Michigan survived a tumultuous season with leadership, ‘Beat Bama’ drills and a guru strength coach


PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — Blake Corum The way he sees it, the Michigan Wolverines are undefeated, top-ranked and two wins away from a national championship, not because of all the turmoil they've overcome this year. .

Michigan's star running back made his thoughts clear Saturday while sitting among his teammates under a large white tent outside the rain-soaked Rose Bowl, where the Wolverines (13-0) face Alabama (13-0) on Monday in the College Football Playoff semifinals. 12-1). ,

"I think we've learned from all of our failures, all of our mistakes," Corum said. “With this team, after everything we've been through this year, I think we're physically and mentally stronger than ever. That's a big part of why we played so well. ... We just came together. A team that I thought couldn't get any closer, we got there. When adversity strikes, you can do two things. You can fall apart, or you can keep going. We just kept going.”

The college football world already realizes that Michigan's pristine record and No. 1 ranking are poor camouflage for a very messy season.

The year ended with the suspension of coach Jim Harbaugh for the first three games and final three games of the regular season. first restriction Whereas, there was a pre-emptive school decision related to the NCAA investigation into Michigan's recruiting. The second was Big Ten-mandatory. For the Wolverines' sign-stealing scandal.

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After six game days without their head coach, the Wolverines were hit with sudden changes – such as Linebackers coach Chris Partridge fired Over the past month – constant social media negativity and general unrest for players in a sport that typically thrives on metronomic routines.

"Michigan against the world was real this season," defensive lineman Chris Jenkins said. Let it rub off on us, and it's because of the culture we're working so hard to create. You've seen it all this year."

That mental toughness builds on physical toughness. The Wolverines talked enthusiastically this week about the benefits of their hard-hitting 9-on-7 drill, which in recent years has changed its name based on its biggest rival: the "Beat Ohio" drill and the "Beat Georgia" drill. "Drill. Now the "Beat Bama" drill.

This practice begins with the sirens of the "Purge" film series, and features full tackles – a no-no in other programs and most NFL teams due to the health risks.

"It's a lot of pad popping, a lot of noise, loud music, a lot of violence," offensive coordinator Sharon Moore said. This, the coaches love this. And I think it's kind of molded us and shaped us into who we were over the last few years and what we need going forward."

Many Michigan players also give significant credit for their stability to Wolverines director of strength and conditioning Ben Herbert. According to his beloved students, Herbert serves as an inspiring mentor who knows just what to say at the right time, and his approach resonates with Michigan's turmoil.

"Coach Herb likes to talk about it like it's a blessing in disguise," receiver Roman Wilson said. “Without adversity, you won't be able to truly grow. You're not going to be anything special. My opinion, I think all these problems, things that are going on, it's really a blessing for us. “That has really helped this team grow to where we are today.”

Receiver-turned-cornerback Mike Senristil sees the no-nonsense attitude in Herbert's overall philosophy as the backbone of the Wolverines' perseverance.

“He always tells us there are a lot of things you can't control, but what you can do is show up and do what you're asked,” Sanristil said. “Don't fall prey to why-me, or other things that allow you to jerk off.”

The distractions haven't stopped even during the quiet weeks of December: ten days ago, Michigan received notice of charges from the NCAA regarding possible recruiting violations during the COVID-19 dead period and coaching activities, which led to Harbaugh's first, pre-emptive suspension.

But even the newest Wolverines have joined their seasoned teammates in attacking the turmoil with unity and tenacity.

"It's been pretty surreal this year," said standout center Drake Nugent, who spent four years at Stanford before transferring to Michigan for this season.

"Clearly a huge change in culture, not only in the program, but outside of the program as well," Nugent said. Coach Harbaugh, he's always in the media doing something. But I've always had a winning mentality, so I think it was good to be a part of a program where everyone else had the same things going for them.

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