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Last year’s Michigan football team looked anything but the program that routinely competed for championships a decade and a half ago, struggling to a 2-4 record. More specifically, the culture looked ‘broken,’ according to many observers, to the point that many openly wondered if head coach Jim Harbaugh could fix it.

He got his opportunity, and he’s asked a few Michigan men to help him entering his seventh year. Running backs coach Mike Hart, safeties coach Ron Bellamy, even analyst Doug Mallory are now in the building, and their presence has helped tremendously, according to all involved.

Hart said Thursday he’s seen many of the same characteristics in this group as he witnessed when he played from 2004-07.

“Everything’s been great,” Hart said. “I only know what I know — I wasn’t here last year. I think a lot of that was from the outside in. Nobody really knows what goes on inside this building except who is in this building, but I can say it’s been great from my standpoint. Coach [Harbaugh] is great, the players are awesome. All believe, all work hard, and that’s all I can say. It’s been great since I’ve been here.”

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Michigan Wolverines football running backs coach Mike Hart is ready to take U-M back to championship heights
Michigan Wolverines football running backs coach Mike Hart is ready to take U-M back to championship heights (Clayton Sayfie /

But as good as 2004-07?

“No question about it from my viewpoint what I’ve seen since January,” he continued. “Guys show up, work, don’t complain … everyone complains [a little], but they show up do the work, show up, do the work, show up, do the work, especially in this training camp going on day 12, 13.

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“Guys have been busting their tails. They want to be great. That’s the biggest thing. It’s a young team; a team that wants to be great. We’re just excited, and excited for them.”

His group in particular has shown him plenty in the early going. Redshirt sophomore Hassan Haskins has been running over people, while second-year frosh Blake Corum is a harder working, faster version of himself in his playing days, Hart said. Time will tell if he’s even close to as productive as U-M’s former All-Big Ten back, but Corum is putting in the work.

Both Haskins and Corum have praised Hart for helping elevate their games, but Hart diffused any praise.

“I don’t know if it’s different [coaching],” he said. “I just am who I am. Any time a new guy comes in, guys are excited. Every guy does different drills no matter where you go. I’ve been to a bunch of NFL camps, watched those running back coaches. Everybody does their thing; everybody does different drills. It’s really just what you believe in.

“The biggest thing I try to do is the transition to the game. They see the drill work we do, the runs we make, the cuts they make. We have fun, and those guys are good kids. I just love being around them, so we have a lot of fun.”

Hart’s having fun just being back in Ann Arbor in his 10th year of coaching, having worked his way up the ranks. There’s nowhere else he’d rather be, and he’s ready to make his mark.

“This is special to me,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong … you’ve got to be where you are. I never was at another job wishing I was somewhere else. I think that’s something coach [Lloyd] Carr taught me early — no matter where you’re at, whether it’s the MAC or a Big East school, you’ve got to be where you are and take care of guys on your team.

“That’s all I try to do. I’m here, trying to take care of the guys that are on this team. It’s fun. It’s great to be back. I love this place. I’m excited to get going and excited for camp.”

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