Harbaugh hailed as football genius by 12th-ranked Wolverines


Larry Lage

AP Sports Writer

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Sometimes, Jim Harbaugh sounds as if he is talking to himself during team meetings. Other times, he is the star — or stars — of a one-act play for his team that sends a particular message.

Tight end Jake Butt recalled Harbaugh once showing and telling the Wolverines to take advice from a guy getting a 4.0 grade-point average in all of his classes, not someone who cheated on a test.

“He’ll act it out and have conversations between the two people that he’s describing,” Butt said. “Like imaginary conversations.”

Or there was the time a call didn’t go the Wolverines’ way and Harbaugh went “insane,” according to Butt, while arguing on the sideline even though his team was leading Northwestern 31-0.

“He streaks for perfect in everything he does,” Butt said.

Harbaugh is certainly putting on a show six games into his tenure at Michigan. He has his players’ rapt attention, and he is working on the rest of the college football world, too.

No. 12 Michigan (5-1, 2-0 Big Ten) already has matched last year’s total number of wins under Brady Hoke. The Wolverines, led by their No. 2-ranked defense, have won five straight games since opening the season with a loss at Utah.

Harbaugh has thrown himself into the task of rebuilding the proud program where he starred as a quarterback under Bo Schembechler, and he is doing it mostly with players he didn’t recruit. His team is loving every minute — quirks included.

“Nobody, actually, thought it would come this quickly,” cornerback Jourdan Lewis said. “He’s a football genius. And, this is just a byproduct of that.”

The Wolverines are favored to beat No. 4 Michigan State (6-0, 2-0) by about a touchdown on Saturday at the Big House, where the buzz is most definitely back.

“I’m sure there’s going to be attempts to build the game up,” Harbaugh said, refusing to promote the intriguing matchup. “But we’re working and not worrying.”

The Spartans have won six of the last seven meetings, but they haven’t faced Harbaugh and his rapidly, improving new-look team yet.

“In the past six to eight years, you didn’t see the team get markedly better as the season went along like they are now,” former Wolverines player and current play-by-play broadcaster Jim Brandstatter said. “They were the same, or they had gotten worse, by the end of the season.”

Instead of playing a soft zone on defense, cornerbacks play in-your-face coverage. On offense, a slew of formations are used and anyone, including fullbacks and tight ends, are options.

“When I sit up there in the stadium and watch them play, it’s just fun to watch,” former Michigan coach Lloyd Carr told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Harbaugh has generated a ton of attention since he returned for a second time to Ann Arbor more than nine months ago instead of staying in the NFL.

Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio insisted he doesn’t have a problem with Harbaugh or the adoration he has been showered with in the state and around the country.

“That’s not the man, that’s the hype,” Dantonio said Wednesday in a telephone interview. “He has handled himself extremely well. Obviously, he is a great football coach. That has been proven.”

Larry Lage

AP Sports Writer

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