Harbaugh aims to ‘implement some new things’ in return to sidelines after suspension

When he wasn’t moving the chains at his son’s football game or mowing the front and back lawn between halves, Jim Harbaugh was watching his Michigan squad get out to a 3-0 record without him. 

There is “a lot on the plate right now” for Harbaugh and the Wolverines as they prepare for Rutgers. Harbaugh will return to the sidelines and coach for the first time this 2023 season as he served a self-imposed three-game suspension

Harbaugh spent one week at offensive coordinator Sherrone Moore’s house, another at his own and this past week traveling, so he spent time watching his Wolverines from a variety of places.

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Harbaugh said he saw “all the tremendous positives” that came from others fulfilling their roles in his absence. 

“From other coaches stepping up, other staff stepping up, other players stepping up and just the amount of leadership bonds that were necessary were created,” Harbaugh said. “Moses had 70 leaders. How many do we need? A lot, you know, more. And that really created an opportunity to do that.” 

As far as what he really saw from a game standpoint, Harbaugh said he saw some new viewpoints. 

“From my perspective, I went to a place I’ve never been, which wasn’t on the sideline, as a player or a coach,” Harbaugh said. “I did it quite a bit seeing the game in a different way through a different lens. I think it’s made me a better coach, and as a result going to implement some new things that haven’t done as it relates to just a few policies around here to make sure I don’t ever get sidelined again. Ramping that up to just a gold standard.” 

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Harbaugh said “you can see the things” watching a game on television where a team can improve in areas versus seeing the same play unfold in real time. He said he’s “excited” to implement a system of “what did you do right, what did you do wrong, how did you see this?” 

Additionally Harbaugh said the Michigan program is doing everything it can to have procedures in place to follow the guidelines necessary. He said the goals are to avoid suspensions in the future and be at the top of one’s game. 

“One of them is just the analysts and making sure that there’s just absolutely no coaching whatsoever,” Harbaugh said. “And you say that over and over to guys and it’s just that natural coaching instinct. I got to protect us. I want to protect them. I want to protect me. And we’ve done an incredible job, I mean, gone to the nth degree to follow every rule.”

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Michigan has ridden off to a hot start largely behind the solid play of its quarterback J.J. McCarthy. McCarthy is second in the NCAA with an 82.4% completion and tied for No. 28 behind seven touchdown passes. 

Harbaugh said he thinks Michigan is “very close to getting there in areas” and that the Wolverines have “really improved in a lot of areas” through three weeks this season compared to last. 

“The run game is one where I go, man, there’s a Michigan play right there where all 11 are doing their job exactly how they’re supposed to be doing it,” Harbaugh said. “But just not enough of them yet. It’s not enough of those type plays. And no matter if I’m getting all 11 sometimes it’s nine, sometimes it’s 10. We had one play where it was like, six. That’s really bad, so just getting it all humming. I know it’s super close and a big week for us to learn, to emphasize, to practice, to plan, too.”

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Michigan’s rushing attack is averaging 156.7 yards per game on the ground, and Blake Corum is producing at a large rate. Corum’s six rushing touchdowns are tied for second in the NCAA and he’s tied for third in scoring at an average of 12 points per game. 

Rutgers is also 3-0 and will have to withstand the test of Michigan in order to keep its unblemished record. 

Harbaugh, it appears, is eager to get back on to the familiar sidelines. 

“If I seem a little bit distracted, it’s because I’ve got so much on my mind,” Harbaugh said.