The LGHail Blog: 36 games into The Harbaugh Era, some thoughts …
@LGHail’s weekly blog debuts today with his thoughts on the status of Michigan’s program ahead of its 2-game super tilt against Wisconsin and Ohio State. LG’s blog will run weekly, typically releasing on Friday. His strong presence in not only the Michigan program – but the college football fanbase in general – opens a lot of doors for people to not only experience TWL, but LG’s writing beyond
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The Rivalry Games
We all know the record: 1-4 against MSU and OSU. As easy as it is to start explaining away the losses (The monsoon, JT was short, the muffed punt), those games still happened, and they still provide endless ammo for our annoying rivals. I don’t like the 1-4 record either. I live in central Ohio, so I’m reminded of it quite often. But it’s important to keep these games in perspective. They are big games, but they are only 16.7% of the schedule. And also, Dabo Swinney lost 5 in a row to Steve Spurrier as he built his program. Instead of building a team that could beat South Carolina, he kept forming a juggernaut that could beat the entire country. I prefer Harbaugh does the latter, and with more great recruiting classes and player development, hopefully that will be the case.
Coaching Staff: Hits and Misses
DJ Durkin was a home run hire as defensive coordinator. When he left to take the Maryland job, it was nearly a guarantee that Michigan would take a step back on defense. But instead, Harbaugh made an upgrade hire in Don Brown. Chris Partridge was a high school coach in New Jersey who turned into 247Sports’ national recruiter of the year. There are other great examples like being able to retain Mattison as a position coach. Mike Zordich has been a godsend at DB coach. After losing Jeremy Clark, Jourdan Lewis, and Channing Stribling, the CB play hasn’t missed a beat, as David Long and LaVert Hill are playing at a very high level.
It would be irresponsible to not mention the fiasco that was the offense of the first half of the 2017 season. A lot went wrong, but Harbaugh knows it started bad, and there have definitely been changes made. There was a major shakeup in the offseason, with Tyrone Wheatley and Jedd Fisch taking new work elsewhere, and Tim Drevno was given more power. It seems obvious now that this has gotten off to a slow start. The staff has made a few changes, with Drevno moving from the box to field level. This has seemed to help. It wouldn’t be surprising if it later comes out that Jim Harbaugh himself is taking more of a hands on role with the offense.
Restoration of Dignity
Michigan hit rock bottom in 2014. They were 5-7 and even lost to Rutgers and Maryland. They had no recruiting class to speak of, no QB of the future, and spirits were at nearly an all time low. Since taking over, Harbaugh is 28-8, and is 6-0 against those 2 teams with an average victory margin of 44 points. And even though Michigan has stalled out twice at the end of the season, Harbaugh has restored the program to national relevance again. His staff has recruited great players, developed the players that were already there, and restored dignity to the program. That being said, in upcoming years, Michigan needs to take a leap to Big Ten champion and national title contender for Harbaugh to earn his $9 million salary. That’s just the nature of college football.
“1-2 Years Away?”
I hate this phrase because it’s been used by Michigan fans for half my life. However I do think this team will be a Death Star once they mature a bit, as long as a few things happen:
-Elite QB play from either Peters of McCaffrey
-Well-oiled machine on offense free of confusion and playing crisply
-Don Brown keeps his job as defensive coordinator
2018’s schedule is a nightmare with games at South Bend, East Lansing, and Columbus. Not saying it can’t be done, but it’s a tall order, considering recent history. 2019 is widely considered “the year” by Michigan fans and analysts. Let me reiterate that I hate the whole “1-2 years away”. But it seems like it could be for real this time. Michigan has the right coach, the right staff, the right young core of players, and the right recruiting coming in.
A few coaches have had great success in Year 3. Urban Meyer won a national title, and so did Jimbo Fisher. Fisher caught lightning in a bottle with Jameis Winston, and the rest was history. Meyer inherited a juggernaut and recruited a historically great class in 2013. Harbaugh wasn’t set up with those breaks, so comparing what he’s done in 3 years isn’t really fair. He has done a great job with what he’s had, but it’s still reasonable to expect more in the future. He’s still the right man to restore Michigan football, and despite some road blocks, he is well on his way.