Harbaugh: Offense Needs To Be, And Should Be Better

Harbaugh: Offense Needs To Be, And Should Be Better

Football

Harbaugh: Offense Needs To Be, And Should Be Better


Michigan football’s headman admits that his offense wasn’t what it needed to be a year ago, but likes where it’s headed going into next season.


Harbaugh: Offense Needs To Be, And Should Be Better

Michigan’s 8-5 record in 2017 can almost squarely be put on its offense.

At this point, it’s beating a dead horse to continue to discuss how last year’s mediocre — and sometimes outright bad — quarterback play and pass protection issues cost the Wolverines the opportunity to play for the Big Ten. The defense held up (most) of its part of the bargain, remaining stingy in every game but one, and giving the offense its opportunity to win games late.

Every game in 2017 except for the defensive debacle at Penn State was winnable late in the fourth quarter.

So, what has Michigan done to fix these ills? Revamped, and it has done so in a big way.

Former offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Tim Drevno is gone, and Ohio State’s former OL guru, Ed Warinner joins a new cast of coaches who aren’t only excellent at their on-field tutelage, but are also all ace recruiters. A renewed focus has been put on strength and conditioning, with former Arkansas S&C coach Ben Herbert having revolutionized how the players attack the weight room.

One such player, running back Karan Higdon, is bigger and faster than ever. Sources recently told WolverinesWire that Higdon has added 13 lbs. so far this offseason, and that the added muscle not only hasn’t inhibited his speed, but it’s made him faster.

The additions of Warinner and Herbert are significant for multiple reasons, but perhaps none more than what will happen for the Wolverines up-front offensively. With solid early returns this spring on the OL’s improvement, and stories of the running backs continuing to improve, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh is excited to see how an enhanced rushing attack can benefit the offense as a whole.

Harbaugh spoke to ESPNU Radio on SiriusXM late last week, and admitted that the offense not good enough, but feels like the appropriate action has been taken to rise that side of the ball a level up.

It starts up front with the running game and the offensive line, and if the improvement there is for real, then maybe the offense’s woes of a year ago have been solved.

“It’s good, old-fashioned football since they invented the game and wore leather helmets,” Harbaugh told ESPNU Radio on SiriusXM. “Believe strongly in the running game and the play-action that comes off it, and, of course, the drop-back passing. All those facets of the game. We want to be good on offense. We want to be improved. We were not the kind of offense – as good as we wanted to be last year. The defense really was good. We’ve got to bring the offense a level up. That’s been a big priority for us.”

But, of course, it’s not just the offensive line (or the running game) that fans and prognosticators have their eyes on.

The quarterback position — more than equally mired in the Wolverines oft-negative punditry of a season ago — has seen big changes from this time last year, when Wilton Speight and John O’Korn were supposedly battling it out for the starting job. After Speight’s Week Four back injury, O’Korn took the reigns, and the maize and blue went from potential Big Ten East contenders to also-rans in a matter of games.

All summer long in 2017, a host of fans reverberated through the message boards and internet communities, clamoring for Brandon Peters to get the nod over Speight in the first place, after a handful of throws in a somewhat decent Spring Game gave the Ann Arbor faithful hope at the position. But, Peters wasn’t ready for primetime, and perhaps still wasn’t fully, until O’Korn’s struggles were too great to ignore, and the second-year signal caller was thrust into action against Rutgers.

And he played strong, despite the limitations on passing plays, until he was knocked out unconscious in the Wolverines penultimate regular season game. His return in the Outback Bowl looked how one would expect after receiving a devastating, concussive blow: tentative and uneven.

But Michigan’s QB room looks worlds different this offseason, with not only Peters and former four-star, Elite 11 quarterback Dylan McCaffrey returning, but having added former five-star (and 20/1 odds Heisman candidate) Shea Patterson to the mix. Throw in true freshman early-enrollee Joe Milton — who may have the strongest arm of the bunch — to the mix, and the Wolverines QBs have gone from trying to light a stove on fire with a magnifying glass to cooking with gas.

Harbaugh agrees, and is excited about what his group — that which he looks over more than any, as a former QB himself — is capable of.

Michigan fans may not have gotten a glimpse of what each can do, as this year’s Spring Game was canceled due to projected inclement weather. But Harbaugh told ESPNU Radio on SiriusXM that the unit is ticking up, moving forward, and that the offense has become much more dynamic as a result.

“The quarterback play this spring was much improved, as an entire group,” Harbaugh said. “Shea did a fantastic job. All of our quarterbacks – Dylan McCaffrey, Brandon Peters, Joe Milton – really had good springs. Feel better about the level of quarterback play on our football team, and I think we’re going to see an improved football team – a big part of that because of the quarterback play.”

Special thanks to SiriusXM’s Allie Gehring and Kevin Bruns for the audio.

Contact/Follow @WolverinesWire@isaiahhole

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