DANIA BEACH, Fla. — The status of Michigan football defensive back Daxton Hill remains uncertain as kickoff against Georgia in the College Football Playoff semifinals approaches.
Head coach Jim Harbaugh confirmed Hill, a starting nickelback and first-team All-Big Ten performer, did not travel with the team for the Orange Bowl and was not in Florida as of Thursday morning. Harbaugh said there’s still a chance Hill could play Friday .
Multiple reports had Hill arriving in Miami on Thursday and expected to play Friday.
“His status is going to be questionable,” Harbaugh said Thursday on a Zoom call with Georgia head coach Kirby Smart. “He’s working through something right now. We’ll know more today whether he’ll be able to play.
“He could be here today. He may not. But not currently in Florida, no.”
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Rumors about Hill’s potential absence began circulating on social media earlier this week, but the athletic department had remained tightlipped prior to Thursday’s news conference. A pair of athletic department spokesmen declined to say if Hill was in Florida when asked Tuesday afternoon, and both players asked about Hill’s whereabouts during Wednesday’s virtual media day — quarterback Cade McNamara, center Andrew Vastardis — said they would refer those inquiries to Harbaugh.
“You know, it’s not our job to comment on other players, so we’ll let Coach Harbaugh answer that question,” McNamara said.
The nature of Hill’s absence is still unclear. His older brother, running back Justice Hill of the Baltimore Ravens, was placed on the NFL’s reserve/COVID-19 list on Dec. 25, according to a report from The Baltimore Sun. Whether the brothers have seen each other in recent weeks is unknown, but Harbaugh did give players time off following the Big Ten Championship.
If Hill is unable to play, defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald could insert true freshman Rod Moore at the nickel position. Moore overtook fellow safety R.J. Moten in the starting lineup beginning with the win over Penn State and held that role opposite Brad Hawkins for the remainder of the year.
In that scenario, Moten could return to the safety position he manned for the majority of the season.
“I feel great about the depth of the safeties,” Hawkins said Wednesday. “Rod Moore is a tremendous player. He’s a leader as a young guy. He listens. He wants to learn. He wants to get better every single day. He comes out here, he works his butt off. You know, for a young guy to be thrown into the fire like that and continue to grow and continue to play well, tremendous for him, and he’s going to continue to grow as a person and as a leader on this team. So I’m just very happy for him and can’t wait to see his success in the future.”
Money isn’t everything for Jim Harbaugh
One of the most repeated lines invoked when describing Michigan’s remarkable turnaround from a 2-4 record in 2020 to reaching the CFP a year later involved Harbaugh’s salary — and more specifically the way it was slashed by athletic director Warde Manuel during the offseason.
The message from Manuel, who signed Harbaugh to an extension but reduced his salary by roughly 50% and made his buyout more palatable, was clear: Things in Ann Arbor must change in a hurry.
But when probed about his salary reduction during Thursday’s virtual news conference, Harbaugh said the monetary figures were irrelevant because of his appreciation for being the coach at Michigan.
“I reacted (like it was) no big deal,” Harbaugh said of his guaranteed compensation being reduced to $4 million this season. “(I continued) attacking each day with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind, as always. It didn’t really mean anything to me. It’s just money. No big deal.”
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Harbaugh doubled down on that notion while responding to a different question later in the news conference and suggested he’d serve as U-M’s head coach for no compensation at all.
“I would say it doesn’t matter what day it is, it’s enjoyable to be working on football,” Harbaugh said. “Great to be out there. It could be a practice day and you’re just out there on the field, under the sky, on the turf. It’s a wonderful thing. You asked me before about — I’d do it for free. I would do this job for free. I just love it.
“Whether it’s the first day, first game, or position we’re in now, which we’re very — feel really happy about that. I guess I’ve just enjoyed the ride the whole time. Every day is a blessing, and (I’m) happy for it and blessed for it.”
Earlier this season, Harbaugh and his wife, Sarah, pledged to funnel all bonus money he received back to the athletic department to reimburse employees who had their pay reduced during the COVID-19 pandemic. That dollar amount has crossed the $2 million threshold thus far and would increase if Michigan wins the national title.
“People have been very appreciative,” Harbaugh said Thursday. “I was really happy to be blessed to be in a position to be able to do that. It really resonated with me, something our coach — my coach and a lot of our coach, Bo Schembechler, has a saying here at Michigan. It says, ‘Those who stay will be champions,’ and it’s always resonated with me from day one.
“Those that stayed through the pandemic when there was voluntary pay cuts, mandatory pay cuts, that kind of thing, just to be able to reward those that stayed in that way was something that Sarah, my wife, and I wanted to do.”
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Remembering a legend
The football world mourned the loss of an icon Tuesday when legendary head coach, broadcaster and video game namesake John Madden passed away at the age of 85.
Madden’s death carried additional weight for the U-M football program whose roster includes freshman quarterback Jesse Madden, the grandson of the Super Bowl-winning coach.
“Everybody knows John Madden,” Harbaugh said. “Jack Harbaugh, 82, me, 58, down to my son who’s 9 years old. And the players and the Madden game, just so many ways he’s affected not just the game of football but (the culture of football) in so many ways. A great man. Just a great man, a legend.
“Jesse, on our team, he’s adored. He’s contributing, been a big factor contributing to our success. The day John Madden passed away, I looked over there and saw Jesse Madden, there’s a Madden on the football field contributing to this team’s success, and his grandfather would be very proud.”
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan football CB Dax Hill expected to play Friday: Report