INDIANAPOLIS — Fan angst at Michigan is loud and pervasive after failing to meet fans’ high expectations, but it’s nothing like what center Mason Cole recalls experiencing in 2014.
“My freshman year we went 5-7, and that’s about as much noise as you’re every going to hear,” Cole said at the NFL combine. “So a lot of us older guys, at least, had seen the worst.”
The Wolverines finished 8-5 last year and were the Big Ten’s only team to lose a bowl game. Coach Jim Harbaugh was brought in to elevate the program back to winning Big Ten championships, but Michigan has been unable to get past Ohio State in his three seasons. In fact, the Wolverines are a combined 1-5 against the Buckeyes and Michigan State under Harbaugh.
Michigan is 28-11 and 18-8 in Big Ten action with Harbaugh at the helm. The Wolverines never have reached the Big Ten title game under Harbaugh, and losing to Ohio State six straight seasons has incited some angst among Michigan fans, especially for losing ground in recruiting.
That vitriol has yet to affect either his current or former players, Cole said.
“Honestly, you just ignore it,” Cole said. “No offense to the media, but a lot of you guys don’t really know what’s happening in the building, don’t know what the coaches are doing, don’t know what the players are doing. A lot of the stuff you may read is not 100 percent accurate. It’s just trusting your teammates, trusting your coaches, and knowing that those are the guys that matter.
“I haven’t really heard a lot of the scrutiny about Coach Harbaugh. And if there is any, I wouldn’t read too much into it. He’s an unbelievable coach. He’s got those guys on the right path. Obviously we didn’t win as many games as we wanted to last season, but that program, that coaching staff, those players — they’re all headed in the right direction under Coach Harbaugh.”
Harbaugh has reinvigorated the Michigan masses from where they were under Brady Hoke and Rich Rodriguez. Harbaugh’s high-octane theatrics draw both eyeballs and scrutiny from the public. However, his antics are less animated on the practice field.
“I mean, not as much as you think,” Cole said. “He’s tough on us but every time he’d yell at us it’d be for a reason. For practices being dull, he’d bring the offense up. But besides the stuff you see in the game, some of the meltdowns he’s had … that’s just because he’s passionate about us. He’s passionate about Michigan, he’s passionate about us and he wants his players to win.”
When it comes to the players, there are no laughs when Harbaugh gets upset.
“When he’s yelling at us, there’s nothing funny about it,” Cole said. “It’s strictly business for him, especially when it comes to football. And everything he says to us, there’s a lesson from it. Even if he ever did say something sarcastic or funny, there would still be a lesson from it, too. But not a lot of jokes from him when it comes to football.”