CHICAGO — There were plenty of storylines to discuss about Michigan on Monday at Big Ten media days.
Jim Harbaugh and the team’s representatives — Chase Winovich, Karan Higdon, and Tyree Kinnel — were peppered with questions about last season’s 8-5 record, Shea Patterson, lofty expectations facing the Wolverines this year, and, of course, Ohio State.
Here are three Michigan football appetizers:
1. It’s been a constant chorus for Harbaugh and his players since they lost to Michigan State in a driving rainstorm last October: Why can’t you beat your rivals? Then Michigan lost to Ohio State in November, giving Harbaugh an unattractive 1-5 record against UM’s most-hated opponents.
“It drives us quite a bit,” Harbaugh said. “We want to win. We want to win at football. We want to treat people in a first-class manner. We want to win multiple championships. Those are just a couple of our goals. We just keep on that track.”
The recurrence of Ohio State and Michigan State questions doesn’t bother Kinnel. Instead, he chalks it up to how things work when you continually come up short.
“It’s our fault,” he said. “We aren't winning the games. That's what happens in life — if you don't do something, you'll get (reminded) about it. It can get annoying at times, but at the end of the day, if you don’t want to hear it, you have to go out and win. That’s what we want to do. We want to go out and beat them, and then we can talk about them not beating Michigan.”
2. James Hudson was a dominant defensive lineman at Toledo Central Catholic destined to star on Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown’s unit. But soon after arriving in Ann Arbor, Hudson fit a different need and coaches flipped him to the other side of the line. A year later, he’s grown comfortable on the offensive line, so much so that Higdon predicted he would be the breakout player on offense.
“He’s bigger, stronger, faster, moving good,” Higdon said. “He’s just really challenging himself every day to be the best O-lineman he can be.”
During spring practice, Hudson was a popular name Harbaugh dropped when the offensive line was discussed. Ed Warinner also raved about his progress, going as far to say that he couldn’t believe Ohio State never offered him a scholarship.
“There’s work to be done, but there’s real signs there,” Harbaugh said. “There’s been times where you go, ‘There it is. This your position.’ We still got more to improve on, but gosh darn, if the guy can do it once, he can do it again. That’s what we keep telling James. ‘Look, there it is. Do that every single time.’
“Still developing, but we have a great guy in Ed. He’s teaching him all that stuff. We have really high hopes for James.”
Hudson is in a competition for one of the starting tackle positions.
3. The saga of Grant Newsome’s unfortunate leg injury suffered in the 2016 Wisconsin game continues. His goal is to return this season, and Harbaugh said they’ll learn more as camp opens Aug. 3.
“He’s been training hard and we’re going to see where he’s at," Harbaugh said. “We’ll go out on the field and look. A lot of it is the nerve, how is it going to come back? Everyone’s confident it will. When will it? We don't know. It's not in our control, it's not in his control. Until that fully comes back, he won't be playing football. But we’re praying and hoping it does.”
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