ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Anyone that’s played organized athletics understands how a practice works.
In basketball, the team is split in two for a scrimmage at the end with the winning five standing on the sideline as the losers sprint up and down the floor to learn from its mistakes.
In football, the same can be said, unless you’re a member of the Michigan football program. There’s a new sheriff in town at Schembechler Hall and Jim Harbaugh is doing things his way with the Wolverines.
At every practice this spring, Harbaugh has designated a winner between the offense and defense. The winning group is the one doing extra gassers on the field because winners deserve the chance to get better, according to Harbaugh.
“It’s different,” Michigan freshman defensive tackle Bryan Mone said. “I like it. At first I was like I’ve never even heard about this before but if you think about it you do really get the chance to get better.”
Although none of Michigan’s players would actually admit to wanting to run extra gassers -- not surprisingly -- Harbaugh’s practice strategy is fostering a competitive balance focused on winning.
“He explained it well so I felt like guys had a good attitude about it,” senior wide receiver Amara Darboh said. “He was like, only the guys that win get a chance to get better. And then the first practice we lost and watched the defense run.
“At the end when we broke we were like that didn’t feel good to just stand there and watch. You kind of feel guilty like we lost and we’re just standing here so we have to make sure we won and even things out.”
Spring practice is also offering an opportunity for Michigan to get acclimated to a higher level of intensity, including four-hour practices.
Throughout certain drill work, Harbaugh himself is even jumping in to participate.
“He was the quarterback when we were doing 1-on-1’s, just motivating me more to get a sack,” Mone said laughing.
“He just had the ball, stepped up and I caught him once or twice,” added Mone. “I wish I could (hit him). Just kidding.”