AP Sports Writer
ANN ARBOR (AP) — Jim Harbaugh and Michigan have made their presence felt in New Jersey when it comes to recruiting.
Now the Wolverines will go there to play an actual game — and they’ll be expected to win that, too.
The fourth-ranked Wolverines play their first road game of the year Saturday night against Rutgers. Michigan is coming off a hard-fought victory over Wisconsin in the first significant test of the season for the Wolverines, but the prospect of leaving home brings its own set of challenges and opportunities.
“It’s always fun to go into somebody’s house … and you’re kind of backed up against the wall, you’ve got a lot of adversity because you’re going against their home crowd,” tight end Jake Butt said. “But nothing’s better than silencing 50 … 60 … 70,000 people, hearing that stadium quiet.”
The Wolverines have nine players from New Jersey on their roster, including all-purpose star Jabrill Peppers. Michigan’s most recent signing class in February included six players from New Jersey and only three from Michigan.
The Wolverines landed defensive end Rashan Gary of Paramus Catholic, who was the top-ranked recruit not just in New Jersey but in the entire country. Later in the offseason, Harbaugh led a satellite camp at Paramus Catholic at the same time Ohio State coach Urban Meyer was participating in one at nearby Fairleigh Dickinson.
Chris Partridge, one of Harbaugh’s assistants at Michigan, was the coach at Paramus Catholic from 2010-14, and assistant Jedd Fisch is a New Jersey native.
“It’s been good having some natives of New Jersey that have really connected well,” Harbaugh said. “There’s good football being played there — talent and great effort and good coaching.”
This will be Michigan’s first game at Rutgers in Harbaugh’s two seasons as coach. The Wolverines lost in their last visit there in 2014, but Michigan routed Rutgers in Ann Arbor last year.
The Wolverines beat Wisconsin 14-7 last weekend, outgaining the Badgers 349-159 and holding them to eight first downs. The scoring margin could have been bigger, but Michigan had to overcome three missed field goals by two different kickers.
Harbaugh said there would be a kicking competition starting Monday.
Another concern right now for the Wolverines is the need to replace starting left tackle Grant Newsome, who Harbaugh said will miss the rest of the year with a knee injury. Harbaugh called it “as serious as a knee injury can be.”
“It’s a reminder of just how tough the game of football is, just how serious injuries can be,” Harbaugh said. “As far as human-being character and football character, nobody’s ever come through here with this football team or this university, that I know of, with more of it than Grant Newsome.”
Harbaugh said Juwann Bushell-Beatty is “Plan A” to replace Newsome. He said it’s also possible that guard Ben Braden or center Mason Cole could move to tackle. Patrick Kugler would be the center if Cole were to move.
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