Michigan finished 2-4 last year leaving a lot of people disappointed, especially the players. Senior linebacker Josh Ross spoke with the media during Big Ten Media Days and repeatedly said, "That's not Michigan football," when referencing last year's results. He was asked about the culture, the new energy, his teammates and even his own legacy as the Wolverines prepare for fall camp, and he said at least five different things that should get the Michigan fanbase fired up.
"We’ve got to change. We’ve got to change our environment. We’ve got to be better leaders. We’ve got to be more accountable. We’ve got to be more and better. We have to do that ourselves. The coaches can’t do that for us."
Ross has always had incredible intangibles. When he was in high school, the Michigan coaches saw him as a future captain. He's smart, mature and demanding. All three are great qualities for a fifth-year senior linebacker. I believe what he's saying, I truly do, and I think it's heartfelt from him. Of course, saying and doing are two different things. I would never be worried about Josh Ross when it comes to positively influencing an environment or when it comes to pushing his teammates to be better. But not everyone is Josh Ross. If Ross and other leaders like Aidan Hutchinson, Brad Hawkins, Hassan Haskins and Ronnie Bell can push their peers and get the best out of them, Michigan could surprise some folks this season.
"We want to win. As bad as our fans want to see us win, we want to win even more because we’re actually out there."
As critical as I've been of Jim Harbaugh, I sincerely subscribe to this line of thinking. I don't think Harbaugh has been good enough, and I think several players have been utilized incorrectly, but I've never paid any attention to anyone who says that Harbaugh doesn't want it enough, isn't fiery enough anymore or just doesn't have the passion that he once did. Nobody wants to win more than Harbaugh and his players. Period.
"Some of my friends now — Josh Uche, Khaleke Hudson, David Long, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Cesar Ruiz — all these guys I’ve played with. They’re some of my closest friends. It means the world to me to make them proud of us. That’s why this year is so important."
This is just a badass line. Those guys are getting paid to play on Sundays, but Ross hasn't forgotten about where they came from and still remembers what it was like to bleed and sweat alongside of them. I'm sure those guys feel like they came up short at Michigan. None of them beat Ohio State. None of them won a Big Ten title. Ross knows this and wants to do something about it for his brothers. That's what football is all about.
"The new guys are young, energetic, fiery, smart, know they’re stuff. They’re teaching us and we’re learning. We’re growing every day. During spring ball, the way our unit learned and really developed, I can’t wait to get camp started."
We've all heard good things about the new hires, and I'm sure a lot of it is genuine and positive. And getting younger and more diverse, while bringing new ideas and a new level of energy is great. But they still have to coach football, and I do have some reservations about that. Several guys are doing a job for the first time, which almost always comes with growing pains. I like a lot of what I'm hearing, but I'm not ready to anoint the entire new staff as surefire upgrades over the assistants from last year.
"That’s the way we want it, to be honest with you. We want to be the underdog. We want everybody to say — say whatever you want to say. We know the work we’ve been putting in. Nobody else has been seeing the work but us. They’re going to see when we show it."
I understand what Ross is saying here, and if it works as a motivational tool for him and his teammates, great. But being the underdog has literally been a terrible thing for Jim Harbaugh during his time at Michigan. The Wolverines are 0-11 as underdogs during Harbaugh's tenure and consistently lose to the teams with comparable or better talent. Plus, why would you want to be the underdog? Wouldn't you rather be a really good team that's expected to beat just about everyone you play? I don't think Clemson or Alabama or Ohio State have an issue with being favored all the time. Again, I understand that Ross is trying to turn the reality of the situation into something he and his teammates can use, but I just don't think the current state of the program is the preferred one.