Ace: When do you expect Michigan to get on level footing with Michigan State and Ohio State? Do you expect them to, in the latter case?
Dave Nasternak: Well, those are 2 different levels, especially after the last year.
As far as reaching Michigan State's level, I'm thinking (hoping?) Harbaugh will get them to that level in the next 2-3 years. I actually think that the talent differential is not huge, outside of a couple of obvious positions. The coaching differential, however...has been quite large. One of the interesting things about Michigan State has been their recruiting. They have not had stand-out, elite level recruiting during their stretch of dominance over Michigan (and kinda the Big Ten). But they have developed their roster as well as anyone has...which is coaching. It has also not hurt Michigan State that Michigan and Penn State have not been at program expectations over the past 5+ years. However, with Harbaugh in Ann Arbor, now -and a competitively talented roster to work with- I think that gap has already shrunk a bit...and will presumably do so in the next couple of years.
|You will NOT take away the year of Fickell. [Upchurch]|
Since the end of the 2004 season, Ohio State is 110-21. 104-14 if you take away the Year of Fickell. That's...uh...I don't even know. I definitely think this past 10 or so years has not been the Big Ten's best -definitely some under-performing teams and questionable hiring decisions by a few of the schools- but...yikes, man. There were a few years where its felt like Michigan has lost 14 games...just in that year, alone! I'm not sure anyone is going to THAT level, any time soon. If anyone can give Michigan a chance to do so, it would be Jim Harbaugh, though. Anyway...my next point, haha. One of the things that Ohio State has that has eluded most of the Big Ten teams (at least lately) is a game-changer. And they have had many. Going back to Troy Smith, Terrelle Pryor and now Miller/Barrett/Jones and Elliott. These are guys that can score every time they touch the ball...and always seem to make a play to keep a drive alive or score when OSU needs points. They are Heisman trophy winners...or at least candidates. That is level of recruit AND development that Michigan is going to need in order to compete at the OSU level. Can and will Harbaugh take Michigan there? I think he can. I hope he will. When? It will be years before he will be able to make a mark like OSU has been able to over the last decade or so. But I do think that once Harbaugh gets Top 100/300/whatever recruits flowing into his system, Michigan will be able to go toe-to-toe with Ohio State and at least beat them at a competitive rate...instead of the 1(Fickell) and 10 it has been over the past 11 years.
[After the jump: projections on a sophomore roster]
Mathlete: It's great to plot these things out and plan on projections and steady growth but realistically it doesn't happen like that. Hoke had Michigan back in Year 1, until he didn't. Between Harbaugh's track record and this roster, if it is happening going to happen it should happen in the first two years. If Michigan had anything resembling a proven quarterback, I might not even feel bad about saying year one.
|State is always susceptible to a Maxwell year. [Upchurch]|
The comparison between Michigan State should be very interesting the next couple of years. Can Michigan's recruiting advantage finally be an advantage with quality coaching and player development? How much does Narduzzi's departure affect the Spartans, can they keep punching above their weight without him? Has the aggressive quarters defense really been solved? I think with Narduzzi gone and moving forward, MSU will take a step back, but not a big one. They have proven that they are here to stay, but I see them more as a consistently good team moving forward, and maybe every couple of years really contending for Big Ten titles, and that's independent of Harbaugh and Michigan.
Now, Ohio State, that's a whole different animal. While Tressel was mostly content to build teams designed to dominate the Big Ten, Urban has been swinging for the fences and obviously succeeding. When could Michigan get at that level, who knows. Harbaugh's track record is taking bad teams with a recruiting deficit and building them into juggernauts over several years. Michigan will be a different situation. I am projecting Michigan to have the strongest roster in the nation next year based on recruiting rankings weighted for player age/experience. If Harbaugh is able to get this group up to or beyond their potential the sky is limit immediately. But making mediocre players decent and making good players great aren't necessarily the same thing.
Next year will be very interesting because for me, seeing how Harbaugh does in year 1 with a high-potential roster could go a lot of different ways. We're all pretty confident he can do it, I think there is a very real chance that we see a big leap in year 1.
Seth: I think it will take four or five years but there will be a taste of success in 2016. My reasoning is the makeup of the roster. Hoke's 2012-2014 classes were strong, suffered very little attrition, and missed out on a lot of would-be redshirts. The result is a depth chart that's currently heavy on sophomores and juniors.
|It's also worth noting the Western Conference was totally the SEC of its day, except way wilder. [Upchurch, at Ann Arbor Sports Memorabilia]|
It means, barring lots of grad transfers (the only type that Michigan can consistently pull off), there's a lot of playing time in 2017 that will be going to the 2016 and 2017 recruiting classes, i.e. true sophomores and freshmen. With a new coach who's much more of a hardass, long-term position battles to be settled, and inevitable washouts, there will be attrition. Even before that here are the upperclassmen (RS Soph and older) who will be available to the 2017 defense:
WDE/SAM: Marshall (Sr), R.Jones (So)
SDE: Poggi (Sr), S.Johnson (So)
DT: Mone (Sr), Hurst (Sr), Pallante (Jr)
LB: McCray (Sr), Wangler (Jr), Furbush (Jr), Winovich (Jr)
S: Peppers*(Jr), Kinnel (So)
CB: Watson (Sr), Washington (So), Dawson (Sr)
(* Eligible for NFL draft after 2016)
So with zero attrition and every guy working out to his potential (this never happens) Michigan would have five defensive backs, four linebackers, and seven DL who aren't teenagers. That's a one-deep. They'll also be replacing most of the offensive line, and down to just Isaac, Higdon and Shallman as backs. Even a great coach can only get so much out of guys he hasn't coached for long, or guys who just don't develop, and therefore I expect it will be a roller coaster start that still remains higher than anything we've lately because HARBAUGH.
Michigan State is a Wisconsin: they operate on retention, and are always a quarterback whiff away from implosion. Ohio State, meanwhile, is a machine on par with Woody's, with a recruiting state richer than any but California, Texas, or Florida (and twice as rich as Michigan) all to itself. They are possessed a coach more accomplished than any in the game but Saban, and the dangerous combination of a correct contempt for NCAA rules, and an SEC-ish immunity from them. They have the guy who made Penn State's defensive lines dominant for 20 years, and the guy who made a Taylor Martinez offense the most productive at Nebraska since Crouch.
This won't ever be either of those things (we have the guy who can sell his NFL career as "like Saban's except successful.") Michigan's two great advantages in the college football landscape are that degree (no school that offers better is nearly as devoted to football), and virtually unlimited above-the-table funds. The Big Ten's recent moves to allocate more of the latter to players should help Michigan somewhat counteract the growing disadvantage of running a functional compliance department, but five-star receivers will still develop uncles or suddenly flip to Ole Miss.
The best possible progression is Bo: a big upset to announce his presence, a big year out of the elderly 2016 roster, then a few flawed but progressing outfits before the waves of well-coached future-pros make Michigan a Top 10 team of the 2020s.
Brian: The bare minimum requirement here is that Michigan has a quarterback who can not shoot himself in the foot on the regular. That does not seem particularly likely in year one even if random Heisman candidate QBs are showing up just to hang with Harbs. Shane Morris's time to date has been alarming, and there are only freshmen available otherwise.
|Miller and G. Glasgow graduate in 2015 but Magnusson should be good for one of those spots, and Kugler will be a RS Junior. [Fuller]|
Year two, though... I could see something happening there. Michigan will get back everyone on the roster; O'Korn will be eligible; Gentry might be coming off a redshirt. With five options plus a potential big time true freshman you figure that whoever comes out of that melee will be good-ish. And that's when Hoke's recruiting will be in full bloom. Michigan loses very little from their offense: just a couple fullbacks, Norfleet, Williams, and Glasgow and Miller. With Erik Magnuson likely to be starter quality by next year, they have to replace approximately one guy who has a major impact--the center. Add in Harbaugh's desired style of offense and a QB could game manage his way to great success.
The defense suffers more attrition but not a ton. ILB is the only spot that looks particularly iffy. Michigan could be very good quickly. Power coaches tend to have huge year twos if they're going to succeed long term, and we all think Harbaugh is that. The talent is there. Hoke had back to back top ten recruiting classes that have suffered very little attrition. Mature it, and coach it, and it won't take long.
That's for a year. For a program... as Dave points out, Ohio State is in an incredible period of dominance that spans a decade plus minus a couple of hiccups. To get to that level requires not a year but year-in, year-out. State will be easier to overtake in that department, especially if it seems like the key to unlocking the MSU defense (run fast down the slot with a competent QB) has indeed been discovered.