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On-Field Success vs. Offensive Philosophy vs. Recruiting Approach

Michigan won big on the field last year, but with the landscape of college football changing by the hour, is that enough?

Last fall, Michigan beat up on Ohio State, obliterated Iowa in the Big Ten title game and made an appearance in the College Football Playoff. Yet recruiting, especially at the quarterback position, is not going as well as it seemingly should. 

How come?

Jim Harbaugh's flirtation with the NFL probably didn't help and neither does his — and Michigan's overall stance — on NIL. Calling a student athlete's experience at Michigan "transformational" as opposed to "transactional" sounds good and looks pretty in a frame on the wall, but it doesn't really appeal to big time recruits looking to legally cash in.

And then there's Michigan's offensive approach. Last year, again en route to 12 wins, a Big Ten Championship and a CFP appearance, starting quarterback Cade McNamara threw for just 2,576 yards and 15 touchdowns in 14 games. It was effective, but that's not overly productive, at least in the eyes of big time prep QBs looking to throw it all over the lot. 

That approach is a big reason why Saline (Mich.) High quarterback and Lloyd Carr's grandson CJ Carr is committed to Notre Dame and why Detroit Martin Luther King quarterback Dante Moore is apparently on the verge of committing to Oregon when both should've been easy recruiting wins for U-M. 

Under Jim Harbaugh, Michigan’s five full seasons (removing 2017 where Michigan's QBs were in and out of the lineup due to injuries and the 2020 season which was shortened by COVID) with a 12+ game starting quarterback has averaged 219 completions, 351 attempts (62.6%), 2,758 yards and 20 TD passes. No one has thrown for more than 3,061 yards or 23 touchdowns.

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Among the 24 first-round draft picks at the QB position from the 2016-2022 NFL Drafts (again, Harbaugh years at Michigan), and the 22 of them that played in 12 games or more, the average is 290 of 436 (66.7%) for 3,975 yards and 35 touchdowns the season before they were drafted.

If you eliminate the ridiculousness that was Joe Burrow in 2019 (5,671 yards passing and 60 touchdowns), the averages are still 285 of 432 (66.0%) for 3,895 yards and 34 scores.

These are hard numbers to gloss over for Harbaugh and his staff when it comes time to recruit big time signal callers.

According to multiple sources close to Dante Moore, he loves Michigan but wants to play in an offense that showcases his potential for the NFL. He simply doesn’t believe Michigan gives him the best opportunity to do so. And the numbers back up his belief.

New Oregon head coach Dan Lanning is a former defensive coordinator and, while he has zero evidence to offer how quarterback-friendly his offense will be or how he will use Moore, the promise and potential of how he will be utilized offers greater hope than the seven-year evidence of Michigan signal-callers under Harbaugh.

There is also talk that Oregon can and will offer something like $1.5 million per year in NIL guarantees to Moore while Michigan will not make any guarantees and doesn’t have as attractive an NIL presentation. Michigan should actually be able to offer the value Oregon is guaranteeing after Moore arrives on campus, but guaranteeing it pre-campus arrival is not the Michigan way. 

Transformational, not transactional.