 2015 were, for the most part, recruited by Brady Hoke.
And while a flawed narrative continued through a productive 10-win 2016 season, that Harbaugh was living off a lot created by the staff he replaced, reality knew otherwise.
Michigan’s football program changed the day Harbaugh walked into that first meeting. Everyone knew it.
“The guys that bought in are out here making plays,” former Michigan center, and current Detroit Lion, Graham Glasgow said after a season-ending Citrus Bowl win in Harbaugh’s first season. “The guys that didn’t aren’t. And they’re not going to end up being here.”
The breakdown: Michigan vs. Indiana scouting report, prediction
The guys who remain are, without exception, Harbaugh guys. And Saturday vs. Indiana, a host of those players — against odds — will walk down the Michigan Stadium tunnel for the final time.
Chase Winovich went from linebacker to tight end to nothing to All-Big Ten defensive end. Lawrence Marshall and Jared Wangler came when Michigan was at the bottom, and have survived long enough to contribute as it’s surging.
Karan Higdon was a late signing in Harbaugh’s first recruiting class. Tyree Kinnel was a player who stuck with his commitment throughout a month-long coaching search. Both are now senior captains. Jon Runyan Jr. and Juwann Bushell-Beatty were both recruited by Hoke and, prior to the start of this season, were cast off by most as misses.
Brandon Watson, a fifth-year senior corner, is a player who was just starting out here when Harbaugh took over. Same with Bryan Mone and Noah Furbush. All stayed, and all are now fixtures of the top-ranked defense in the country.
Don’t forget about the walk-ons. Harbaugh loves all walk-ons. Fifth-year players like Joe Hewlett (now on scholarship), Andrew Robinson and Matt Mitchell. Jacob West, Brendan White, Louis Grodman, Kenneth Ferris, Joseph Files, Jameson Offerdahl, Jack Dunaway and John Luby are seniors now.
“One thing a lot of the seniors have done is try to keep the young guys informed,” Wangler said this week. “A lot of the young guys, especially the true freshmen, they’re coming in and they think this is the norm. Obviously, we’re trying to make this the norm, but it doesn’t always work out like that.
“So (we tell them) to keep your head forward and do the right things in order to continue winning and do it the right way. Because it can flip on you. As we’ve experienced.”
Michigan football: Championship hopes kept fifth-year seniors at U-M
Plenty have left, of course. Only eight of the 14 players signed in 2015 (Runyan, Gentry, Kinnel, Higdon, Grant Newsome, Grant Perry, Reuben Jones and Nolan Ulizio) are left. But those still standing, and running through the tunnel Saturday, are full-fledged members of Harbaugh’s Michigan, his first true senior class.
None of this touches on the current junior class that’s buoyed by possible NFL draft picks. Devin Bush Jr., Rashan Gary and Lavert Hill could be pros next year. Harbaugh recruited those three players as hard as any trio he has had in a class signed to date. He also, you’ll recall, climbed a tree for David Long.
They’re all Harbaugh guys now.
Now to the game against Indiana on Saturday, and what I’ll be watching:
Stay healthy (again)
It’d be surprising to see Michigan put Shea Patterson in any situations where he’ll be taking unnecessary hits in this game, same as last week. It would also be surprising to see anything other than a vanilla game plan vs. Indiana, with Ohio State looming in a week.
Michigan was careful with Higdon in terms of his workload, and that might happen again. The Wolverines rotated a lot of receivers early and often, trying to keep them fresh but also game ready. Tarik Black has been eased back in, and that may continue. And we’ll see if Michigan plays Hill or Josh Metellus defensively.
The win is goal No. 1. Having fresh bodies is goal No. 2.
It must correct itself at some point, right? Quinn Nordin has missed four of his past seven field goal attempts. He didn’t try one last week at Rutgers. We’ll see if he gets his shot vs. Indiana. But Nordin’s backup is true freshman Jake Moody. So, barring a total collapse, Nordin is Michigan’s kicker.
Michigan appears to still have trust in him, but he’s going to have to start finding some consistency. Otherwise, the Wolverines may wind up going for it on fourth down depending on certain situations.
Peyton Ramsey’s turnovers (11 interceptions) have been a problem, but he has been an ascending passer this season for Indiana. The sophomore quarterback is mobile enough to make things happen with his legs if defenses fall asleep (he has four rushing touchdowns) and he’s completing 67.2 percent of his throws.
They have mostly been moderate chunks, however, as his yards per attempt sits at 6.5 on the season. Indiana’s offensive line has given up 23 sacks, and the turnover situation has been a problem for Ramsey. This could be an interesting tune-up for Michigan’s pass defense before facing Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins.
U-M film study: Shea Patterson heating up at right time
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Contact Nick Baumgardner: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nickbaumgardner.