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January 2, 2011

Jim Harbaugh


JASON ALPERT: Coach, if you can open up, with this being the day before the game, what preparations if any are left for your team?
COACH HARBAUGH: Well, just getting our minds right for the game. It's still more mental preparations and physical preparations because we want our guys to get the proper rest, eat the right things, hydrate.
I think our team will be strong and fresh for the ballgame. The plans have been good, they've executed it well, and just resting now. There's power in that. There's power in being fully rested and fresh and strong and ready to go.

Q. Could you comment on this element of your team: Your quarterback gets a lot of attention. Do you think that because of that people overlook the fact that your team is such a strong running team, as well?
COACH HARBAUGH: That's interesting. I mean, he does get a lot of attention. He's a very good player, no question about it. There's other good players on our offense. I think that's what you're pointing out. And thanks for doing that. Really experienced offensive line that plays very well together. We've got really good athletes at the skill positions, the receivers and the running backs. We've got a great fullback.
And then I'll tell you that they play for each other. They play -- that's what motivates them the most, winning and playing for each other, and even more so than playing, winning for the guy next to them. That's what they get the most motivation from.

Q. What have you enjoyed most about your interaction with Andrew in terms of talking about the quarterback position? What do you get a kick most out of when you talk with him about that, and any specific conversation that you remember?
COACH HARBAUGH: The thing I get the most out of is that he -- whatever he tell him, he absorbs it so quickly, can take it from the chalkboard right out to the field and do it exactly the way you explained it and very few times will make a mistake, and when he does he very rarely makes it again. He's just so sharp mentally, so quick-minded. And then just the easy personality to be around. He's like a dolphin; you know, it's really smart, he's always having fun and he's laughing and joking, and it's just a great mix of focus and being loose at the same time that you can't help but love being around that kind of demeanor.

Q. How about technically? Anything technically?
COACH HARBAUGH: Technically he's just so technically sound, so good with his mechanics, so great with his eye discipline, and he's going to have to be in this football game. His eye discipline, his mechanics are really going to have to be on. There's so many variances in the coverages that Virginia Tech uses and different blitz patterns and corner cats and strong safety and seams coming off the edge. So a lot going on that he's going to have to really be good with his eyes in this football game. But that's where he's really good. That's one of his real strengths.

Q. You were in a great Bowl game against a real quality team. I'm just wondering how you think it would be different if there were a playoff game, a playoff system, and you might be facing a team like Virginia Tech in the first round or whatever. How would you -- would you like to see a system like that? How do you think it might go?
COACH HARBAUGH: Well, you asked me so I'm going to have to tell you the truth. I would love to see a playoff system, yeah, an eight-team playoff system. I think every other sport in the NCAA has it. There's no NCAA sport that doesn't have a playoff system, so why not football? Yeah, so I mean -- you asked me would I be excited about that? Yeah, but we're very excited about this Bowl game and what's gotten us to here this season and this group, going in to play this particular team that's red-hot and won 11 straight games, that challenge of being in one of the most traditional Bowl games in the country.
Really in my opinion this has been a great week for preparation as far as a football team getting ready for a game. Couldn't be more excited about this particular game Monday night. The fact that it's going to be the only game in the world being played on January 3rd is really something that has our guys excited and motivated for the ballgame.
You know, it's just we're ready to go. So we're very excited about the football game Monday.

Q. And one more follow-up question. There have been a lot of sort of mediocre Bowl games this year, blow-outs and what have you. I'm just wondering what kind of a game do you think this is going to be? Do you think it's going to be high-scoring? Any idea of what we can look forward to seeing in this particular game?
COACH HARBAUGH: Well, they've got a great football team. I mean, they could blow us out, you know. But we have a pretty darned good football team, too. We could win by that kind of margin. More likely it's going to be one heck of a close game. Both teams are very, very similar, try-hard teams, physical teams, tough teams, and yeah, that's the way I see it, really smart, disciplined teams, mirror images in some ways. So I think it's going to be one heck of a contest.

Q. Two questions: First of all, what has been the biggest element in your program's four-year turnaround from where you were after the '06 season? And number two, what were your impressions of the Virginia Tech program as a whole before you started reviewing tape of them for this particular game?
COACH HARBAUGH: Well, it's just been a process for our football team over the four years. Our guys have had great respect for that process. And in terms of the Virginia Tech team, I mean, the perception was that it was just a real solid program. When we watched the tape, the things we saw were a physically tough, well-coached, disciplined football team that out-toughs their opponents, plays more physical than their opponents, and that's why they win the ACC Championship year in and year out.
That's going to be key in this football game, and our pad levels are going to have to be low. If we play high we're going to get our butts kicked in this game, it's that simple. If we play low, we've got a chance. That's a reflection on Coach Beamer, his staff, all things that we kind of knew going in that that was probably what the case was, and we've seen it on tape.

Q. I have two quick questions if you don't mind. One, I would like you to talk about your coaching philosophy, and particularly the smack-you-in-the-mouth part of it that it seems a lot of players said you installed when you came to Stanford. Secondly, I'm from Charlotte and I wonder if you could talk about your final year in your playing career when you were a backup for the Panthers' 1 and 15 team?
COACH HARBAUGH: Well, I didn't get in any games that year in 2001. I signed late, and they probably had eight games to go. I loved it, loved the coaches that were there and the organization, especially loved throwing to Steve Smith. We were both on the scout team at that time. So it didn't take me long to realize that he was really good, and I just kept throwing the ball to him and we were making plays and having fun.
Was there another part of that question?

Q. Physical part of your coaching philosophy.
COACH HARBAUGH: Well, I don't block and tackle anybody, so I'm not real physical out there to be quite honest with you.
Just put some things in place where we have a great staff, and players that, like I said before, really respect the process and go about working to be able to put themselves in a position to win. A lot of little things. Probably not as complicated as you'd think, just give it your all, all the time, and whether you're in the classroom, you're on that side of the campus, I mean, that's got to be the most important thing that you're focused on, and when you come over to the athletic side of the street, then we put all our focus into that, physically, mentally, and try to be the best that we can.

Q. You mentioned your players being motivated for tomorrow night, the only game in the world as you put it. Are young people today motivated by history, specifically the chance to be Stanford's first top-five team since 1940? Do think know that or even care about it?
COACH HARBAUGH: They sure do. And we keep telling them things like that, you know, because that's important for them to know as they make decisions, even in the course of this week. Keeping that in mind, what's the most important thing, what's important now, and that's getting ourselves mentally, physically and emotionally ready to play this football game and to be a chance to be a part of college football history. They know that. They know the chairs that they're sitting in when they play in a game like the Orange Bowl, to be an Orange Bowl champion, that that puts you in a position to make college football history.
So our players are aware of that. They understand that, yeah, it was great going from 1 and 11 to 11 and 1 like they did this year, but 12 and 1 sounds a lot better. Some of our players have even brought that up.
But I'll hammer that home again to them, being top five since 1940. I wasn't aware of that. This could be something good to talk to them about later today.

Q. It's been a long time since both of these teams have played, you guys especially, November 27th. How concerned are you about such a long layoff in between games?
COACH HARBAUGH: That's just one of the facts of business that we knew going in. We had a plan that we think was pretty good, and I still think it is now going through this for almost four weeks of preparation. I think our players did a great job of executing it. I feel good about where we are. Then again, a lot of fighters had a plan before they fought Mike Tyson. They had a plan going in, too.
The big part will be -- the last part anyway is getting our minds right for this game and going out there and playing fast, playing hard as we can and as long as we can and letting the chips fall where they may. So we're excited about that.

Q. Does it bother you that your name is being brought up so much for other coaching jobs even though you've really given no indication that you want to leave Stanford? How does that affect you? How do you think it's affected the team?
COACH HARBAUGH: Well, we've really always treated that as -- we just talk about -- I just talk about the job that I have and none others, and that's the way I've always handled it in the past, and it's worked well. The way I handle it now and in the future, just focus and concentrate on the task at hand.

Q. Both teams are led by marquee quarterbacks. Is it an oversimplification to say that they hold the key to the game in their hands?
COACH HARBAUGH: It may be oversimplifying it, but a lot of times it's pretty accurate. Both quarterbacks are extremely talented, and they've got really good playmakers around them, running backs, wide receivers, good offensive lines. So the defense will have a lot of say in that, as well.
It's always a team game. It's always a team effort. You've got to do all the things, and it's got to be all 11 guys, especially on offense. One guy that doesn't do their job, misses their block, misses their assignment, and that can make any quarterback look bad. And the quarterback has got to be sharp, as well. They've all got to -- it's 11, it's a team game, and there will be a lot of plays that will determine who wins this football game.

Q. When you took the Stanford job, what did you see as the biggest roadblock to having this kind of success, and whatever it was, kind of talk specifically about what you -- how you set about knocking down that roadblock.
COACH HARBAUGH: Well, I didn't really know what it was when I took it, other than what the record was. All those things you really find out after you're on the job. There was just a lot of things, a lot of little things.
Thankfully I had a group of players that were tired of getting their butts kicked and wanted to make it work to get better and they wanted to win. So very fortunate in that regard.

Q. At this point you've seen video on Tyrod Taylor. You have NFL experience; do you think he has a shot at the next level?
COACH HARBAUGH: I definitely think he has more than shot. Really accurate thrower who can throw from the pocket, he can throw from out of the pocket and has great eye discipline when he's out of the pocket, keeping his eyes downfield and making plays on you. Definitely makes me nervous as we sit here the day before the football game, and at the same time he's going to be fun to watch, and we're ready to compete against him. We'll see how our playing holds up. A lot of people had a plan before they fought Mike Tyson.

Q. You were asked earlier about the playoff system and said you would advocate that. Having played in the NFL and having been a college player yourself, what about the physicality of a playoff system at the college level where players are a little bit younger? I'm not talking about seniors; I'm talking about sophomores, freshmen that could be involved in two or three straight weeks of what I would call high-level competition?
COACH HARBAUGH: Right, it works at the 1-AA level, and that's kind of what I base that off of. My dad's team won a National Championship going through the playoff route, and pretty much in every other NCAA sport there's a playoff.
But probably not now, not the time to be talking about it. We've got other things to focus on, and that's the excitement we have for this ballgame. I don't want to bore everybody with my random thoughts.

Q. Any recollections on that mad scramble to put together your first recruiting class four years ago and what those guys have meant to the building of the program?
COACH HARBAUGH: Yeah, that's something you think about a lot, that first recruiting class. There really wasn't much time to work on it. I was hired December 19th, and then all of a sudden right out there on the road recruiting guys. And then some of our best players are in that class, Owen Marecic, T.K. Amajoyi, Jeremy Stewart. I know I'm missing guys, but it was really, really kind of a core class that -- Ryan Whalen, Doug Baldwin, guys that -- kind of the core of the football team right now that have been through this all four years. We've been together the whole time, so they're kind of a special class there.

Q. Looking back on the week, did you strike the balance you were hoping to strike to allow your players to kind of enjoy the events versus prepare for the football game?
COACH HARBAUGH: I think so. Like I said, I think we had a good plan, and I think the plan was executed well by the players and the staff. So we'll see.

Q. Did you always know that you wanted to be a coach while you were a player, and what part of coaching do you enjoy the most?
COACH HARBAUGH: I did. I always knew I was going to coach. Ever since I was a little kid I did. I enjoy so many parts of coaching. I enjoy the coaching, being out on the field and having your fingers right in the pie. I enjoy the games, enjoy the competition, enjoy the -- that feeling that that gives you. You feel like you're walking out on a ledge; what the heck are we doing this to ourselves for. Then you get in that game and something great happens and you have the best six hours of your life following that ballgame. Or you don't play as well and you lose and you toss and turn all night and you can't sleep or eat and you're sick as can be in your stomach. And then the next day you wake up, and let's make damned sure that doesn't happen again and what can we do about it. Or you feel the great thrill of victory and winning and contributing to the winning. Either way it brings you back the next day reenergized and focused on the next opponent.
It's a crazy mad dash, and I love every bit of it.

Q. Did you get a chance to watch any Bowl games? Any observation you might have about those? And secondly, do you coach a Bowl game differently? I'm thinking in terms of as the game progresses, it's the closest thing we have to a playoff kind of thing right now, now or never; do you coach differently as you're making decisions during the game?
COACH HARBAUGH: Don't think so. I don't think there's any decisions that I make differently.

Q. Take more risks I'm thinking?
COACH HARBAUGH: Maybe. Maybe there's -- I saw the game the other day they had five flea flickers. They kept running flea flickers back and forth at each other and they were working. We've definitely got to be aware of that from our opponent. But we're not approaching this game any differently than any other game.

Q. Did you get to watch any other Bowl games?
COACH HARBAUGH: Not too many. I didn't really get to see too many, just clips of them here and there. I didn't actually watch an entire game.

Q. No observations?

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