One month ago after Michigan football’s first week of spring practices, defensive end Aidan Hutchinson raved about the team’s energy on the field.
As the team wraps up its allotted 15 spring practices this week, the team appears to be practicing with the same vigor.
“You could feel the positive energy, the good vibes when you walk into the building,” receiver Mike Sainristil told reporters Monday. “Practices, very fun. Our coaches have done a great job of making practice fun. Pre-practice we have music going. And then during practices, just juice flying all around, guys out there yelling, laughing, smiles on everybody’s faces. Practices have been really good with the energy we’ve had.”
After a dismal 2-4 record in 2020, Jim Harbaugh added six new assistants to his staff this offseason, all under age 40. There haven’t been any lingering effects from a dispiriting 2020 season, players say, giving credit to the new coaches and their fresh approach.
While last year’s spring practices were wiped out because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many players on the roster, including Taylor Upshaw, experienced spring under the old coaching regime.
“I would say that it was lacking before,” Upshaw said of energy during spring in previous years. “But there’s more juice (this year). There’s more energy. The periods have been altered, they’re quicker, they’re faster. We have music now, a lot of competitive periods. It gets mixed up, so it’s a lot more entertaining. I can speak for my whole team, and you can ask any of them, they say practice is more fun. It’s 100% more fun; it’s 100% more competitive. But it’s all unity. It’s all for oneness.”
Whether the structure of this year’s spring practices will have an impact on the field this fall remains to be seen. New defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald, 33, is still installing his new scheme, while several position battles on offense still need to be decided, including quarterback. But simple modifications to spring periods, like playing more music on the field, can make a positive impact, players say.
“To the younger culture, music just really gets us going,” Sainristil said. “Before practice, having the music out there. And there’s another period during practice where we play music as well. It just brings you to your comfort zone I feel like. Just having that music, you can go out there and just be energized the whole time.”
Both Upshaw and Sainristil’s comments echo what Hutchinson said at the beginning of spring.
“Everyone in this building, every single coach is kind of ecstatic, and you can kind of feel that high energy in practice,” Hutchinson said. “In practice, I’ve seen some energy, some things I’ve never seen these past three years being on this team. Just those little things that you can tell that guys just want to play ball and guys are just fired up, whether that be the new coaches, whether that be they just love football, but you could tell in practice that there’s a different type of energy around Schembechler.”