Your opinion of Harbaugh: what went right, what went wrong, and what's next?

Submitted by Caesar on June 4th, 2018 at 6:50 AM

I think the program is where most thought it would be, at least in terms of overall records: 10-3, 10-3, and 8-5 were pretty much expected outcomes. Below, I've included things that I think are reasonably within his control

I'll start things off.

The Good

  • Don Brown, Ed Warinner, Ben Herbert, and Chris Partridge--generally awesome hires
  • Solid recruiting--tailing off a bit right now, but that probably gets fixed with a good season
  • Generating buzz--added some pizzazz and visibility to the program 
  • 2015-2016 playcalling

The Bad

  • Tim Drevno & OL--Not sure how Harbaugh could've seen that coming with Drevno's history of results, but in the end, he put program loyalty over personal loyalty and made a change
  • 2017 offense playcalling--I know that the OL was rough, but Harbaugh successfully schemed ways around those kinds of weaknesses in previous years; this is probably an artifact of QB play

What's Next

  • 2018 is going to be a rough year, especially in dealing with the fanbase, given the schedule. Harbaugh will probably survive but not thrive. However, plenty of excellent video games and chess will take place during the year, so there's that. 
  • But 2019 is looking very Natty-like, especially with the OL/QB/fully weaponized WRs. ND, Michigan State, Ohio State at home. South Africa. Non-chaos Indiana before The Game. Tasty.

 Edit: Army is better than I remembered.


Watching From Afar

June 4th, 2018 at 9:23 AM ^

I wouldn't go that far.

Gary is a junior, 2 year starter former #1 recruit.

Hinton is going to be really, really good, but he'll be a freshman. Those things aren't equal.

Winovich might not be the pure talent that someone like Vilain is, but he's departing senior while his replacement will be someone who got 20% of the snaps this year. That's also a drop off.

DBs will be fine assuming only 1 of Hill or Long leave. If both depart early then it's just Thomas and... someone to be figured out later. But regardless, that TBD is not going to be All-Big Ten level right away. Especially because all of the 2018 recruits are middling 3 stars with the exception of Sims. Though stars aren't the end all be all - but it's harder to project someone like Sims (or Green) being Hill level quality as a sophomore.

LBs will be fine with Singleton, Anthony, Ross, and McGrone.

DTs will be equally good if not better because they'll be returning starters (Solomon and Dwumfor).

Safeties... eh? Losing Kinnel and replacing him with Woods or JKP would probably be about equal.

So maybe equally talented overall, but not equally proven.


June 4th, 2018 at 7:17 AM ^

I disagree, I don’t think 2018 will be rough, I see double digit wins! 2019 we lose a lot on D. But also have young talent..


June 4th, 2018 at 7:17 AM ^

What went right: Marketing of the program and the defensive hires (Brown, Mattison, Partridge) 

What went wrong: The offense's complexity, philosophy, QB coaching and OL coaching (see 2nd half of Ohio State game 2 years ago where all were exposed) 

What's Next: Hopefully an effective reboot of all of what has gone wrong and a simplification of the offense. 


June 4th, 2018 at 7:25 AM ^

Not having a game-ready QB in 2017 was pretty painful. We had a lot of other issues, but we would have won 11 of our 12 games with either 2015 Rudock or 2016 Speight.

The Fan in Fargo

June 4th, 2018 at 8:21 AM ^

My opinion on that and I'll take the bad guy role here as I often do but I'm starting to sense a lot of player toxicity. Meaning simply that it's best that Speight and O'Korn have moved on to different stages in their lives. Just reading some of the stories and seeing some of the comments made by those two make me think of myself after a pretty busy stretch of work where I'm not myself. The boys were probably wore thin some trying to get a very young and inexperienced team moving in 17. It's no ones fault. Just how things go. 2018 will not be anything like 2017 though. Too many moves in the right direction were made along with progress.


June 4th, 2018 at 10:10 AM ^

In a perfect football world your QB is a great leader. Speight was way too concerned about what social media thinks of him and used scripted lines to try pumping his team up. He also seemed a little oblivious to his lack of production on the field. O'Korn was never a fit in our system and never should of came here. Our coaches couldn't get him to improve a single bit in 3 years. Peters seems like a quiet withdrawn personality and Harbaugh clearly takes issue with his lack of command of the offense. He was the most talented QB last year but still put 3rd on the depth chart. I think Patterson will be a good player and leader but probably leave after this season. We need to maintain great leadership from the most important position on the field year in and year out.


June 4th, 2018 at 10:37 AM ^

The Amazon series did nothing to help the fan's perceptions of Speight. He really did not come across well no matter how scripted it may have been. If he was willing to say those things on camera, I can only imagine what he was saying the rest of the time.

I hate to say this about a kid that worked hard for Michigan and subjected his body to a lot of punishment, but if he is really anything like what he was portrayed as in that series, it is probably a good addition by subtraction getting him off of the team. 


June 4th, 2018 at 11:28 AM ^

QB issues are as much a current systemic problem as they are production. Think about the approach with no real solution in sight. We started with a good grad transfer in Ruddock who performed at a very high level. We then transitioned to another grad transfer in O'Korn who was not Ruddock. Speight just didn't have it, and didn't get the quality snaps to make it happen. Peters, just too young, not enough snaps, and no O-line to we have yet another grad transfer in Patterson, he could be a level or two above Ruddock..

PROBLEM being, we haven't developed any of our own QB talent and there is nothing in the future that says we will. Yeah we have McCaffery, but will he stay if he sees Patterson is the guy? And for the foreseeable future, our program does not scream developmental progress...if I am a blue chip QB I would scratch UM off my list for the simple fact no recruit has really taken control of the offense. As soon as it's my turn, someone else will be brought in. Selfish? YEP...reality? wouldn't be surprised. It's tough. The fan base demands wins right now, and that puts Harbaugh in the crosshairs. The line development prohibits rapid growth as well as qb instability...right now we are digging a deep hole.

Not sure it would fix things, but maybe we need to stick with a recruit, develope that talent, and show the progress of things.Next kid up has a shot.


June 4th, 2018 at 10:16 AM ^

I'd expand that slightly to say he hasn't looked the same since the 2nd quarter of the Iowa game.  That was the first time he constantly started missing wide open guys downfield by a large margin.


June 4th, 2018 at 10:21 AM ^

Are you on the wrong sports blog? Cause your opinion makes absolutely no sense for Michigan football. "Game day ready" Speight threw 2 pick 6's while completing 44% of his passes against a team that didn't even reach a bowl. Then fumbled handoffs and over threw wide open guys until he got hurt. Our run game was actually the only positive thing we had on offense last year. How can you say the only thing that we were above average at is the thing that held us back on offense?


June 4th, 2018 at 10:26 AM ^

We had a good running game post-MSU.  The complete lack of a passing game hampered the offense once the good teams on our schedule knew the only thing we could do well was run.  Even when we dominated some teams on the ground we struggled. Look at the IU game - 44 carries for 271 yards at 6.2 YPC, Indiana was 29/80 2.8 YPC.  We even had a 35/25 TOP advantage and we barely scraped out an OT win with O'Korn going 10/20 for 58 yards with a terrible 2/13 on 3rd downs.  On top of that he had a pick called back for questionnable PI, a wide open miss of Gentry for a big play and his long of the day (17 yards) being a circus scramble dime throw to DPJ.  That is how you manage to barely beat a team you are otherwise whupping - bad QB play.


June 6th, 2018 at 1:10 PM ^

Yup. While we had decent run numbers against the cupcakes on the schedule, every single decent team we faced shut down our run game completely because we couldn’t throw the ball into the ocean to save our lives. The sieve on the o-line and the epic failure of the coaches to get any QB ready to play all year is what shut down what run game we did have. One dimensional teams are never successful against quality competition.  


June 4th, 2018 at 7:35 AM ^

we couldn't get Harbaugh in soon enough to build a good 2015 class, leaving us with 2 small classes that were low rated back to back in 2014 & 2015


June 4th, 2018 at 7:37 AM ^

Right: immediately turned the program around. Nobody expected 10 wins in 2015.

Wrong: exceeded expectations early but hasn’t continued to exceed them. This is more a criticism of the fans’ expectations. He’s 28-11 after 3 years and people are shitting themselves because a few bounces went the wrong way in rivalry games.

Next: A more balanced team. The offense will start to catch up to the defense this year. There was a MASSIVE upgrade to the QB position since last year. The OL has the talent to be at least average, and the coaching to be above average. Everything else is set. They might not win every game, but they’ll win a lot of them and crush a few teams along the way.


June 4th, 2018 at 10:33 AM ^

Most everything you brought up could have also been said about Hoke. He exceeded year 1 expectations with an 11-2 record. Finished year 3 with a comparable 26-13 record. He had a defense that was always ahead of the offense. His OL's were overall also a weak point. But he never got a 5 star grad transfer to come in and try saving the day.


June 4th, 2018 at 7:42 AM ^

Harbaugh turned the program around instantly, with Hoke's players. Adding Rudock was key to the first season. Going 28-11 in his first 3 seasons versus Hoke's 20-18 previous 3 seasons is all Harbaugh coaching. Getting to the next level to win the B1G title and play in the CFP will take elite recruiting plus time to develop those players. Only big gripe on the recruiting front is OL which is all on Drevno. Adding Shea addresses team QB weaknesses, especially given the OL pass pro struggles. If Shea stays both years (and healthy), I think we win the B1G title in 2019. The 2018 schedule is brutal and the young WRs are still developing, yet I think we will give every team on our schedule a battle given the defense could be elite. The offense will improve in 2018, but good enough to beat both MSU and OSU on the road? We will see. Go Blue !!!

East German Judge

June 4th, 2018 at 7:44 AM ^

In terms of personnel, JH has done well for most units, but the OL has been a struggle, and thus the QB play has suffered and the running game has not been what is could have been. 

OL coaching - 2 coaches, really, who does that?  The OL recruiting, where are the 5 stars and high 4 stars - which is NOT a guarantee of success, but generally a good predictator, and thus the OL player development as a result of these first 2 issues.


June 4th, 2018 at 11:15 AM ^

Michigan's OL Recruits under Harbaugh (not including 2015 becuase that was a shit show of what can you get in 30 days).


Ben Bredeson (4*), Michael Onwenu (4*), Stephen Spanellis (3*)


Cesar Ruiz (4*), Chuck Filiaga (4*), JaRaymond Hall (4*, yes he left), Andrew Stueber (3*), Joel Honigford (3*) - Also in this class were James Hudson (4*) and Phillip Paea (3*) now playing O-line.


Jalen Mayfield (4*), Ryan Hayes (4*, yes he may play tight end)


Nolan Rumler (4*), Trente Jones (4*), Karsen Barnhart (3*), Zach Carpenter (3*), Jack Stewart (3*)


In four classes thats 17 recruits, of which 10 are four stars and the rest are 3 stars.

I think people's perceptions are skewed more by who wasn't signed (Devery Hamilton, Isaiah Wilson, Alex Leatherwood, Wills, etc) than who actually did sign. 

Harbaugh has signed very good classes for the O-line. If Onwenu holds his spot the starting interior this year will all be 4 stars. If Hudson works his way in at tackle, that is four 4 stars. 

If you want to talk coaching issues, fine, but talent pool is not the problem.


June 4th, 2018 at 7:49 AM ^

Army has beaten Navy the last two and won the Commander in Chief trophy this year. I wouldn't say they are the least threatening option team right now


June 4th, 2018 at 9:19 AM ^

They've really improved the last couple years, but are completely one-dimensional, whereas Air Force and Navy will both pass the ball every once in a while.  So in a sense, they're still the least threatening of the option teams, but they have improved from where they were.