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Is Jim Harbaugh “Burned Out?”

There are a lot of message board rumors swirling that Michigan football is in disarray!

Here is a tweet I received today about the subject.

There is no truth to the rumors that Jim Harbaugh is “burned out” or that the program is lacking leadership.  Look, Harbaugh didn’t all of a sudden forget how to run a football program, he didn’t all of a sudden forget how to put together a coaching staff and he certainly didn’t suddenly run out of stream.

This is simply what happens when you don’t win enough games, people talk and opponents look for opportunities to take shots at your program.

I’ll admit, these rumors didn’t seem far fetched to me given the fact that Harbaugh has been running a sprint since he set foot in Ann Arbor trying to revitalize a slumbering brand, so I made calls to my sources within the football program to check it out and I came up with zero evidence that the Michigan program has major issues.

Three separate sources inside and close to the program laughed at me when I asked them if the program is in disarray or if Harbaugh is “burnt out.”  “The words Jim Harbaugh and “burn out” should never be used in the same sentence,” according to one well places source.

While “disarray” and ” burn out” aren’t evident, frustration is very apparent.  “There is no doubt that the coach is not happy with the results and will take whatever measures are necessary to fix it,” was the answer when I asked if the program was lacking leadership.  This reply is a direct quote from one of my sources who has been most realistic about the program since Harbaugh took over three years ago.  He isn’t the type to blow smoke or predict sunshine.

Some insiders have opined that Harbaugh looked “disconnected” and “disinterested” on the sideline this year as oppose to the first two years as coach; that may be true, but it also doesn’t indicate there is anything wrong in the program.  Some close to the program think it’s a two fold evolution, one, Harbaugh is learning from his mistakes (think throwing papers in the air at Ohio State) and two, he understood his team was young and inexperienced and wasn’t going to put more pressure on them by raising the teams profile in 2018.  I tend to agree with this assessment and think you’ll see a different Harbaugh in 2018, but not one that will take dumb 15 yard penalties.

I cannot stress this enough, these are the types of rumors and stories that people create when a program hasn’t win enough football games and not reached or exceeded expectation.  Look at Mark Dantonio last off-season when there were rumors of NCAA sanction and of a coaching change, NONE of it was true and MSU rebounded to have a fine season in 2017.  If Michigan wants these rumors to stop they must start winning, they must beat their rivals and the best teams on their schedule, it’s that simple.

In the message board era there will always be “anonymous” insiders and “sources,” I would caution anybody who is interested in the program to only pay attention to what somebody who is willing to put their name on their work is reporting.

In the end, I think Michigan is building something to last, on a strong foundation.  There won’t be any shortcuts and the process won’t always be pleasant, but in the end the program will benefit and be stronger for it.

 



What’s Wrong With Michigan’s Football Recruiting?

What is wrong with Michigan’s football recruiting?  That is the familiar refrain from Wolverine fans following two “under the radar” commitments to Michigan in the last week.  I’m not sure why Michigan fans are losing their minds over the commitments of MI/ATH Ben Vansumeren and MO/WR Ronnie Bell, but clearly some are not thrilled.

Vansumeren is a three star athlete who was off the radar except for his commitment to Iowa, his offer list included a bunch of MAC type schools and the Hawkeyes until he recently flipped from Iowa to Michigan.  Vansumeren is a typical Harbaugh recruit, he’s versatile and loves to hit people which is why he could project as a TE, FB or LB.  The guy has the athleticism to be very good, flexible player for the Wolverines, but some nutty Michigan fans are not having any of it.  The star gazers are not thrilled that this guy is a three star recruit who literally “nobody” wanted and was on the way to Western Michigan before verbally committing to Iowa and finally flipping to Michigan.  My guess is none of them have ever seen the kid play are are simply upset that he didn’t have enough “start” next to his name.

If Vansumeren sent Michigan recruiting stargazers over the edge, imagine the meltdown when former Missouri State basketball (yes, I said Missouri State) commitment Ronnie Bell decided he didn’t want to play basketball for the Bears and instead announced he was heading to Michigan to play football.  Bell has zero….zero football offers as most schools expected him to play basketball.  Bell is a rangy but thin receiver who was one of the best players in Missouri, even though the in-state schools didn’t recruit him or offer a scholarship to play football.  Further freaking out some Michigan fans is the fact that Bell is Michigan’s only third two star recruit (outside of kickers) to commit to the Wolverines under Harbaugh.  The other two stars are offensive lineman Nolan Ulizio in Harbaugh’s first class in 2015 and RB Kurt Taylor in 2017.  I’m not counting kickers as they are considered top prospects as two star prospects.

Critics say Harbaugh can’t keep the momentum up because the Wolverines lost four games this season and that Harbaugh has lost his touch, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.  There are many reasons we could be seeing some lower level recruits and none of them are a reflection of where the Wolverines recruiting efforts are trending.  A quick glance at the 2018 recruiting cycle will show you there is zero loss of momentum with three players in the top 100 already verbally committed to the Wolverines.

The recruitment of Vansumeren and Bell could be as simple as Harbaugh taking flyers on very athletic players, it isn’t unprecedented. If you look at his previous classes, Harbaugh has tried to uncover guys nobody else is recruiting, every teams needs organizational depth and unless you are Alabama you can’t expect every four or five star player to commit to your program.  That comes after you win and win big.

The trouble with recruiting at a high level and not yet getting into the playoffs is that recruits aren’t flocking to your school but you can get enough great players to fill out your two deep.  The downside is Michigan can’t sell playing time anymore, so they will take a certain number of developmental guys who will hopefully be contributors when they are upperclassmen.  If these guys don’t pan out, you will see them leave as seniors or before to free up scholarships for higher prospects.  They are akin to placeholders and if they develop, all the better.  Most people don’t understand that scholarships are a series of one year contracts and turning over the roster is the new way of doing business in college football.

Rest easy Michigan recruiting geeks, the recruiting effort under Harbaugh has lost no momentum under Harbaugh, the 2018 class is a smallish, filler class that affords the Wolverines to take a flyer or two on a couple guys with tremendous upside.  Harbaugh clearly knows talent when he sees it and at this point, after watching the player development under this staff, I think we know where this is heading.  In the end, this class will still likely end up in the top 10 nationally.