Michigan's offense this year is facing the mother of all X factors in its quarterback situation. Brady Hoke left the rest of the team in relatively great shape, but its most important position in a Shane-or-die position.
Hoke and his staff recruited just Russell Bellomy (a last-minute flier stolen from Purdue) in the hybrid 2011 class, and skipped a quarterback altogether in 2012 because they already had a commitment from Morris in 2013. This was a bad idea then, and worked out awfully for Michigan. Bellomy's injury ruined any chance of a badly needed redshirt for Shane, so even if Morris worked out he'd be gone after 2016. And if he didn't work out: Michigan was going into this year hoping to catch lightning in a freshman from either lone 2014 recruit Wilton Speight, or early enrollee Alex Malzone.
From left: Morris, Speight, Malzone, Gentry, O'Korn. O'Korn won't be eligible in 2015 due to transfer rules but gives Michigan a guy they didn't have between Morris Speight.
This won't happen under Harbaugh. The former Michigan and NFL star likes lots of bullets and lots of competition at his old position, which he personally coaches. Harbaugh has already added the high-ceilinged Zach Gentry, a perfect complement to the high-floor Malzone. By this time next year (unless there's attrition), Michigan should have the above plus two years of eligibility remaining on Houston transfer John O'Korn, and likely one or two of the nation's best freshmen.
What I'd like to do, then, is go back through Harbaugh's quarterbacks—the starters and the recruits—to see if we can find any common threads in the type of guy he adds to the pile, and the type of guy who emerges from it.
|Jim used his Orlando offseason home as a base from which to recruit the talent-rich region for WKU. [USA Today]|
Recruiting assistant, 1994-2001
Bo's former defensive backs coach Jack Harbaugh was coaching at Western Kentucky, and struggling through his first few years, when the school decided it would cut two assistant coaching positions and a handful of scholarships (they already put very little toward equipment). His sons offered to do some scouting and recruiting for him—John from Cincinnati and Jim from his house in Orlando—and the harvest from those recruits was an WKU's rise to a I-AA national championship in 2002 and eventual reclassification into Division I-A.
The Jim-John co-op (John was doing much of the scouting, passing on guys Indiana couldn't recruit) was personally credited with 17 players on the national championship team. Nick Baumgardner got the story of Jim's first quarterback recruit, Willie Taggart:
Harbaugh explained he was trying to round up some talent for his dad's program. He told Taggart that he and his father were watching tape of Manatee and asked, "Who is that little skinny guy?" Jim said he thought he should play quarterback in college and he'd come by the school on Tuesday at lunch to discuss it further.
Taggart hung up and assumed it was a prank or something. "I called my high school coach and he checked on it and said, 'Yeah, Jim is Jack Harbaugh's son.'
Manatee was a Tampa area powerhouse back then, so Taggart's a guy who absolutely would have shown up on recruiting radars today, and had FBS programs looking at him then. He became the best QB in school history, improving a 2-8 team in in 1995 to 7-4 in '96 and 10-2 in '97. Taggart is now USF's head coach, and was an assistant for Jim at Stanford.
Taggart returned to WKU in 2000 and ran an option offense that rotated between three candidates. The original winner was Jason Johnson. They got the 6'3/200 Johnson out of Palmetto, but with the limited scholarships they couldn't offer him one out of high school. Johnson went to a military college for a few years before being re-recruited:
It was during that second season that Johnson had to renter the recruiting game. He was in contact with a number of Division programs, including Clemson, South Carolina, Kansas State and Indiana, but in the end Western won out.
Donte Pimpleton was the second, a local-ish dual-threat kid who wound up playing receiver—there isn't anything on the internet connecting his recruitment to the brothers. The third candidate, and the starter of the 2002 championship team, was Jason Michael, another local recruit, onetime Jim Harbaugh assistant in SF and now the OC of the Tennessee Titans,
Jim did recruit Alan Ogletree, an overlooked athlete from Atlanta who ended up starting at every position in the defensive and offensive backfield for the Hilltoppers (QB, RB, FB, WR, CB, SS, FS, K, P).
[After the jump: Raiders and San Diego]
Quarterbacks/quality control, 2002-'03
In Harbaugh's first year at as QBs coach for Oakland, his QB won MVP and led his team to the Super Bowl. Both he and Rich Gannon admit Harbaugh wasn't doing a lot of coaching for the starting QB, who was his same age. Harbaugh had the backups, but he also was responsible for breaking down film and tendencies:
"I'm an offensive assistant. Basically, I get to work with the backup quarterbacks, Marques Tuiasosopo and Rick Mirer. I do some computer work and break down the opponents. I watch a lot of film. I average about 104 hours of working a week."
Did better scouting account for Gannon's career season? Not really. Amplitude did:
|Kansas City (1995-'98)||673||5.52||2.09||58%|
|Oakland pre-JH (1999-'01)||1641||6.45||2.32||62%|
|Oak under JH (2002-'03)||896||6.32||2.29||64%|
*ypa is sack-adsjusted.
Gannon was the same Gannon, except in an offense that passed more—he had 6 or 7 more attempts per game under JH than in Oakland's offense previously. By 2003 he was 38 and wouldn't play another full season.
Those backups, Rick Mirer and 2001 draftee Marques Tuiasosopo, filled in the eight and a half games Gannon missed in 2003. May as well compare but there's not much there.
|After JH (2005-'08)||49||2.86||(2/4)||51%|
Zooming in from the aggregate, the backups were anecdotally serviceable to good when called upon. You may or may not remember Tuiasosopo's 224-yard second half on Monday Night Football in 2003, which ended one yard short of an epic comeback. The linked article includes this from Jerry Rice:
“I looked at Marques in the huddle, and he reminded me of Joe Montana,” Rice said after the game. “He was very composed. He knew what he wanted to do, and he was able to do it.”
Oakland didn't draft or sign a new quarterback while Harbaugh was there so we can't say much about his scouting here. At least his wards say nice things:
"The players will flock to his personality," Raiders quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo said. "He's the type of coach they'll want to play for."
That article's from when Harbaugh took the Stanford job.
University of San Diego (FCS)
Head coach and quarterbacks coach, 2004-'06
Jimmie Dougherty, Tim Drevno, Jim, and Jack Harbaugh (from USD 2004 media guide)
The Toreros that Harbaugh took over weren't just Division I-AA, they were in the Pioneer League, which meant they didn't have full-ride scholarships and only a few financial aid offers to give out.
|June 2005 cover of San Diego Family|
They had just graduated a longtime starting quarterback who had been the bulk of their offensive production, so like at Michigan, Harbaugh was starting with a clean slate.
The first guy he got was transfer Todd Mortensen, who had already graduated summa cum laude (straight-A's) from BYU with one year left of eligibility. After that year Mortensen was picked up by the Detroit Lions as an undrafted free agent, and later signed with the Patriots. He also established the model for all future Harbaugh QBs:
Mortensen would routinely arrive at the line of scrimmage with three possible play calls: a run or a pass based on the defensive alignment and, if the defense showed blitz, a third play Mortensen termed a "man-to-man beater."
"The complexity was in the game plan and being able to come up with the right play against the right defensive scheme," Mortensen said. "... But once you're running the play, Jim made it so your progressions and decision-making process was very clear cut, very simple and allowed you to make those decisions quickly."
This will be a recurring theme with Harbaugh QB management: lots of reads pre-snap so that the post-snap decisions are easy. It also didn't come right away; San Diego's 7-4 season started 2-4 and ended 5-0.
Harbaugh had two more quarterback recruits his year at San Diego. The first was David Perez, a transfer from Jeff Tedford's Cal. The second was all-around athlete Josh Johnson out of Oakland (Technical—same school as cousin Marshawn Lynch), whose best offer was Idaho State, being (at the time) 5'9 and having missed his entire junior season to injury. Harbaugh offered him after seeing him play basketball:
"He saw Josh playing basketball," Oakland Tech coach Delton Edwards said of Harbaugh's visit. "He saw what kind of leader he was and how aggressive he was on the basketball court. And then he looked at his highlight tape and he just fell in love with him."
Johnson (who shot up to 6'3) became the best player in the history of the school, and first to ever be drafted (5th round, Tampa Bay). Johnson has bounced around the fringe of the NFL since, most recently in a second stint with San Francisco.
The raw QB stats (Harbaugh years bolded, not sack-adjusted):
Mortensen's legs didn't factor into the offense, but Johnson's, while not exactly dual-threat territory, were a nice little weapon.
Other recruits: In 2005 Harbaugh took Ben Hannula, a legacy (brother was a senior receiver in '04) state of Washington prospect who'd garnered preferred walk-on offers from Washington, Oregon, and Oregon State. Hannula was also an all-around athletic type who became a constant on-field presence at RB, CB, and WR, while serving as backup QB. The second QB recruit for '05 was Kevin Dunn, who set school passing records at Santa Barbara. Dunn ended up moving to safety, then linebacker, then SAM/WDE.
The heir apparent was 2006 recruit Andrew Rolin, who started the opener in 2007 (Johnson was serving a one-game suspension). Rolin was a 6'3"/210 athlete out of the Sacramento area with interest from Nevada and UNLV. Again, he was a little-known guy whose team won a lot more than usual with him. Rolin and Hannula ultimately lost a three-way battle for the starting job in 2008 to Juco transfer Seb Trujillo. The second 2006 recruit was athlete Anthony McCrady, who'd taken over at Oakland Tech after Johnson. McCrady wound up a rotational linebacker. A third was Tommy Eulberg, another tall and lanky athlete; Eulberg never made it up the depth chart and is now a high school assistant coach.
[Coming up in part II]