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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- On Monday, Jim Harbaugh pointed out the depth of BYU's "big receivers," saying multiple times how the Cougars' wide outs would be a tough cover for U-M's secondary.
And that may be true.
Currently, No. 22 BYU (2-1) has notable taller receivers Mitch Mathews (6-6) and Nick Kurtz (6-5), which could bode trouble for U-M's smaller secondary, right? Well , it depends, Harbaugh says, noting his defense must be more physical and play with sound technique if they are going to be successful versus BYU.
"If you look at our defense, the areas they are improving, more physical, big hits, bigger presence on the defensive side when they arrive at the ball and make contact," said Harbaugh.
Adding: "We're better in the secondary getting our hands on the ball. Jourdan Lewis was the player of the game defensively (against UNLV). He had four pass break ups. He defended the deep ball well. (Jeremy) Clark got an interception. (Channing) Stribling got an interception. And we talked about that was area point of emphasis we wanted to be, get better at. We're improving there. we're going to have to be good this week. BYU is really good throwing the football. Big receivers, they will challenge you down field."
Harbaugh Talks Individual Secondary Play
Lewis, who leads U-M with six pass defections through its first three games, has shown great "instincts" this season , says Harbaugh, noting his overall improved play.
"I think he's got really good instincts," Harbaugh said of Lewis. "He's got initial quickness. He's got long speed. He's got the ability to play the ball. Dart, things you look for in a corner. And he's a willing tackler. And he can improve in that area in terms of technique. But he's coming, he's coming and improving. I'm excited about him."
However, none have improved more than Stribling, says Harbaugh.
"None have shown more improvement than Channing Stribling," Harbaugh said. "Tall, rangy, long armed corner that could be great. Could be really good. You know once they've done it, they can expect themselves to do it. That should help his confidence. I'm excited about big things from him.
"There is others -- secondary is coming together."
But to no surprise, Harbaugh brought up the strong play of do-it-all safety Jabrill Peppers.
"He's really an explosive football player," Harbaugh said. "A talented football player, learning the game, learning the pursuit angles. Understanding special relationships. And then letting his talent show even more. He's got good instincts, but there is time on task especially for a safety that's important. He's got to work at corner and nickel as well. He's playing a lot of football. He has the most snaps of any player on our team again this week. Both the Utah game and (UNLV) game he was first in the amount of football that he is playing.
"It's really good for him. You get better at football by playing football. I have always thought that."
Remembering his first encounter with BYU
Harbaugh, who was injured when Michigan lost to BYU 24-17 in 1984 Holiday Bowl, discusses U-M's only other meeting with the Cougars.
"I remember it," Harbaugh said. "It was the Holiday Bowl. I broke my arm about the fifth game, I think. I wasn't playing. So I remember it. We lost, I remember that."
BYU was named 1984 national champions after the win.