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Former Texas coach Mack Brown, now a college football analyst for ESPN, gives Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh high marks for all he's done since he was hired the end of last year, even without having coached a game.

Brown, speaking on a conference call Wednesday, said Harbaugh has done everything right in terms of generating enthusiasm among the large Michigan fanbase and bringing confidence back to a program that has slipped since 2008.

"I follow him on Twitter, I watched everything he's done with satellite camps and his confidence, and I think you have to give him an A-plus from the time he's taken the job until now," Brown said. "I haven't seen quite the response that he's gotten in many cases (in terms of coaching hires), maybe a few, but it's been a great hire for Michigan.

"Jim's done everything right from the day he was hired to today. And now as we've said, the best time in any coach's life is from the time he's hired until the first game, and then you've got to produce. He's got a very difficult game going on the road to Utah, because that's a tough place to play."

The Harbaugh Era at Michigan officially opens Sept. 3 at Utah in a Thursday primetime game. Brown said Harbaugh is starting with a strong corps of players recruited by former coach Brady Hoke, who was fired last year after a 5-7 season in his fourth year.

"As far as how quickly he can get it turned, he's already gotten it turned with momentum, and that's something that was difficult for Brady at the end because people turned on him and media were more difficult for him," Brown said. "But I also think that in talking to Brady and talking to people around, Brady did a good job recruiting, so Jim's got some good players on campus.

"The biggest question is to get that quarterback, the right guy, to play consistently well and get the ball to the right people. It'll be fun to watch Michigan especially in that opener."

Harbaugh will meet with media on Thursday for the first time in three weeks, and perhaps he will shed light on the quarterback situation. From all accounts, the competition is between junior Shane Morris, a two-game starter at Michigan, and graduate-transfer Jake Rudock, a two-year starter at Iowa. Morris is relatively game untested, while Rudock was second in the Big Ten in completion percentage last season (61.7 percent) and threw 16 touchdowns to five turnovers.

"How long will it take (to turn around the program), it depends on how quickly you get a quarterback to play well because they're going to be well coached, they're going to line up right, and they're going to play hard," Brown said. "They're going to play like he competes."

With Harbaugh, Michigan has a coach who starred at quarterback for the Wolverines under Bo Schembechler and returns to Ann Arbor with a string of successes at every coaching stop.

"Jim's gotten credibility at San Diego University, Stanford and the 49ers," Brown said. "He brings a resume into Michigan after playing for Bo Schembechler, who is the legendary coach at Michigan, and after doing a great job in coaching as well as being a competitor on the field. He ticks off every box, and that's why he's walking in there with confidence and Michigan, which is a very proud program, sees themselves back moving toward the top."

achengelis@detroitnews.com

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