Jim Harbaugh developed lesser recruited backs at Stanford, Michigan football has two 5 stars in the stable.

Submitted by Brandon_L on December 30th, 2014 at 1:23 PM

One of the staples of an efficient Jim Harbaugh offense has always been the running back position. In his time at Stanford he coached the likes of Toby Gerhart (a 3 star Recruit, who was not recruited by Jim Harbaugh’s staff), Stephan Taylor, and Tyler Gafney, both of whom were Harbaugh recruits. Below are Harbaugh’s year by year running back commits while at stanford, provided by (www.rivals.com).


Player Position From Height Weight 40 Time Rivals *s Rating Commit Date videos
Jeremy Stewart RB Baton Rouge, LA Catholic 5’10” 193 4.7 3 stars 5.5 1/28/07  
Owen Marecic RB Portland, ORJesuit 6’1″ 220   2 stars   1/17/07  
Chike Amajoyi RB San Bernardino, CAAquinas 6’0″ 215 4.6 2 stars 5.4 1/25/07 1 video


Delano Howell RB Newhall, CAHart 6’0″ 180 4.5 3 stars 5.7 7/19/0720


San Diego, CACathedral Catholic
4 stars
Mansfield, TXMansfield
4 stars


Tustin, CATustin
4 stars

The three most productive running backs from Stanford under Harbaugh in order are:

Toby Gerhart (3 Star) 2009 consensus All-American:

            Rushing Rushing Rushing Rushing Receiving Receiving Receiving Receiving Scrimmage Scrimmage Scrimmage Scrimmage
Year School Conf Class Pos G Att Yds Avg TD Rec Yds Avg TD Plays Yds Avg TD
2006 Stanford Pac-10 FR RB 12 106 375 3.5 0 15 124 8.3 0 121 499 4.1 0
2007 Stanford Pac-10 SO RB 1 12 140 11.7 1         12 140 11.7 1
2008 Stanford Pac-10 JR RB 12 210 1136 5.4 15 13 114 8.8 0 223 1250 5.6 15
*2009 Stanford Pac-10 SR RB 13 343 1871 5.5 28 11 157 14.3 0 354 2028 5.7 28
Career Stanford         671 3522 5.2 44 39 395 10.1 0 710 3917 5.5 44

Stephan Taylor (4 star):

            Rushing Rushing Rushing Rushing Receiving Receiving Receiving Receiving Scrimmage Scrimmage Scrimmage Scrimmage
Year School Conf Class Pos G Att Yds Avg TD Rec Yds Avg TD Plays Yds Avg TD
*2009 Stanford Pac-10 FR RB 13 56 303 5.4 2 3 43 14.3 0 59 346 5.9 2
*2010 Stanford Pac-10 SO RB 13 223 1137 5.1 15 28 266 9.5 1 251 1403 5.6 16
*2011 Stanford Pac-12 JR RB 13 242 1330 5.5 10 25 182 7.3 2 267 1512 5.7 12
*2012 Stanford Pac-12 SR RB 14 322 1530 4.8 13 41 287 7 2 363 1817 5 15
Career Stanford         843 4300 5.1 40 97 778 8 5 940 5078 5.4 45

Tyler Gafney (4 star):

            Rushing Rushing Rushing Rushing Receiving Receiving Receiving Receiving Scrimmage Scrimmage Scrimmage Scrimmage
Year School Conf Class Pos G Att Yds Avg TD Rec Yds Avg TD Plays Yds Avg TD
*2009 Stanford Pac-10 FR RB 12 22 87 4 1 2 39 19.5 0 24 126 5.3 1
*2010 Stanford Pac-10 SO RB 10 60 255 4.3 4 3 60 20 2 63 315 5 6
*2011 Stanford Pac-12 JR RB 13 74 449 6.1 7 12 79 6.6 1 86 528 6.1 8
*2013 Stanford Pac-12 SR RB 14 330 1709 5.2 21 15 86 5.7 1 345 1795 5.2 22
Career Stanford         486 2500 5.1 33 32 264 8.3 4 518 2764 5.3 37

All three of these backs were, or eventually became the featured back in Jim Harbaugh’s offense at Stanford. The most highly touted of three listed backs above was Stephan Taylor. Stephan Taylor possessed great vision and was good at both the power and zone running scheme. There is no doubt that Taylor benefited from having Andrew Luck as his quarterback while at Stanford, but this is one of the many parts of the Harbaugh Offense that will be relied upon heavily at Michigan.

Toby Gerhart who was not recruited by Jim Harbaugh, was only 3 star recruit but he was the leader of the Stanford offense in 2008, 2009. In 2009 Gerhart was a workhouse. He compiled over 1800 yards on the ground. This was big for the growth of the Stanford offense and the tough identity it would have under Jim Harbaugh and that same identity has continued under current Stanford coach David Shaw. Gerhart can also be credited for helping take pressure off of a young Andrew Luck who was still coming into his own in 2009.

This is the type of back Michigan needs in Harbaugh’s first year, a tough nosed guy, who can get the tough yards when needed and who can carry the load 25,30 times per game. This will be important for Michigan in 2015 while Harbaugh grooms a quarterback.

Harbaugh was at a severe disadvantage recruiting and as you can see his best recruit was a 4 star at the running back position. According to rivals Harbaugh did not get a single 5 star commit at Stanford. Andrew Luck was a 4 star, and even Owen Marecic was only a 2 star kid. The big disadvantage were academics at Stanford. If a kid did commit to Stanford, he had to wait to be admitted academically and there were instances a recruit, or commit did not get accepted. Jim will not have this problem at Michigan. Yes, Michigan is a highly regarded academic institution, but not quite on the level of Stanford.

Stephan Taylor Highlights: Sorry I can never get the embed to work.

I have what I believe to be the four deep at the running back position for Michigan. We can argue the order all day, but I will start off with who I believe will line up first in 2015 for Michigan, based off of my own expectations.

1. Ty Issac, former 5 star recruit and number one ranked running back in the nation according to many recruiting sites out of high school. Click his name for more details.

2. Derek Green, Was also a 5 star guy out of high school. Rated the top back by many recruiting sites. Click his name for more. 

3. Deveon Smith, a 4 star kid out of Ohio. He is a bruiser who seems to lack great vision but would never avoid contact. Click his name.

4. Drake Johnson, a 3 star kid who played in the shadows of the Big House, at Ann Arbor pioneer High School. If it were not for his ACL tear against the Buckeyes this past season I would have him at 1, or 2 on the depth chart. If he can fully recover, he has the ability to overtake all the other guys listed above him. He possesses great speed and vision. Johnson can run powerfully between the tackles and will not avoid contact. Click his name as well for more details. 

The tape I chose to analyze was that of Ty Issac who played limited snaps his freshman season at USC before transferring to Michigan.

Ty issac every touch video while at USC. Click here for awesome.

The Thing that stands out to me when I watched the above video, is that Ty Issac never tries to avoid contact. He is always lowering the boom on defenders, and this is important when you are running a power, or a zone rushing attack. He also has a knack for bouncing the play outside. My only concern is his pad level. As a running back you always want to get low when running. I foresee Issac being the lead back to start 2015, while splitting carries with Derrick Green.

Michigan has depth, and before derrick green was hurt last year he was starting to come on stronger. As long as the offensive line continues to improve, Michigan will have success running the ball in 2015 and this will be important for Jim Harbaugh while he is breaking in a new signal caller.

Other links to my position by position series:





December 30th, 2014 at 1:31 PM ^

I had never heard of Stewart before but the guy plays for Denver this year. So he has enough talent to make an NFL roster. This shows more depth of Harbaugh's recruiting and/or development.


December 30th, 2014 at 4:50 PM ^

I'm expecting the run game to be pretty decent in 2015. We saw Johnson step up at the end of the season and even run the ball well against OSU's "great" front seven. I think Green and Smith are similar and didn't really provide a great 1-2 punch because they are both plodders. Johnson gave the run game a little more quickness and burst and that was a good compliment to Green/Smith. The O line looked better with a little more speed in the backfield. This is why I think it's possible the Isaac wins the #1 spot this year. Green and Smith should come back one year stronger and faster (hopefully) and provide a good change up. They will have plenty of bodies to throw at defenses. I was happy for Johnson this season but I'm not sure how good he can bounce back from yet another knee injury.

Harlans Haze

December 31st, 2014 at 12:40 AM ^

There's plenty of talent at RB position, and plenty on the OL. I'm just hoping he can develop a QB. He didn't exactly have much of a challenge with Luck at Stanford. He didn't do that much with Kaepernick at SF. And, UM hasn't developed a QB since Henne (and that's not an exagerration). I know Morris struggeled against Minnesota and in last year's bowl game. But, when he game in for that one snap (I think it was against Penn St.), he looked like a different QB when he threw that rocket out route to whichever receiver it was. The problem with our running attack the last couple years is that middle linebackers could almost always cheat against the run. The passing game was unable to exploit the middle of the field due to either Gardner's poor vision or poor decision making. So, even when the OL was winning their battles, there was often an extra man, or two that they couldn't beat. If anything, hopefully, there will be an improvement in how Green hits the hole. It seems that he too often was slow in identifying where the hole was.

Harlans Haze

December 31st, 2014 at 11:28 PM ^

I'm not trying to denigrate Harbaugh. I'm excited to have him back, and expect great things. I just find it odd, for an ex-QB that QB development has been the one things missing from his resume. I'll give you Josh Smith, but it's a stretch at the FCS level. The fact is that Luck was a highly recruited QB, and started from his redshirt freshman year, and only played 2 years under Harbaugh. It wasn't exactly a project. You can't count Kapernick, he's regressed almost game to game over the last year and a half. I'm not blaming that on Harbaugh, it's just the way it is. And, Alex Smith was improving the 2 years prior to Harbaugh. Granted, he cut down on his interceptions once Harbaugh arrived. You can possibly attribute that to Harbaugh, or maturity as a player. Beause, he's pretty much kept up his pace with KC. The bottom line is that I'd love for Harbaugh to hire a dedicated QB coach, something UM's been missing since 2007. The majority of successful programs either have a dedicated QB coach, or they have some form of dual offensive coordinators. Only a handful have a single person handle OC and QB coach duties. I especially don't want to see this role from an OC with an offensive line background. Maybe Harbaugh can fill that void, being an ex-QB, but something tells me his tempermant and his in-game enthusiasm preclude him from being the confdant that I think most college QBs require.


January 1st, 2015 at 12:29 PM ^

Andrew Luck was not a generational talent coming out of high school. I doubt he would be the player he is without Harbaugh. Probably still a starter in the NFL, but the kid went from fourth best QB in his high school class to the best QB prospect in a quarter century. How can you say that just happened? 

And Josh Johnson was a non-scholarship athlete who became an NFL quarterback. So Harbaugh just got extremely lucky, twice, in the span of five years? Not buying it.