When Jim Harbaugh took over at Stanford, he wanted to mold it into a power running team with a strong, dominating offensive line.
He went there with a key part of his vision, Tim Drevno, who had been Harbaugh's offensive coordinator and offensive line coach at San Diego. Drevno, who coached tight ends the first two seasons before coaching the offensive line (2009 and 2010), was in a major catalyst for the transformation.
Drevno is now with Harbaugh, named Michigan's head coach on Dec. 30, coordinating the offense and coaching the offensive line. The two have worked together for 11 years at three different stops before coming to Michigan.
"We were a team that was pretty beaten down," former Stanford offensive lineman Chris Marinelli said. "Their first order of business was getting us stronger and we pretty quickly became a pretty scary, forceful team. We mauled people. I think people (who follow Michigan) will see that pretty fast. He will get all those guys in tune very quickly. He's one of those people who gets people in line, especially the young guys in terms of breaking habits. It will be a pretty quick turnaround."
Michigan slumped offensively and ranked among the nation's worst in total and scoring offense in 2014. The offensive line, however, will return five starters, including left tackle Mason Cole, who started every game as a true freshman last season, and center Jack Miller.
Marinelli believes Drevno, who spent three seasons coaching the offensive line under Harbaugh with the 49ers (2011-2013) before moving to USC last season to be run-game coordinator and offensive line coach, can have an immediate impact on the line.
"First and foremost, Drevs has climbed to the top from Division II and lower Division I football to the pinnacle of the NFL and big-time college football," Marinelli said. "To have a ton of NFL veterans under his belt and personally coached, I think that pedigree is right up there with anyone. The one knock on him was taking that USC job."
'O-line through and through'
Ben Muth also was a Stanford offensive lineman when Drevno was coaching tight ends.
"Drevs is O-line through and through," Muth said. "He's going to impart toughness on that offensive line. Michigan's offensive line is going to be tough and play physical.
"The great thing about that staff -- they have an identity, and they're going to impart it on you. That's something we didn't have at Stanford, and when Harbaugh got there. He said, 'This is what we run, this is how run it, and other teams are going to have to adjust to us.'"
The message from Drevno is simple.
"We're going to try to move people off the ball and be a physical football team," he told MGoBlue.com. "But you can't talk about it – you have to be about it."
Muth refers to Harbaugh and Drevno as "two horses in a harness" and was not shocked they reunited in Ann Arbor. He and Marinelli heaped praise on Drevno's personality.
"You're in for a treat," Marinelli said. "He's a character, he's passionate. It's hard to find someone in Jim's (Harbaugh) mold. There's (defensive coordinator) D.J. Durkin, and coach Drevno is incredibly passionate about the game and harps on fundamentals. Just a true teacher of the game and a pleasure to be around.
"You'll get plenty of one-liners from Drevs. He has a bunch of quotes, a lot of them pertaining to offensive line play, some that can and cannot be said."
Back to school
Jonathan Goodwin, a former Wolverine now with the Saints, played for the 49ers from 2011-13. Although a 10-year veteran of the NFL at the time, he said he still was able to learn from Drevno.
"I enjoyed my time with him," Goodwin said. "He's got a lot of passion for the game for coaching and teaching. You can tell he really loves his job and what he's doing and improving guys. As a player, you want to know that the guy who is coaching you wants to get the most out of you. He wants you to always get better and never get comfortable where you are. It's easy for a guy who knows he's good, it's easy for him to get complacent. You need a coach who will stay on you, and that's what he does."
Goodwin said as soon as he saw Harbaugh was hired at Michigan, he wondered if Drevno would join the staff.
"Not only do you have a guy who is successful at the college level and worked with guys in the NFL, but you saw him go back to college last year," Goodwin said. "He loves to teach and loves to see he's making a difference in players' lives."
Offensive linemen have a tendency to get in a few good-natured digs at teammates and coaches, and Drevno certainly is not off-limits.
Marinelli said Drevno's style is very much hands-on in an effort to explain and educate.
"He would get in there and demonstrate the drills over and over to the point I'd have nightmares," Marinelli said.
"I have no doubt great things will happen with those guys (at Michigan). The transformation will be fun to watch, and I'll know a lot of things that they'll be teaching. Jim and Drevs are a power running team. They want to run over people, and that's not for everyone (among the offensive linemen)."
Muth admires the Harbaugh-Drevno combination, and believes they will have an immediate impact on the Wolverines.
"We were a lot farther away than Michigan is right now," Muth said. "Expectations there are high and they probably should be. It's not very often an NFL coach goes back to his alma mater to coach. I'm not a Michigan fan by any means, but I'll be interested to see how this goes. I'll be rooting for Stanford to beat Michigan in the Rose Bowl every year."
Goodwin liked playing for Harbaugh in San Francisco and believes he is the best opportunity for Michigan to gain a foothold among the nation's best team.
"It's definitely got a good feel to it," Goodwin said. "(Harbaugh's) philosophy feels like the old-school Michigan philosophy. That gives me a lot of the faith."