What they’re saying ahead of Michigan’s game against IU this weekend:
“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 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.”
“Michigan went 5-7 in 2014. That September, students and fans gathered at The Diag and marched for the firing of athletic director Dave Brandon. That October, Brandon resigned. By December, when Michigan’s season hit a premature end, Hoke was gone, too.
What did all that feel like?
‘Not going to a bowl game, that’s for sure rock bottom,’ Marshall said.
And what does all this feel like now, with Michigan 9-1 and ranked No. 4 entering senior day against Indiana?
‘This is, we almost there,’ Marshall said. ‘We just got to keep going.’
Only a few nights before Wolverine seniors (and likely a few juniors, too) will touch Michigan’s banner and play inside Michigan Stadium for the final time, there was an interesting collection of athletes talking to the media. Like most major college football programs, Michigan’s staff mostly chooses which players talk to reporters during the week. Seniors such as Chase Winovich and Karan Higdon — some of Michigan’s most visible players and guys who sit at this team’s emotional core — were not present.
Instead, Michigan brought out Marshall, special teams aficionado Joe Hewlett and fullback Jared Wangler, all fifth-year seniors, all the last remaining artifacts of the Hoke era, all players with unique perspective on the resurrection of a program. Marshall, Hewlett and Wangler might not get the glory, but they have been there for all the highs and lows of this era of Michigan football.
‘It really has changed a lot,’ Hewlett said. ‘The culture around here has definitely shifted with Coach (Harbaugh), and he’s made changes with coaches and players. Guys expect a lot out of each other. I think that’s definitely one thing. We come in every day, everyone has an expectation that you’re gonna be professional and you’re gonna go about your business and do your job.’
These players were part of the turmoil of 2014, sure. They were also part of the transition to Harbaugh in 2015, then a 2016 team that was one good break away from beating Ohio State and playing for bigger goals.
‘We’ve gone through kind of the roller coaster of people telling you that you’re the greatest thing, and people telling you that you’re almost nothing,’ Wangler said.
Both of those instances are the tent poles for everything happening this season.”
“Coach Jim Harbaugh has the Big Ten’s top recruiting class at this point and seems to have finally installed the formula he was hoping to bring to his alma mater for the past several years. The run-first Wolverines will return the core of an offensive line that has been its most-improved group in 2018.”
Angelique S. Chengelis, Detroit News: Patterson’s Big House adieu? Michigan QB won’t go there
“Approaching his last home game of the season at a stadium where he grew up watching games has given Patterson an opportunity to think about how far he has come since arriving here.
‘It’s been everything and more of what I thought it was going to be,’ Patterson said Tuesday night. “We all just kinda knew we were gonna be pretty good in spring ball and fall camp. Once things started rolling, after that first week, we got a wake-up call and ever since then we just attack every single day with maximum effort. I don’t think we’ve looked past since then so we’re feeling good about it.”
How focused is he on the every day approach? He wasn’t sure if Michigan is 8-1 right now or 9-1.
‘I think we’re just taking it day by day and week by week and that’s the best thing we’ve got going for us is it doesn’t matter who we play,” he said. “Doesn’t matter which day it is, we’re giving it our all.”
Patterson is 16th nationally in completion percentage at 67 percent. He has thrown for 1,927 yards and has 17 touchdowns against three interceptions. Last season, Michigan had nine passing touchdowns.
He has another year of eligibility but could leave Michigan early for the NFL draft.
Patterson says he’s not focused on the next stop in his football career. He was asked Tuesday night if he has thought about whether this is his last game at Michigan Stadium.
‘Not at all,’ Patterson said. ‘Obviously, you think about it, but right now I’m just focusing on this team like everybody else on this team. Guys have a chance to go out early. We’re just focusing on Indiana right now and after that we’re focusing on Ohio State.’”
“After losing its season opener to Notre Dame, Michigan has rattled off nine consecutive victories and looked dominant while doing so. The Wolverines have decimated their opponents this season, winning games by an average of 27.8 points. Although many thought Michigan’s success was due to their softer schedule, its dominant wins over Michigan State and Penn State proved Michigan was for real.
With a season-defining game against Ohio State on the horizon, there’s a chance this could be a trap game for Michigan. It’s likely the Buckeyes will be ranked in the top 10 and the Wolverines will be traveling to Columbus, Ohio, so a matchup with the Hoosiers may not be on the front of Michigan’s mind. With IU’s notable struggles against the Big Ten’s better teams, this might be the best chance IU has for a win.
Not many teams in the country can go toe-to-toe with the Wolverines’ defense. Michigan has stifled teams all season, holding its opponents to less than 13 points per game. In fact, the Wolverines have given up 20 or more points on only three occasions. Michigan is ranked third nationally in scoring defense, just behind national powers Clemson and Alabama.
The Wolverines don’t have many weaknesses on defense, if they have any at all. Michigan is incredibly tough against the run, giving up an average of just 3.1 yards per carry, good for 13th in the country. And as tough as the Wolverines are against the run, they might be even tougher against the pass. Opponents are completing just 47 percent of their passes against Michigan, and when they do, they aren’t going anywhere, averaging just 4.8 yards per completion.”