ANN ARBOR, Mich. — When Brady Quinn spoke earlier this week with Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh, the third-year Wolverines coach posed an analogy to the former Notre Dame quarterback.
In particular, Harbaugh compared the chemistry between quarterback Wilton Speight and his wide receivers to a tightly packed jar of pickles.
“He said, ‘it’s kind of like opening a pickle jar,’ ” said Quinn, who is now a college football color analyst for FOX Sports. “It can be packed so tight … once you pull one out, it’s going to start coming.”
Quinn admits he isn’t a fan of pickles. But he understood the analogy Harbaugh posed, the values of persistence and patience and how those are vital to Michigan’s offense. That offense has been productive but hasn’t been outstanding, despite Michigan’s 3-0 record — and much to the chagrin of Michigan fans.
Quinn will be on the television call with play-by-play announcer Joe Davis and sideline reporter Bruce Feldman when No. 8 Michigan faces Purdue at 4 p.m. ET on Saturday in West Lafayette, Ind. A month ago, it was a matchup that may not have registered on college football’s proverbial Richter scale. But with Michigan’s recent offensive struggles and Purdue’s strong start, there’s growing anticipation around the Big Ten opener for both teams.
On Speight’s development
Speight, Quinn said, is in the process of building trust and confidence in a group of new receivers, and that’s a process that isn’t instantaneous.
“It’s easier for older guys who have more experience to trust those guys quicker,” said Quinn, who was a quarterback at Notre Dame from 2003 to 2006. “In college football, you can’t trust a guy until you get into real, live-game scenarios. A lot of people who are frustrated, you have to be patient.
“You’d rather him and Michigan be playing their best football in the end rather than in the beginning. There’s a fair amount of time to get this on track.”
Quinn knows the quarterback is the face of the program and typically bears the brunt of outside criticism.
“The quarterback’s the one out there playing,” Quinn said. “At some point, Jim Harbaugh will take some of the blame, and that’s always how it works, especially if they lose a game. That’s when people could say, ‘Jim Harbaugh needs to make a change.’
“But those guys are tied at the hip. I respect the fact that Jim Harbaugh has been very positive. He’s been very good in keeping confidence in his quarterback.”
Quinn also offered perspective on how to handle the criticism: you don’t have time to do it.
“You’re so busy in your preparation, and how you schedule your day, that it’s kind of hard,” Quinn said. “But if you want to find time, do it. Either the good criticism or bad, how does it make you better as a player? It doesn’t.
In the zone
Earlier in the week, Michigan’s players vowed they would fix what plagues the offense in the red zone, whether it was broken plays, out-of-reach passes or fumbles.
With three games played, many believe this should be the turning point for Michigan’s offense, which averages 402 yards but continues to struggle within the red zone.
“The first fix is to run the football,” Quinn said. “Once they get to that point in the field, they start to stall. A few missed blocks, a broken play and they have to pass.”
Michigan is averaging 1.8 yards per carry inside an opponent’s 20-yard line, but, Quinn said, that number is “not good. You like to average 4 yards a carry.
“The closer they get, the less effective they are at running the football. In the red zone, the run plays have to be effective.”