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Jim Harbaugh says Michigan about to adopt 'bunker mentality' as season approaches

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ANN ARBOR, Michigan — The first question Jim Harbaugh took at media day was from a first grader.

The new Michigan coach was in an upbeat, somewhat playful mood Thursday, answering a few questions from kids amid several more from reporters. But after one query — this one from an adult — about the amount of attention his arrival has drawn, Harbaugh indicated that the coming days will be much quieter.

"We're going into a submarine tomorrow — you won't see us for a while," Harbaugh said. "You won't hear from us or see us. We're going to be working, we're going to be in a bunker mentality — until we decide we're not, until we decide to come up to the surface."

After months of seemingly nonstop anticipation, Michigan's season opener at Utah is a month away. The Wolverines start practice Friday, and it's time to forget about a summer in which their coach's every move seemed to create a buzz.

The biggest on-field question about the Wolverines is what will happen at quarterback. Shane Morris returns after playing five games in each of the past two seasons, but Jake Rudock will compete for the position after transferring from Iowa, where he was a two-year starter.

"Coach Harbaugh likes winning games," Morris said. "Whoever's going to win games is going to be the quarterback."

Rudock is entering his final season of eligibility. He completed 62 percent of his passes in 2014, throwing for 2,436 yards with 16 touchdowns and five interceptions.

Rudock was asked how his previous experience in the conference could help him at Michigan.

PHOTO: Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh coordinates his players to lineup in the Michigan Stadium stands for a team photo, during the NCAA college football team's annual media day in Ann Arbor, Mich., Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015. (AP Photo/Tony Ding)
Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh coordinates his players to lineup in the Michigan Stadium stands for a team photo, during the NCAA college football team's annual media day in Ann Arbor, Mich., Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015. (AP Photo/Tony Ding)

"Going through a Big Ten season is tough," Rudock said. "Going through any big-conference season, or any season in college football, is very difficult — trying to stay healthy, trying to mentally stay in it. I think that helps, just having done that before."

Harbaugh sounded ready to get the competition started.

"We'll roll the balls out there and let the quarterbacks have at it," he said. "I really believe that it will be fair, and I'm excited to watch it."

Although Harbaugh certainly seemed anxious to get down to business, the mood at his news conference was light, in part because a few questions went to guests from the Kids Go Blue Club. One girl began the proceedings by asking the former Michigan quarterback his favorite thing — other than football — about returning to the state.

Another youngster asked how much milk he'd have to drink to be big enough to play quarterback.

"Drink as much milk as your little belly can hold," Harbaugh said.

Later, a sixth grader asked Harbaugh why he wore No. 4 when he played. Harbaugh said he initially wanted to wear No. 10, but that request was basically ignored when he arrived on campus.

Harbaugh recalled a conversation with Jon Falk, whom Bo Schembechler hired to be his equipment manager in 1974 and who remained with the program for four decades.

"I told Jon Falk that I would like to be No. 10, and he said, 'Well, you're going to be No. 4," Harbaugh said. "I happened to mention to Coach Schembechler that I really wanted No. 10. Suffice it to say, that was the last time I thought about being No. 10."

NOTES: Thursday was youth day at Michigan Stadium, with an autograph session and other activities for kids. There was a contest to choose who got to ask Harbaugh questions. ... WR Dennis Norfleet was not part of the fall roster released by the team. Harbaugh said recently that a plan had been put in place that would have allowed Norfleet to "achieve his goals academically and athletically" at Michigan — but the Wolverines also allowed him to talk to other schools.

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