There are 74 days until Michigan's 2022 season kicks off, which isn't exactly right around the corner, but we are officially marching through the summer as of today. Jim Harbaugh recently joined Jed Hughes on his podcast and had a lot to talk about even though we are still more than two months away from college football. Here are the five most interesting things he said.
"You’ve got to figure that teams like Ohio State — Iowa’s on the schedule again — they’re going to be very motivated to return the favor."
Ok, maybe that line isn't all that interesting, but man is it fun to think about. Michigan dominated Ohio State en route to a 15-point win in Ann Arbor, which punched their ticket to Indianapolis, and then absolutely lambasted Iowa 42-3 in the Big Ten Championship. This season, Michigan will travel to Iowa City for the fifth game of the season and then to Columbus for the regular season finale. We have to wait so long for those rematches, but they're already so fun to think about. Just imagine how Harbaugh is feeling as he looks down at his massive Big Ten title ring.
"The first thing: being smart. I want guys, or gals, anybody in the organization, to be on the ball, to have those smarts, and other talents. They could be really proficient in Xs and Os, could be really high energy, could have really great people skills, great teaching ability. That combination of intelligence and something else you’re really good at."
Jim Harbaugh certainly isn't the only head coach looking for smart assistants, but he has done a really good job, especially over the last two seasons, at actually finding smart guys who possess several other talents. Look no further than last year's defensive coordinator, Mike Macdonald. Guys like Grant Newsome, Sherrone Moore, Jesse Minter, Mike Hart, Jay Harbaugh, Matt Weiss, Mike Elston and Ron Bellamy are all billed as very smart, cerebral guys. I'm not leaving out George Helow and Steve Clinkscale on purpose, but we've heard over and over again about how smart the others are. It's one of the first things anyone says about them.
I've personally dealt with Newsome, Moore, Jay Harbaugh, Elston and Bellamy before and it's just apparent that they're highly intelligent and very in tune with what they're doing. Harbaugh says he looks for smarts and the proof is in the pudding.
"[Recruiting] is going really good."
Right now, Michigan is No. 39 in the country and No. 11 in the Big Ten in the 2023 team rankings per 247 Sports. Michigan has only seven pledges and only two of them are four-stars. Ohio State, on the other hand, is at No. 1 in the Big Ten with 12 total commits including 9 four-stars and 2 five-stars. Only Maryland, Illinois and Indiana are behind Michigan in the conference right now. It's going to change, but U-M is inexplicably struggling on the recruiting trail right now. It doesn't have its quarterback yet, although five-star Detroit product Dante Moore feels like a Michigan lean and seems to be missing on high-profile offensive line targets left and right despite having the best O-line in the country last year. The same can be said at running back and wide receiver.
For several reasons, Michigan has not been able to capitalize on the masterful season it had last year. Some have blamed the coaching staff turnover from 2021 to 2022, while others blame Harbaugh and his flirtation with the NFL. Whatever the reasons are, Michigan is not killing it on the recruiting trail right now. I wouldn't expect Harbaugh to say that, and it is going to improve, but it's not going really good right now.
"Tom Gamble, we worked together at the 49ers, has been a longtime football scout, GM, assistant GM, his dad was a great coach at Penn — Tom is an excellent personnel person, man. Whether it’s looking at evaluating high school talent or evaluating players in the portal, he’s doing both."
That's awesome to hear. Gamble is known in the football world and when he was hired it definitely seemed like a good thing. To hear Jim Harbaugh specifically say that Gamble is monitoring the transfer portal and personally scouting both high school players and transfer targets is very reassuring. College football staffs are huge and specialized, especially at a place like Michigan, so Harbaugh definitely needs to appoint someone to just about everything. Putting Gamble in charge of the portal is a smart, solid move.
"We’re still going to maintain that this is going to be a transformational experience, not a transactional experience, and what that literally means exactly is we’re not going to pay signing bonuses for players to come to the team. We’re not going to pay recruits to sign here."
Harbaugh saying this is a no brainer since "paying to play" is still supposed to be against NCAA rules even with NIL allowances in place. However, saying this aloud and outright probably eliminates Michigan from some recruits' lists immediately, which is unfortunate because plenty of teams are willing to pay recruits to sign. In fact, they're already doing it. Ahem, Texas A&M.
Michigan could and should be one of the best in the country when it comes to NIL, but so far, they're still behind a lot of programs. We know that Harbaugh is in favor of NIL and wants to use it to the best of his abilities, but it's tricky at Michigan. Some of what Harbaugh says is for public consumption. He wants to push the NIL envelope but it has been difficult so far.