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'Jim Harbaugh's most talented' Michigan team implements 'Beat Georgia' drill

clayton-sayfieby:Clayton Sayfie06/27/23

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Michigan Wolverines football head coach Jim Harbaugh proclaimed at Big Ten Media Days in 2021 that his team was going to “beat Ohio State or die trying.” It wasn’t just talk, though. Michigan named its 9-on-7 period in practice the ‘Beat Ohio’ drill, before winning two straight games against the Buckeyes. Now, the Wolverines have reportedly implemented a ‘Beat Georgia’ period, according to reporter Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports and The Athletic.

Michigan is 25-3 over the last two seasons, with two Big Ten championships. However, the Wolverines have lost in the College Football Playoff semifinals both years, 33-11 to Georgia in 2021 and 51-45 to TCU in 2022. All offseason, players have stressed their desire to take the next step and appear in the national championship game. This newly-named drill is one of the ways that it’s being put to practice.

“A couple of years ago, one of the things that helped flip the switch at Michigan was, they started to really embrace the, hey, we’re going after Ohio State year ‘round, and they put in this ‘Beat Ohio’ period, which is essentially 9-on-7 and getting after them,” Feldman said on the ‘Move The Sticks’ podcast. “Now, I’ve heard they have a ‘Beat Georgia’ period, too. Now, that needs to happen probably in the recruiting office more than anything else, but …”

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Michigan was ever so close to facing Georgia in the national title game last season, but the Wolverines threw two pick-sixes and made other big mistakes in the loss to the Horned Frogs.

“I think Jim Harbaugh knows … he watched and saw what happened with Georgia and Ohio State,” Feldman continued. “They’re a different kind of team than Ohio State. Ohio State with [quarterback] C.J. [Stroud] and their great receivers, they recruit at a high level. But [Michigan has] really good players, too.

“I don’t think people realize how talented [junior quarterback J.J. [McCarthy] is because you get caught up with the great offensive line and really good running backs. It’s not like an air-raid offense. But J.J. is really gifted, and I think we need to see it this year.”

Feldman has Michigan making the playoff once again, and feels this is the Wolverines’ best chance to win it all under Harbaugh.

“I think this will be Jim Harbaugh’s most talented team,” Feldman stated. “They have a bunch of those guys who chose to come back as opposed to leaving early for the NFL Draft. A lot of those guys were real team leaders, and they’re almost all back.

“To me, they not only should be a playoff team, I think if J.J. can take the next step — and he’s going to need a little help from the receivers. If there’s a year Jim Harbaugh can win the national championship, this should be it. This is his most talented team. I don’t want to say they’re the odds-on favorite, but this is the most talented team they’ve ever had.

“Are they more talented than … you have to get through the SEC to win the national title, right? Their arch rival, who they whipped at their own place, was like this close to winning that game and knocking the Bulldogs out of the mix. I think this Michigan team is more talented than the one they just had. I actually think it’s considerably more talented. I like their chances.”

Michigan QB J.J. McCarthy is ‘very gifted’

McCarthy has been projected as a first-round 2024 NFL Draft pick by some, after completing 65 percent of his passes for 2,719 yards and 22 touchdowns with 5 interceptions in leading the Wolverines to a 13-1 record last season. Feldman noted that McCarthy raised his level of play in many big moments.

“J.J. McCarthy is very gifted,” Feldman said. “He can throw on the run. He pretty much has everything you’re looking for. The one thing I don’t think he’s had a lot of is — he plays in a different system. It’s more traditional, pro-style. When I spent some time with [former Michigan quarterback] Alan Bowman — he was the third-string guy at Michigan for a while — he was talking about how there’s like 28 different kinds of footwork you have to learn in that offense. 

“I thought he was really good in the games that mattered to them. Ohio State on the road. I talked to him for something a couple weeks before that game, and I was like, ‘Oooh, this is like bulletin-board material he’s giving me,’ and he was all good with it. And they backed it up.

“They did not have [senior] Blake Corum, All-American running back, and [junior] Donovan Edwards had a big game, but Donovan Edwards was playing with a soft cast on his hand, was banged up. They torched that defense, and [McCarthy] made big throws.

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