Jim Harbaugh’s Track Record Of Recruiting And Developing QBs At Michigan Is Terrible

News broke on Thursday that Michigan quarterback Joe Milton was entering the transfer portal. He was the team’s starter this past season, and the graduate transfer will still have three years of eligibility remaining.

His departure brought up an interesting conversation about Jim Harbaugh, though. The 57-year-old head coach has been in Ann Arbor since 2015. And looking back, he does not have a good track record of recruiting — and developing — quarterbacks.

In fact, the track record is pretty terrible.

Anthony Broome with Maizen Blue was the one to point it out on Twitter. Here are the high school quarterbacks Harbaugh has brought in:

  • 2015: Zach Gentry (moved to tight end)
  • 2016: Brandon Peters (transferred)
  • 2017: Dylan McCaffrey (transferred)
  • 2018: Joe Milton (transferred)
  • 2019: Cade McNamara
  • 2020: Dan Villari (last-minute replacement)
  • 2021: J.J. McCarthy

There’s also Alex Malzone from the 2015 class whom Broome didn’t mention — mostly because he was a holdover commit from the previous staff. And guess what? He also transferred out, landing at Miami (Ohio) back in 2018.


We still don’t know about a few of the guys on the list, but early indications aren’t great. Granted, bringing in Ole Miss transfer Shea Patterson played a role in how things went, but even the successful, former five-star guy lacked development under Harbaugh.

Here are the recruiting rankings for those eight names above, according to 247Sports:

  • Zach Gentry: 4-star / No. 174 overall / No. 8 PS-QB
  • Alex Malzone: 4-star / No. 299 overall / No. 14 PS-QB
  • Brandon Peters: 4-star / No. 61 overall / No. 6 PS-QB
  • Dylan McCaffrey: 4-star / No. 123 overall / No. 5 PS-QB
  • Joe Milton: 4-star / No. 204 overall / No. 9 PS-QB
  • Cade McNamara: 4-star / No. 268 overall / No. 7 PS-QB
  • Dan Villari: 3-star / No. 42 PS-QB
  • J.J. McCarthy: 5-star / No. 26 overall / No. 2 PS-QB

McCarthy is obviously the most talented of the bunch, so we’ll have to see how he looks under Harbaugh before passing a final judgment. But guys, there’s some decent talent there. Six different four-star signal callers, all but one of whom were top 10 at their position.

None of them have developed into a consistent, quality quarterback — at least not yet. McNamara did throw five touchdowns and zero interceptions in four games this season, but the jury is still out on him as well.

Harbaugh has not delivered. No College Football Playoff appearances, a winless record against Ohio State and more. And why? Well, we now know a lack of proper quarterback development has played a factor.

There’s going to be a ton of pressure on McCarthy to succeed. It’s time. Michigan fans deserve better.

Follow Clint Lamb on Twitter @ClintRLamb.

Written by Clint Lamb

Clint Lamb is a College Football Writer for OutKick. Managing Editor for Roll Tide Wire. Sports radio host for The Bullpen on 730/103.9 The UMP. Co-host for The 'Bama Beat podcast through The Tuscaloosa News and TideSports.com.


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  1. What happened to him? What changed? He can’t have just forgotten how to coach at Michigan. Remember how he turned Stanford into a top 25 program? Andrew Luck? Remember San Francisco and Alex Smith, then Colin Kaepernick? He actually developed several QBs before, but at Michigan nothing’s worked. It’s truly bizarre. I think Michigan is cursed, and he needs to go back to the nfl.

    • “What happened to him? What changed?”

      Easy answer: His coaching style has a 2-3 year shelf life.

      He’s the ultimate JENE coach (Just Enough, Not Enough). He does just enough to get his teams into the discussion of being a champion, but not enough to actually MAKE them champions. After that near-championship peak, his teams settle into mediocrity or above-average and can never get back because his style/personality becomes grating and players tune out. There’s always a certain team/coach that gets the best of him in the most crucial times as well.

      – Stanford: He turned the program around and he deserves full credit. However, 0 Pac-12 titles, much less a National Championship (2010 season: 12-1, got smoked by Chip Kelly/Oregon)

      – 49ers: 4 seasons, 3 NFC title game appearances, 1 SB appearance. Everybody always references his work here as to why he’s a great coach. A lot of this had to do with the fact that Vic Fangio’s work as DC made his life easier as that defense caused turnovers which gave his offense a short field. Look up the offensive stats for his teams and you’ll see that pts/passing are usually in the bottom half of the rankings. Also, he was always bested by HCs with cooler heads (His brother, Pete Carroll) in championship situations. Then, after the 2013 NFC title game, it all went downhill which led to…

      – Michigan. All the talk was that once he got HIS recruits and not the ones Hoke left behind, Michigan was going to be a powerhouse if not a juggernaut in the likes of ‘Bama, Ohio St., Clemson, etc. The biggest irony is that he’s had his greatest success at Michigan WITH Hoke’s recruits. And his “peak” was the 2016 season when they narrowly lost to Ohio St. After that, they’ve settled into being slightly above-average with 0 to show for it: 0 Nat’l titles, 0 Big Ten titles, hell, 0 DIVISIONAL titles (2nd place in their division is the highest they’ve been under JH). We all know his record against UM’s rivals so I won’t mention it again.

      Damn, didn’t think I’d go that deep, but here we are.

  2. Harbaugh’s critics often zeroed in only on specific slices of his records (whether it is his overall coaching records or track record on developing QBs) to level criticism against him. You can apply the same method to virtually everyone not named Saban or Dabo or Urban, and make similar faulty argument. For example: do you know that Alabama had virtually zero NFL-ready QBs from 2014 through 2016 (Jake Joker, Cooper Bateman, Blake Barnett), and one can argue that it’s a failure for Saban to develop them despite their high recruiting ranking. Likewise, Marc Jones’ success in 2020 has certainly ZERO correlation with the drunk Steve Sarkisian (who virtually ran Atlanta Falcons’ offense to the ground)’s coaching ability. You think Ed Orgeron (the king of locker room speeches w/ little coaching substance) has anything to do with Joe Barrow’s NFL stock? Ironically Joe Barrow would have never been remotely discovered unless he had transferred. In other words, QB-recruiting and development is a total crapshoot. Look up all of the Elite 11 QBs from the past decade, and see how many actually had significant college careers or made it to the NFL. Most did not. Again, look up any coach over a period of 4-5 years you will virtually find similar if not worse records than Harbaugh.

    • I’m of the belief that Michigan 1.) Has a complete over-inflated sense of who they are; they are not Ohio State; never have been, and never will be. And I say that absolutely despising OSU. 2.) Michigan also won’t be able to do any better than Harbaugh; if he can’t get them to ascend to the elite level, nobody will.

      Let’s also not forget: Bo never won a title at Michigan. His claim to fame is he sometimes beat his former boss. It’s great that they have the 1st or 2nd most wins in history, but that means absolutely nothing in eras where they don’t dominate. Teams like Florida, Florida State, Miami, Clemson etc. have had/are having periods of dominance that would lead to them grinding Michigan into the dirt, and they have half of the wins Michigan does. Nebraska and Notre Dame are up there as well, and what good are all those wins doing them now? Funneling 110,000 fans every week is great, but it doesn’t make you elite or mean you have a true national brand.

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