Jim Harbaugh should have plenty of chances to prove his Michigan football program is a meritocracy this fall.
His second Wolverines team’s success will probably depend on it.
While the media guide lists 14 starters back from a team that won a surprising 10 games last season, it’s probably for the best if not all of them are still actually starters by the time the meat of Michigan’s schedule arrives.
That’s because while what Harbaugh’s team did last season was impressive, the way it was manhandled by Ohio State showed it has a long way to go to truly be a national contender.
Harbaugh (like most coaches) loves to extoll the virtues of hard work, but talent still trumps all in college football. He added a bunch on National Signing Day in February, and Monday at Big Ten Football Media Days in Chicago he didn’t deny highly touted freshmen will get a chance to see the field this fall.
If they earn it.
“We have some very good freshmen we believe have the ability and will have the license to play,” Harbaugh said. “Everything thereby is based on a meritocracy. That’s one of my favorite things, my personal favorite things about our program, is that you’ll be known by your effort and your talent. By your effort and your talent you will be known.”
Among the names to remember are defensive lineman Rashan Gary, the consensus top-rated recruit in the country, running back Kareem Walker, cornerbacks David Long and LaVert Hill and linebackers Devin Bush Jr. and Devin Gil.
A team can never have too many cornerbacks these days, linebacker was one area hit hard by graduation, and the offense had a general dearth of playmakers last season.
Meanwhile, Gary may be just too talented to keep off the field.
The New Jersey native joins a defensive line that is long on veterans but short on difference makers. He might not play full time as a freshman, but he could be a player who makes plays whenever he gets a chance. It only takes a play or two here or there to change the course of a season.
“So the best players will be the starters and then the backup roles will be earned. The contributing roles will be earned, the specialty roles will be earned, scout team roles will be earned.
“It’s as simple as that. There is no games or tricks or politics or what class are you in, what year are you, are you on scholarship, are you not on scholarship. It’s based upon a meritocracy, the way it should be.
“Everything will be based on a meritocracy. That’s one my personal favorite things about our program. You will be known by your effort and your talent.”