INDIANAPOLIS — After a 2-4 season in 2020, coaching changes and off-season questions about Jim Harbaugh’s future, Michigan linebacker Josh Ross says the football program’s culture is at the highest level he has seen since he joined the Wolverines.
The senior linebacker said there has been negativity from the players that has spread throughout the program in the past. By losing games and denying prospects for the season, players took to the negativity.
That changed for Ross and the team after winter conditioning this outdoor season, as the Wolverines adapted a universal message of responsibility going forward.
“The culture of our team, we turn that page, we change inside, starts with the players,” said Ross. “It starts with us. It’s not just Coach Harbaugh. It’s not just the new defensive coaches or Coach Mike Hart who are coming. It’s us. We have to turn the page, push everything forward and change everything that we do every day have done .”
Bringing in Hart to coach the running backs and Mike Macdonald to take over as defensive coordinator has energized the program, but Ross, defending Aidan Hutchinson and running back Hassan Haskins said they believe it was the players that change from within.
“It’s contagious. Negativity is contagious. That energy is contagious,” Ross said. “It spreads very quickly. That’s the reality. On the other hand, the positive side spreads even faster, especially if it’s a culture built on it.”
The players and the leaders of the team have taken on more responsibility to hold everyone accountable. They believe that if the result changes on the pitch, it will come from them.
“The amount of positivity, how people attack what they’re doing, get extra work, happy to be there, no negativity,” Ross said. “The culture of our program right now is the highest I’ve seen since I’ve been here. People are going to see it, we’ve worked.”
The players recognized that the message of change and a new outcome was there in the past, but the difference for them this time is in the attitude of the players and willingness to take responsibility for bringing about the change.
“The result was 2-4, bad season and guys just want to play ball,” said Hutchinson. “We came out in jump balls, there was energy, and the good thing about it, from what I saw, we stayed consistent through all 15 practices.
“Anyone can be hype on the first day of full pads, but the good thing about what we did was we stuck with it.”
The message was to stay consistent, but also that change will only happen if they work on it every day. Ross acknowledged some of the clichés and said it all happens on the inside and the players are already feeling that difference.
“What makes football so great is that it’s a team sport,” said Ross. “It’s not just the players, not just the coaches, it’s everyone working together. Just as hard as the coaches work, the leaders and players and the culture have to be just as strong and work just as hard. That’s what we have worked on and built to enter the camp.
“I’m excited because it’s going to be a really big camp for us.”
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