ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Jim Harbaugh can usually sense when the start of the season is close.
“For me, I know when I get my first football dream, then it’s my body clock telling me it’s time to compete,” Harbaugh said. “It’s like the bell in a boxing match.”
The new Michigan coach met with reporters Tuesday, with the beginning of fall camp not far off. He remained cautious about his goals for the season, saying only that he wants the team to improve with each day. He also gave an update on wide receiver Dennis Norfleet’s status.
In May, Norfleet’s high school coach told The Detroit News and MLive.com that he had been dismissed from the team, but Michigan said then that his status was an internal matter. Harbaugh said Tuesday that Norfleet has been released and can talk to other schools, but that a plan was put into place that would enable the receiver to “achieve his goals academically and athletically” at Michigan.
“It’s our desire that he remains at Michigan and gets his Michigan degree,” Harbaugh said.
The 5-foot-7 Norfleet has caught 21 passes for 157 yards in three seasons at Michigan. He has made a bigger impact on special teams, averaging 23.4 yards per kick return.
Michigan opens the season Sept. 3 at Utah — an immediate test for the Wolverines in their first game under Harbaugh. The Utes beat Michigan 26-10 in Ann Arbor last September.
The anticipation has been building ever since Harbaugh was hired in December. And yes, he says he’s had his football dream.
“My football dream is usually always the same,” said Harbaugh, who played quarterback at Michigan and in the NFL. “The final drive — I always wake up before the final drive. And I’m always playing in my football dream. Never coaching in my football dream.”
The big announcement from Michigan on Tuesday was the retirement of six jersey numbers, which will take place in a ceremony at the Ohio State game Nov. 28. The school is ending its “legends program” in which players were given the same numbers as some of the team’s all-time greats.
Michigan says it will retire Gerald Ford’s No. 48, Tom Harmon’s No. 98, Desmond Howard’s No. 21, Ron Kramer’s No. 87, Bennie Oosterbaan’s No. 47 and the Wistert brothers’ No. 11.
Howard’s was the only jersey of the six that was not retired at Michigan before the start of the legends program.
“During the search process for our new football coach, I had a meeting with the Michigan football team and they expressed their feelings associated with wearing these legendary jerseys,” interim athletic director Jim Hackett said in a statement. “At one end of the spectrum they are awed by the legacy of the men who wore them, and at the other end of the spectrum, and as part of a team sport, they wondered why we would call attention to one of our team members.”
Harbaugh said helmet stickers are under consideration, although that raises similar issues of how individual recognition fits within the team concept.
“The performance stickers can be team oriented,” Harbaugh said. “Team goals can be accomplished and rewarded.”
Harbaugh also said defensive back Jabrill Peppers, who played only three games as a freshman last year before redshirting because of a leg injury, could play some on the offensive side of the ball too.
“Yeah, there’s a possibility,” Harbaugh said. “Every individual, if they have the capability athletically of doing that and they have the desire to do that, then we would explore that.”