Yes, with Jim Harbaugh as head coach they are. Clearly a new era was launched on December 30th, 2014 when Jim Harbaugh was introduced as the Head Football Coach at the University of Michigan. Harbaugh was a highly successful college and professional head coach after his playing days were done. A former college quarterback at Michigan, under legendary coach Bo Schembechler, it made sense for Harbaugh to return to his alma mater and return the team to it’s former glory.
In the years since Lloyd Carr left the program in 2007, the Wolverines have had a rather pedestrian record of 46 wins and 42 losses; and, it would have been worse if Brady Hoke didn’t have an 11-2 record in his first year at Michigan in 2011. Enter Harbaugh, fresh from success in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers. His coaching record indicates the ability to turn a program around quickly and that was the hope in Ann Arbor. But in college, he would be inheriting the players recruited by prior coach Hoke. At least in year one he would need to assess his talent level and implement his system as quickly as possible.
Harbaugh was able to accomplish both. On offense, he identified his quarterback (Iowa transfer Jake Rudock) who would lead the team in his final year of eligibility. Rudock did nothing but improve all year under the tutelage of Harbaugh. On defense, Michigan implemented a scheme that worked well with their personnel. The defense ranked second in the conference in total defense allowing only 280 yards per game with their pass defense being the best in the conference.
So now that Harbaugh has a year under his belt and has been able to recruit for the past year and bring in his players, what is the next step for Michigan? He led the team to a 10-3 record and a Citrus Bowl win in year one.
Well, if you listen to the oddsmakers, Michigan will be in the running to win the National Championship this season. Las Vegas futures have them routinely in the top five with teams like Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State. To do so, they will need to find a quarterback to replace Rudock. John O’Korn, another senior transfer from Houston, is the leading candidate. They also return with several All-American candidates in defensive backs Jabrill Peppers and Jourdan Lewis, as well as lineman Chris Wormley and tight end Jake Butt.
Harbaugh made quite a splash in his first full recruiting year with most analysts listing Michigan in the top 5 or 6 classes. This included the nation’s top high school recruit in Rashan Gary from New Jersey. So I believe it’s safe to say that Michigan is positioned to take another big step in the 2016 college football season. The quarterback position should not be a concern with Harbaugh’s track record of coaching them up. The defense will only get better in year two of Michigan’s system.