Herbstreit: UM on cusp of returning to national picture

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit sees Michigan, coming off a 10-3 season and a head-turning bowl victory, quickly climbing into the national conversation under coach Jim Harbaugh and cited his recruiting efforts as a major reason why that could happen sooner than later.

Herbstreit was featured during an ESPN conference call Thursday focused on the upcoming national title game. He was asked how far Michigan is from being part of the national playoff picture.

Michigan looks for answers at QB, LB, RB spots

“How to put a timeline on that, it’s hard to really know,” Herbstreit said. “I just know you got to 10 wins this year. To me they’re already kind of where they need to be as far as competing for a Big Ten championship. Think about it, if Ohio State beats Michigan State, Ohio State and Michigan are playing for the right to get to the Big Ten championship game.

"So they’re already right there. Who that next quarterback will be is obviously a significant part of how fast they can continue to climb the ladder. “

Harbaugh brought in graduate transfer Jake Rudock, who had two years of starting experience at Iowa, to lead the Wolverines this season. Rudock got better and better as the season progressed, threw for more than 3,000 yards and was the MVP of the Citrus Bowl in which Michigan defeated Florida, 41-7, on New Year’s Day.

Among the pool of quarterback candidates this season are John O’Korn, a transfer from Houston who has one year of starting experience and sat out last season running Michigan’s scout team, and Shane Morris, the hard-throwing left-hander from Warren De La Salle, who sat out this season to redshirt.

Herbstreit said he was not surprised how quickly Harbaugh was able to lift Michigan from a team that was 5-7 and failed to reach a bowl game the season before his arrival.

“What he was able to do in that first year was, I hate to say it was to be expected just because I have such high expectations for him because when you go 5-7 to 10-3, that’s a significant jump,” Herbstreit said. “My feeling is this, they’re only going to get better through recruiting. The team he inherited is what it is, it’s a team Michigan fans should remember for a long time as being, hopefully, a turning point for their program.”

How Harbaugh can push Michigan toward the national championship conversation is through recruiting.

“In my opinion, he’s going to recruit quarterbacks, he’s going to recruit offensive linemen, he’s going to recruit running backs and receivers that are going to fit in his philosophy better,” Herbstreit said. “I’m not trying to take anything away from what those players did (this year), but I think you’ll see the talent level in Ann Arbor continue to climb year after year after year with his recruiting efforts, because offensive players are going to want to play for him and they’re going to want to play in his system.”

Herbstreit has been consistent in his praise of Michigan’s hiring of Harbaugh. As a former Ohio State quarterback, Herbstreit is a firm believer in the concept that a healthy Michigan football program is better for the Big Ten and for college football.

“I was excited as anybody could be outside of the Michigan fan base just because I knew what this meant for the Michigan program, for the Big Ten to be able to get one of your key members back up to where they belong,” Herbstreit said. “I knew it was just a matter of time.”

Michigan analyst joins Maryland staff

Matt Barnes, senior defensive analyst at Michigan this past season, will coach linebackers at Maryland, it was announced Thursday. Maryland coach D.J. Durkin, Michigan’s defensive coordinator during the 2015 regular season, and Barnes also worked together at Florida. Durkin was defensive coordinator at Florida, and Barnes was defensive/special teams graduate assistant for three years.

Rudock added to postseason bowl

Michigan quarterback Jake Rudock will participate in the East-West Shrine game on Jan. 23, according to the bowl’s website. He was added to the bowl participants list on Thursday.

Rudock, who helped lead the Wolverines to a 10-3 record this season and was the Citrus Bowl MVP, also is scheduled to be part of the College Gridiron Showcase Jan. 10-13.

Also participating in the East-West Shrine game from UM are center Graham Glasgow and linebacker Joe Bolden.