The Wolverine

September 2017

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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SEPTEMBER 2017 THE WOLVERINE 9 BY JOHN BORTON E's Adam Rittenberg sees a blessing and a curse in having Jim Harbaugh as a head coach, when it comes to preseason expectations. On the one hand, Harbaugh consis- tently produces successful squads, giving reason to believe he'll do so again. On the other, after the Wolverines lost 19 players from 2016 to the NFL, some still have Michigan ranked in the top 10 nationally. That's a tall or- der, but it comes with the elite terri- tory Harbaugh occupies. Rittenberg, in Chicago for the Big Ten football meetings, spoke exclu- sively to The Wolverine regarding Har- baugh and his third U-M squad. "It's a really interesting team, be- cause if you took the name and the coach away, you'd say, 'Well, this team could reasonably, realistically go 9-3, maybe 10-2, and that would be a really good season, given what hap- pened,'" Rittenberg assessed. "The problem is, it's another year without winning the Big Ten. It's another year without beating Ohio State. A third of those is going to pile up, even though we all agree the trajectory of the pro- gram is going up substantially. "It's one of those weird years where, if they won the Big Ten, it would be this great story because of what they lost. In many ways, that would be overachieving, because of what they lost. It's really going to test a great coaching staff." One of the coaches tested the most will be defensive coordinator Don Brown, Rittenberg assured. Brown has a host of performers from last year competing for jobs in the NFL now. "I'm really interested to see what Don Brown does with basically a clean slate, but more of their own players they've recruited," Rittenberg said. "But also can they be a little bit more explosive offensively? "They're probably going to have to rely a little bit more on the offense this year, because there is such a new group of key guys on defense." Rittenberg noted that plenty of change can take place over the course of a season, both for individual play- ers and for the team itself. "They're going to have to be at their best at the end of the season this year, as opposed to last year, where they clearly weren't," he said. "They clearly peaked early. Even though they played well for stretches against Ohio State and Florida State, I think they were better than both of those teams, and they lost. "It's going to have to be one of those building-type years, where you are at your best down the home Inside Michigan ATHLETICS ESPN College Football Expert: Don't Count Out The Wolverines Despite a lot of roster turnover,'s Adam Rittenberg believes Jim Harbaugh and Michigan have what it takes to knock off Ohio State in 2017. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN

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