More Harbaugh Pre-Spring

Beyond dissecting the depth chart, Jim Harbaugh also talked this week on a range of topics from the winter conditioning and introducing his program, to the month of spring practices ahead, to his goals ahead. Here are selected Harbaugh quotes explaining his offensive system, playcalling, toughness in the spring, believing in the program, his experience so far as Stanford head coach and more.

On Stanford players' buy-in after 10 weeks in the new program:

"I love the attitude on our team.  There has a vision here, from the very beginning.  The nuts and bolts of the plan have been coming together for the last 10 weeks.  It has been implemented in the weight room, and now it goes to the grass.  We put the cleats, put on the great Stanford head gear and the Stanford uniform and go out and practice football - take it to the gridiron.  I love the attitude on our football team right now."

On his concerns heading into the spring:

"There is no concern really right now that stands out.  We don't know who are best players are; that's what we're going to find out.  This is a tremendous opportunity across the board for all of our football players.  Of course, we have an idea on who some of the starters will be - who some of the contributors are and who are the players who will help us win football games.  We want that reinforced on the football field.  Past performance predicts future achievement; therefore there are guys who we anticipate will help us win football games.  But we want that reinforced on the field."

On watching past film of these players versus keeping an open slate:

"We have studied the latest and healthiest tape of every single player on the roster, trying to find anyone who can be a contributor - who is motivated, who is talented, who loves football and who wants to compete.  If we find that guy, there is a spot for him on the football team, and it's our job as coaches to put them in a position to be successful.  Now, we have evaluated that off the film.  We have evaluated that in the weight room.  We have evaluated that in the running sessions.  Now it goes to the football field, where really it counts the most.  We evaluate all things.  We even evaluate what they're doing in the classroom.  All of those things are predictors of who is going to win us games, who will contribute to us and who will ultimately get you beat."

On depth charts:

"There is a depth chart right now.  There will be a depth chart at the end of spring ball.  There will be another coming into training camp, and there will be another when we leave training camp.  All of those evaluations go on daily, as to who our best players are and where they should be playing.  You'll see some players who were on the offensive side of the ball now are playing defense and vice versa.  Getting guys into the positions where we can use their talent and use their experience and leadership to help this football team is an ongoing daily process."

On getting players to believe again after a 1-11 year:

"It hasn't been as difficult as one might have expected.  We have talented guys, experienced guys and guys who have been there before.  We have guys who have a deep desire to win.  They need see what the plan is and be put in a position to be successful, but our attitude has been extremely good.  You would think it would be extremely tough - we only won one game last year.  We won only one football game, and that is tough psychologically.  Equally, it was a beat-up football team.  A third of the team was hurt coming into our off-season program.  That rehabilitation has taken place, and our team is getting healthier and healthier and healthier.  We are at our healthiest we have been since the entire off-season, coming into spring ball."

On the time it takes to implement his system:

"They have already been learning our system.  Our players are dedicating time and effort to learning in the classroom, but they will be much better after spring ball.  They will be much better by the time we get to the UCLA game.  After six months, they will really know this system.  After a year, they will know it like their name.  At two years, they will be able to teach it to other people.  There is a progression there.  Just putting the system out there, we'll go 'whole, part, whole.'  We'll teach the whole, teach the part and then we'll teach the whole again and find out what sticks and what our players do well.  That's the thing - putting our players in a position where they can be successful, by using their talents.  The systems are big enough to encompass the talent of any motivated, talented football player."

"The systems on both sides of the ball, and on special teams, are large enough.  They encompass a lot of things.  I'm not a fan of saying, 'This guy doesn't fit our system.'  Unless we're talking about character, toughness, work ethic and a love of the game.  But talented, motivated guys who like football - we can find a spot for them to contribute in our system because the systems are big enough.  We'll do what our guys do best."

On the competition for players in the first year with a new coaching staff:

"I would be really excited about that as a football player.  Guys who have been here for four or five years who have maybe not played as much as they would have liked to.  Guys who are new and who haven't had a role up to this point.  It's exciting for everybody on the team.  Competitors love this kind of opportunity.  This will be the toughest spring ball in the history of spring ball.  Our team knows that coming in.  That's not by chance; that's by choice.  We have a lot of ground to make up, so we're not worried about the physical nature of the spring that is upon us.  It will be a very tough, competitive, physical spring at Stanford University."

"From a running/hitting standpoint and a mental standpoint and the way we teach and throw things at them - all those things.  Every minute - I won't go to every second - but every minute of spring ball practice for 15 practices has been accounted for.  I did it.  I typed it.  I've seen it on paper.  This is going to be a very demanding, tough spring ball."

On balancing a tough spring ball against injuries to a thin roster:

"We do want to come out with at least 30 guys who either are going to win games for us or not get you beat, who are solid starters and who love football.  You really have to identify those guys.  There are ways we go about preventing injuries in practice - practicing smart, practicing with guys off the ground.  For example, don't grab jerseys.  When you grab a jersey of a guy running full speed, then you are susceptible to hamstring injuries.  There are a lot of techniques and ways to prevent injuries, but that can't be our main focus.  'Gosh, we're afraid to lose five guys.'  That's just not going to be our mentality.  We have ground to make up, and we're going to put the hammer down."

On his experience so far as the head coach at Stanford:

"It's been great.  I've been here three months, and I have not found one thing that I do not like about this job or about Stanford University.  This is the best.  You can have it all here.  You can have it all - academics and BCS football.  I love our athletic department and the support that we have gotten from our administration - from Bob Bowlsby, from Darrin Nelson, from Ray Purpur and right on down the line.  You just couldn't ask for a better situation than what we have from our administration.  Our coaching staff - I love our guys.  I'm the oldest one on our staff at 43.  We have a young staff with big energy, and you will see that at spring ball.  That's an advantage for us.  A huge advantage.  I love our guys.  I love our players at this point.  Like I've said many times, this is a talented football team, and I'm excited to see what they're going to do this spring."

On the offense being installed:

"It is a pro-style system, a West Coast system.  Multiple sets - yes.  Multiple formations.  Movement and shifts.  The illusion of being very sophisticated yet being very simple.  That's our plan."

On the offensive playcalling:

"I call the plays.  I get input from David Shaw, who is up in the box, and Chris Dalman, who is the running game coordinator.  Sometimes you just don't see it when you're down on the field level and you're not getting the perspective.  I just like to have them talking.  I'm hearing and thinking of my own stuff.  That's how we'll do it."

On having Bill Walsh available to him:

"It's a tremendous resource to be able to go down the hall and to see if Bill is in.  He's always open.  We talk about football, talk about evaluation and talk about just anything.  Any subject you bring up, he is just spot-on.  To go in there sit there like a fly on the wall if he's talking to someone else.  He was doing an interview about a week ago, and I just asked if I could sit there for an hour and a half and just soak it up.  When you have the greatest football coach in the history of college or pro football right around the corner, it would be silly to not take advantage of that opportunity.  He's such a good guy and so easy to talk to.  He makes you feel comfortable to talk to.  He doesn't make you feel stupid, even though I've had a few of those moments.  He's a legend.  He knows it all.  There's nothing he doesn't know."

On what can be accomplished in 15 spring practices:

"You can get a lot done with 15 practices spread over three and a half weeks.  That allows you a lot of prep time and meeting time; then practice and then film evaluation in the off days.  It's a great time of the year.  There is no game on Saturday to prepare for.  You are mainly giving guys the opportunity to show what they can do on the field and teach the systems.  Also find out what they young guys can do.  I'm a firm believer that no football player will make as much of a stride as he will from the time in January of his freshman year to September of his sophomore year.  They'll never see another eight-month period where they can make as many gains as that time.  To see them in spring practice - the freshmen from last year - I'm very excited about that.  They're taking advantage of that opportunity right now."

On whether he has ever been more excited to go to practice:

"Never.  Never.  I've been having football dreams as of late.  The last three weeks.  I had a football dream last night, as a matter of fact.  That usually doesn't have until July or August.  I was just out there.  It was muddy and rainy.  I was down doing push-ups in the mud, just working and feeling good.  That's the thing about football - guys love it because of the struggle.  My dream was about the struggle last night.  It was muddy; it was sweaty; and we were just playing ball."

On having former Stanford players Chris Dalman and David Shaw on the coaching staff:

"It's so important.  It's so important to have those guys on the staff.  That was one of the criteria when I was putting the staff together - men who loved Stanford, appreciated what Stanford was about and who wanted to live in the Bay Area.  It meant so much to David and Chris to educate the rest of the staff on what it is to be a scholar-athlete at Stanford.  It's so important.  Also Jon Haskins has been added to our football staff - another former player with great character and great energy.  We're so excited to him.  I still think of myself somewhat as a Stanford man, being here from Palo Alto.  We definitely will always get people who appreciate what Stanford is all about on our football staff."

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