No. 2 Michigan, sans Jim Harbaugh, casts focus on East Carolina


Second-ranked Michigan is without suspended head coach Jim Harbaugh when it opens the 2023 season against East Carolina on Saturday at Ann Arbor, Mich.

The Wolverines (13-1 in 2022) don’t figure to miss Harbaugh, who serves the first of a school-imposed three-game punishment for his role in NCAA violations involving recruiting and coaching time. Defensive coordinator Jesse Minter will run the Wolverines against the Pirates, who posted an 8-5 record last season.

“I’ve heard people comment that it’s a slap on the wrist,” Harbaugh said Monday of the suspension. “It’s more like a baseball bat to the kneecaps or to the shoulder.”

Offensive coordinator Sherrone Moore is also serving a suspension Saturday due to the NCAA issues. Quarterbacks coach Kirk Campbell will call the plays.

Campbell figures to often get the ball to returning first-team All-American running back Blake Corum against the Pirates.

Corum finished seventh in Heisman Trophy balloting last season when he rushed for 1,463 yards, the eighth highest single-season total in Wolverines’ history. He rushed for 18 touchdowns before effectively missing the final 3 1/2 games due to a serious knee injury.

Corum tore the meniscus, sprained the MCL and sustained a bone bruise in the second quarter against Illinois on Nov. 19. He attempted to play against Ohio State the following week but left after two carries and missed the rest of the season.

The injury prevented Corum from leaving for the NFL. He now sees the good side of the adversity.

“It took me a while to realize that this is just something small,” Corum said. “There’s a lot of people out there doing way worse than I was. A lot of people are quick to get down when something small happens, when there’s people out there really struggling.

“This is something I can come back from, and I got it repaired. Some people can’t repair a lot of things.”

J.J. McCarthy is again the quarterback. He passed for 22 touchdowns and rushed for five while guiding Michigan to the College Football Playoffs. The Wolverines lost 51-45 to TCU in the semifinals.

East Carolina is in reloading mode after losing four key offensive performers from a team that routed Coastal Carolina 53-29 in the Birmingham Bowl. It was the program’s first bowl victory since 2013.

Quarterback Holton Ahlers (3,708 yards, 28 touchdowns), running back Keaton Mitchell (1,452 yards, 14 TDs on the ground) and wideouts Isaiah Winstead (1,085 yards) and C.J. Johnson (1,016) all need to be replaced.

Mason Garcia (38 passing attempts over three seasons) and Alex Flinn (zero career attempts) are competing for the quarterback job. Coach Mike Houston has yet to announce a starter.

“You just go out there and compete your butt off,” Garcia told reporters. “Do what you got to do for the team. Everybody wants this team to be good.”

Whoever gets the call will be facing long odds as few people expect East Carolina to give Michigan a close battle in the first all-time matchup between the programs.

“The big thing with situations like that is that they can’t pay any attention to the outside world and what their opinion is,” Houston said. “They’ve got to focus on themselves.

“… It’s going to be the largest stadium any of them have ever played in so you must be able to handle that. You have to settle down and go play ball.”

–Field Level Media

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