The Michigan Wolverines football program has been on what feels like a downward trajectory in recent years, under Jim Harbaugh, in large part because expectations have not been met and the team has regressed in many areas.
Harbaugh is winless against Ohio State, just 3-3 against fellow rival Michigan State, and has seemingly lost his mojo in recent years as the Wolverines stumbled to an embarrassing 2-4 season in 2020 that began with a promising blowout victory over Minnesota and ended due to COVID troubles.
The Wolverines will kick off the 2021 season in Ann Arbor against Western Michigan, followed up by another home tilt against the Washington Huskies on September 11 (see the full schedule here).
They play on the road against MSU this year and at home against the Buckeyes, and while the roster is stacked full of former high level recruits, optimism seems low for a potential Big Ten title run.
Recently, two former top contributors for the program, wide receiver Nico Collins and defensive lineman Carlo Kemp, were asked to give their impressions on Harbaugh and whether he’s truly the right fit for Michigan or not.
While Kemp wasn’t a superstar, he was a valuable contributor, and spoke glowingly of Harbaugh, as did Collins, who decided to forgo his senior season to prepare for the NFL Draft.
Both cited Harbaugh’s extensive professional coaching history, especially his NFL experience, as reasons to have faith in the former 49ers head man to lead Michigan in the future.
“I definitely have had the privilege to be able to have NFL coaches all around me, especially with having coach Harbaugh, who has coached in the NFL and has led his team to a Super Bowl,” Kemp said according to WolverinesWire from USAToday.
“He obviously knows what it takes to win. He’s led very good pros. And we were all thankful here to be a part of program that was run like an NFL organization in terms of discipline, scheduling, how to be successful, what it takes to win.
“All those things I learned here through five years really helped me.”
Harbaugh signed an extension in the offseason and will be working to make the Wolverines contenders again.
Kemp came in as an undersized linebacker/defensive end hybrid and worked his way up to an All Big Ten Third Team selection as a defensive tackle by the time it was all said and done.
The undersized Kemp held his own in the middle of Don Brown’s defense, as evidenced by his top career plays shown below.
Meanwhile, Collins said he considered returning to Michigan according to WolverinesWire, but felt like he was too far into his NFL Draft preparation to turn that ship around, so to speak.
He defended Harbaugh strongly a few weeks back in an interview.
“If you think he’s not the right coach, you’re wrong. He’s a great coach. He’s a coach that played in the NFL, coached in the NFL, and knows exactly how to coach his players,” Collins said.
“If you want a great team to go to and a great coach to be coached by, go to the University of Michigan. It doesn’t get any better because of coach Harbaugh. I learned a lot from him, and I’m glad he was my coach for my first three years.”
Collins cited Harbaugh’s off-the-field attributes as major selling points for developing players.
While Michigan hasn’t won the Big Ten or made the college football playoffs, the Wolverines have consistently sent players to the NFL and many have made an increasingly bigger impact.
“Because of what he improved, how he cares for his players on the field and off the field,” Collins said about why Harbaugh deserves to stay.
“What people don’t see. They only see the games we probably lost. They say he’s the wrong coach, but there’s more to it. The things – he cares for the players on the field, off the field. Coach Harbaugh, man, he’s a great coach. There’s more to it than just football with him. He’s a guy that’s willing to bring the best out of everyone, that’s gonna be there for anybody. When people say he’s not the right coach, that he needs to be fired, you don’t know what y’all talking about. There’s more to it. I just feel like Harbaugh is the one. He’s a great coach for Michigan, he always will be.”