Michigan Football Preview 2017

2017 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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6 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2017 FOOTBALL PREVIEW Football — it's not fun when you lose. That's a heartbreaking thing. But then there's a new week and a new opportunity, and I definitely get happier and happier as that new opportunity approaches. So win the next game — that's my mindset. — Jim Harbaugh A new season represents a whole new world of opportunity. Michigan's head coach flashed more than a few smiles along the way, whether delivering a calf or delivering a winged helmet to the Pope. He acknowledges dreaming football dreams, often involving him entering the fourth quarter of a game hanging in the bal- ance. That's when the sport tastes most deli- cious, competitive fires ranging and a victory waiting to be savored. When the potential win turns to ashes — like it did in three of Michigan's final four games of 2016 — the taste turns bitter. At the same time, Harbaugh counters with a turnaround comment: "Don't get bitter, get better." The question becomes, how does that hap- pen when 19 players from 2016 are now in the NFL, 11 drafted and eight signing free agent deals? The prognosticators say it can't, pegging the Wolverines third again in the East Division of the Big Ten. Some tab Michigan as a top-10 team nationally. They just think U-M can't get over the top in the Big Ten, given a dramati- cally revamped crew that faces a whiteout at league champion Penn State and another tough road trip to Wisconsin a week before preseason No. 2 Ohio State rolls into town. Just can't be done … they say. Of course, that's like waving a red cape in front of the bull in the big office at Schem- bechler Hall. He's training 100 more behind him, and looking to come out on Sept. 2 like Arlington, Texas, is Pamplona, Spain. Can't beat Penn State, the crew Michigan dismantled in Ann Arbor, 49-10, before the Nittany Lions somehow transformed them- selves into a competent team? Can't beat Ohio State, which trailed Michigan at home, 17-7, before an exasperating confluence of mistakes and Columbus cooking resulted in a double-overtime loss? No, they say. Different team. Different deal. Realistic expectations for life are that we are going to be better today than we were yesterday, be better tomorrow than we were today. That's a plan for success. So simple: just work. Harbaugh's words ring especially true for this crew. The starting quarterback returns. So do several backs, a couple of strong start- ers on the offensive line, and one linebacker off a defense that led the nation in least yard- age surrendered. That's a bit misleading, especially in terms of the defense. While fifth-year senior linebacker Mike McCray is the only return- ing full-time starter, a host of others saw significant time on the field. In sophomore defensive end Rashan Gary, redshirt junior defensive tackle Bryan Mone, fifth-year senior defensive tackle Maurice Hurst Jr. and redshirt junior defensive end Chase Winovich, the Wolverines field one of the best fronts in the country. McCray, sophomore linebacker Devin Bush Jr. — one of the fastest Michigan has ever fielded at the position — and sopho- more viper Khaleke Hudson should be for- midable to start and grow together as the season progresses. "We had 14 guys at the NFL Combine," former Michigan All-American Jon Jansen noted. "But we've got talented guys behind them, so it's not going to be a matter of tal- ent. It's going to be a matter of, how do we get those guys experience? "How do we get them ready to play and to step in against Florida in Texas to start the season?" The how rests in the hands of Harbaugh, defensive coordinator Don Brown, offensive coordinator Tim Drevno, etc. One could do worse, when in search of clay molders. It can be a great temptation to rest on the field and let the opponent have a play with- out making him pay for every inch. I must hold his pain where it is. Mine does not mat- ter. … The punishment I inflict, his fatigue, and that he is up against something that he does not comprehend is everything. Don't look for Harbaugh to make any big predictions or guarantees about this season. That would be foolish. At the same time, if the Wolverines claw past the Gators in Jerry World, it says here they roll into State Col- lege at 6-0. At that point, nothing is new anymore. It's about will and grit and execution, against teams that have undergone their own up- heavals. It will be: win the next game. Harbaugh plans to do just that — every single time. ❏ WOLVERINE WATCH JOHN BORTON Opportunity Awaits For A 'Too-Young' Team Editor John Borton has been with The Wolverine since 1991. Contact him at jborton@thewolverine.com and follow him on Twitter @JB_Wolverine. Head coach Jim Harbaugh has not adjusted his expectations despite losing 19 players from last year's team to the NFL. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN

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