The first two years of the Jim Harbaugh regime have produced 20 wins and a pair of top-12 finishes in the national rankings, but Michigan has also finished third in the Big Ten East both seasons. The Wolverines have also lost three of four games to rivals Ohio State and Michigan State, so there’s a mixed bag of results in those two seasons.
Land of 10 recently surveyed a group of analysts for their thoughts on the job Harbaugh has done so far. Is he living up to the hype of being the coach to turn around the fortunes of Michigan, to return the Wolverines of the consistent prominence they enjoyed under Bo Schembechler and Lloyd Carr? What do they think the future holds for Harbaugh and Michigan?
Here’s what they had to say:
Gus Johnson (FOX Sports)
Howard Griffith (BTN)
“I think the biggest thing he’s done is he’s energized the base. He’s got them believing again. He’s bringing in high-level recruiting. Brady Hoke was doing the same. He had 10, 11 guys on this last team. Recruiting has never been a problem.
“He still has to go out and win those big games. Two years he’s finished third. He doesn’t want to finish in third. He doesn’t want to make it three years in a row finishing third. He has to continue to push when those other two programs [Ohio State and Penn State] are doing the same thing.
“It’s going to be fascinating to see if the [Big Ten] East can handle three teams that are competing like that. Maryland is coming. I don’t think Michigan State has fallen so much that it can’t get back into the race, but right now with what Ohio State and Penn State have you could say they have the better rosters than Michigan has. But it ain’t going to stay like that.”
Brady Quinn (FOX Sports)
“It’s been incredible to see what he’s been able to do. They went from what seemed to be, I don’t want to say a low point because it wasn’t that bad, but it was a point for Michigan fans and Michigan alums they were disappointed with the outcome with Brady Hoke.
“Talking to Brady Hoke, he’s a nice guy but it seems like Harbaugh brings a different flair, a different persona, a different drive. It’s a unique take. He seems like he’s such an innovative thinker. He thinks differently than everyone else.
“The trip to Rome and how it affects recruiting these days. I don’t know what made him want to do it, what was the motivation behind it, but I know if I was a recruit I’d be thinking in my head ‘That’s pretty cool.’ How many times are you going to get to go to Rome in your life? There’s no guarantee you’re going to go to the NFL and play. That’s a neat trip … It’s a cool thing, and I think the things he’s done have been so unique and outside the box I think it’s changed how other coaches view how they need to recruit and how they market themselves, put themselves out there.”
Darien Harris (former Michigan State LB, current analyst and radio host 92.1 FM Lansing)
“I think he’s done a great job. I think he’s brought a different type of excitement to college football. He’s one of a kind. I think that’s the best way to put it. I don’t think there’s anyone quite like him in college football in terms of coaching.
“Look at the trips they take, going to Rome. That’s unheard of. Never heard of these things before. That’s all predicated on recruiting. That’s how he’s gotten these No. 1 players in the country. Now it’s got to start translating into championships if he wants to cement his legacy as a coach. He has the caliber to do it. He’s getting the players to do it but now it’s about going out there and performing on the field.
“He’s in a situation where coach [Michigan State’s Mark] Dantonio now has three [Big Ten titles], coach [Urban] Meyer has a couple [at Ohio State] in there and a national championship. Harbaugh’s only been there for two years now but in the last 10-year stretch or so, Michigan doesn’t have any. We’re talking about one of the premier programs. It’s been a while.
“It was another year last year that they didn’t get to Indy [for the Big Ten championship]. The year before that, obviously didn’t get to Indy. Not even into the championship game to be able to compete for a spot in the College Football Playoff. You have to win your conference championship.
“It’s only Year 3 of this regime but it’s going to add up soon if they have another season again where they don’t make it.”
Dave Wannstedt (FOX Sports)
“No. 1, what Jim has done is re-establish Michigan football. I know he talks a lot about Bo and he mimics a lot of things about Bo, but he’s really established an identity. If you say ‘Michigan football’ you know about their aggressive defense, you know they’re going to run the ball and be physical. You know what they’re going to be. He’s not going to change.
“The second thing Jim Harbaugh has done, from a head coach’s standpoint, every week I wait to see what he’s going to do. He thinks and does things out of the box. How many teams have gone to Italy for spring practice, and gone to Florida? He has done things outside the box that I think bring notoriety to the brand, and then he’s backed it up on the field. They’re headed in the right direction.”
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