Now that every Michigan dream has come true with the hiring of Jim Harbaugh, we reached out to Maize n Brew for their take on what to expect in the new pleated-khakis era of Michigan football. Sounds like fans are looking for a fresh start, more player development and some wins.
Urban Meyer entered an Ohio State program coming off one down year and was able to turn it around. Do you expect the same level of success from Harbaugh, even given Michigan's several down years?
What players are you most excited about watching develop in Harbaugh's offensive system?
ZT: The quarterbacks. Al Borges has a horrific record of developing quarterback talent, and despite working with two of the most electric athletes at the position in the Big Ten, Michigan got a series of diminishing returns from both Devin Gardner and Denard Robinson as they regressed developmentally and were beaten up physically. The first few glimpses of Shane Morris, the heir apparent, weren't all that positive. If Harbaugh is going to find success early, one of the big things he is going to have to do is develop something at quarterback. Whether it is Morris, Russell Bellomy, Wilton Speight, or incoming freshman Alex Malzone, Michigan needs to find a quarterback capable of winning games and taking care of the ball. These four have talent and potential, but it will take an impressive coaching job to unearth that in year one.
We can assume Harbaugh will bring lots of top-level coaches onto his staff, but what coach do you hope stays on to the next era of Michigan football?
ZT: Reports are that Greg Mattison will stick around as something of a co-DC and linebackers coach. Given his recruiting prowess and his history as a coach, that is unquestionably a good thing, and the hope is that bringing in a young guy like DJ Durkin to help run the defense will push it to an even better level. I have a soft spot for Roy Manning, but he is most effective as a linebacker coach and that might mean he doesn't have a natural position on the next staff. He is a great recruiter and a guy I think could develop into a very good coach down the road. Everyone else should probably move on, including the entire offensive staff (yes, that means Fred Jackson too).
What's the biggest change you hope to see in Michigan football under the Harbaugh regime? Is there a certain offensive or defensive philosophy you hope Harbaugh brings?
ZT: Just win, baby. That's it.
Oh, you want more? As I mentioned before, the worst part about watching Michigan over the past few years has been the lack of improvement as a team through the season. Michigan never got better from game one, and it never figured out how to adjust what it was doing to keep an advantage going against great teams. I don't care what offense or defense Michigan runs, as long as it is based on sound principles, the players are comfortable executing it, and the coaches are capable of tweaking things to exploit other teams' weaknesses. I want to watch the kind of Michigan team that other teams don't want to face.
Jim Harbaugh has a reputation of not getting along with executives, ownership. Do you anticipate clashes with the Michigan Athletic Department?
ZT: I think that Harbaugh has the kind of personality that grates on people when exposed to it over the long term. He seems to be super intense, very opinionated, and borderline insane. That will work at the college level as long as he is winning and Michigan isn't getting a bunch of bad publicity for breaking rules or off field stuff. If Dave Brandon was still around I would guarantee clashes of personality up top. I don't see it being a big issue now. Jim will butt heads with people. They will deal with it because Michigan will be a better football team, and Harbaugh has so much support from the fanbase.
Urban Meyer famously brought Alex Smith to national prominence, while Jim Harbaugh coached Smith on the 49ers. Smith has said before that Meyer and Harbaugh bring similar focus and preparation methods to their programs. Are there aspects of Meyer's work at Ohio State you'd like to see at Michigan?
ZT: I would like to see that entire offense run at Michigan, but I doubt I'm going to get my wish. As for the rest, I probably sound like a broken record, but what I want to see is a well planned and executed strategy on both sides of the ball that leads to improvement through the year and ultimately wins against the strongest opponents. It has been a loooooong time since anyone at Michigan has seen that, and it is the only way that Michigan is going to get back to being a team that others don't want to face.