Stanford Football Coach Jim Harbaugh on the Team, His Recruiting Class, and Spring Practices

![Going into his third football season as Stanford Head Coach, Coach Harbaugh seems to be laying the foundation for a powerhouse (Paul Sakuma/AP Photo)](/content/uploads/HarbaughInterview.jpg)
Going into his third football season as Stanford Head Coach, Coach Harbaugh seems to be laying the foundation for a powerhouse (Paul Sakuma/AP Photo)
Three weeks ago, I had the chance to talk with Coach Harbaugh in his office regarding the State of Stanford football. He recently signed his best recruiting class ever, and despite the close-miss at a bowl game this past year, seems to be building Stanford into a formidable PAC 10 force. What was impressive about the interview that is not revealed in the excerpts was his office atmosphere: he and his whole staff seemed very excited and enthusiastic about their work even though it was 4 pm on a Friday, during the offseason. Coach Harbaugh’s enthusiasm seems to permeating into the entire organization. Below are the excerpts, where he discussed recruiting, building a positive relationship with the school, and even the need for a walk-on kicker. Stanford will have its spring scrimmage in Stanford Stadium on Monday, April 13th.

The Stanford Review: How was recruiting so much better this year than last year?

Jim Harbaugh: There are a lot of man hours, man and woman hours, probably about 100,000 working hours by coaches, finding recruits themselves, by admissions, but mainly most of those… coaches try to identify players as early as possible.

SR: Even before they are juniors?

JH: Yeah, if we can, we get them out to see Stanford. And once we feel like they see Stanford and see what it has to offer, we feel like we have a pretty good shot at them.
Stanford, for the right kind of kid, or for any kid really, everything that they want or should want, we have. It’s just a matter of showing them that. And then, showing them, what it takes to get into Stanford, what the standard is. The earlier we can get to them, get them interested in Stanford and tell them what the standard is, they’ll work to get themselves there.

SR: Do you know what percentage of the best players in the country on Rivals.com (recruiting website) would be eligible to go here?

JH: We are actually doing the exact research on that right now. We think roughly, it’s in the neighborhood of 15-20%. There’s no other school that is comparable (in terms of admissions). It is easier to get into Harvard as a football player than it is to get into Stanford as a football player. We’d like to draw players from California, the only problem is the pool is not big enough. Michigan can recruit (regionally), Michigan and Ohio, and get most of their class. Texas can just stay in Texas. For Stanford, we have to go everywhere.

SR: Do you think you can keep up the level of recruiting elite players?

JH: The prospects that come here can see that the football program is on the rise. They would be kicking themselves if Stanford wins the national championship and they go somewhere else, and they could have won the championship and gotten a Stanford degree. We can keep it up, and we can do even better next year.

SR: Is there pressure next year to make a bowl game next year. What would you tell the players what the goal is for next year?

JH: The only goal is to win multiple PAC 10 championships, treat people in a first class manner, and graduate the players with meaningful degrees. But definitely we need to get to a bowl game. But we really thought we would be a bowl team last year.

SR: Is the schedule too tough?

JH: We only had five home games (last year), 9 legitimate conference games, TCU, Notre Dame, and San Jose State were all bowl eligible out of conference. There were no bunnies, it’s a tough schedule especially when seven games are on the road. There’s no doubt, at Stanford we handicap ourselves, with high admissions standards and the best of the best schedule.

SR: Should we make the schedule easier?

JH: To be totally honest, we’d like some more reasonable out of conference games, but the schedule is what it is, so we have to prepare to play good teams week in and week out, every Saturday is a fight for our life.

SR: Can we beat USC, not just in a game, but for the conference championship?

JH: USC is going to be the dominant team in the PAC 10, if you are going to win the PAC 10, you have to get your team as least as good as USC.

SR: Who is going to be the first quarterback going into the spring?

JH: Tavita Pritchard. But we have three quarterbacks going into spring ball: Tavita Pritchard, Alex Loukas, and Andrew Luck.

SR: Were you disappointed in the passing numbers at all? Or can Stanford survive as a scrambling, option offense.

JH: The offense will be geared to the personnel that we have, take advantage of the strengths of the players. This past year we were more geared to be a smash-mouth running team. That is something we want every year as well.

SR: Can you make Stanford into a smash-mouth team?

JH: Yeah, we’re doing it. That doesn’t mean we don’t want all American passing quarterbacks. But we’ll continue to be a blue-collar physical football team. That will be our identity. We are not going to be a finesse team.

SR: Talk a little bit about the receiving core.

JH: Last year’s team only had two productive receiving, receivers, Ryan Whalen and Doug Baldwin. They were both sophomores, and as they continue to improve that will help. And then we have three freshmen coming in, and that should booster our receiving core. We need to be much better at the receiving position.

SR: Talk about Defense

JH: Delano Hall will be moving to safety, we project him to be a starter. Richard Sherman will also move to defensive back.

JH: (On Spring practice) We are looking at some defensive players to play offense next year. If a defensive player plays on offense, it will be a very small percentage of the time. Brian Bulke (Defensive Tackle) will play some fullback.

SR: What coaches, at any level, have inspired you the most?

JH: The two coaches that inspired me the most were my Dad (Jack Harbaugh, former Stanford assistant and Western Kentucky head coach) and my brother (John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens coach). Bo Schembechler (his coach at the University of Michigan), Mike Ditka (his coach when he was Quarterback for the Chicago Bears), Earl Hansen, my coach from Palo Alto High School, I have really been lucky to have been around some of the greats, some of the legends of the game.

SR: Regarding the talk about you possibly going to the NFL as a head coach, where do you see yourself in five years?

JH: Here at Stanford, I feel that I am fighting to keep my job.

SR: Who is the best coach in college football right now?

JH: I think Urban Meyer (Florida) does a tremendous job, I think the coach Kyle Whittingham (Utah) does a great job, along with Pete Carroll (USC), and Mike Reilly at Oregon State.

SR: How can you bring in the school more with the team? How can you increase turnout at the Stadium?

JH: There are so many little things you can try to do that will lead to sellout crowds. First and foremost, we need to put the winningest team on the field as we possibly can. On a marketing side, we can make ticket prices more reasonable. We put the students right behind the bench. We feel that students are our biggest supporters. We want more families at games, and getting more kids growing up with a passion towards Stanford.

SR: And I understand you are looking for some help on the field as well?

JH: Yes. We’re having an open tryout for kicker. We are looking for long kickers on kickoffs. We only had two touchbacks on kickoffs. So we are looking for the strongest leg possible, someone who can kick the ball far. If anyone is interested, contact us.

SR: On academics, do you feel that your players have enough opportunities to pursue their interests in the classroom?

JH: Stanford does a tremendous job, we haven’t had one guy flunk out. Every player is pursuing a legitimate degree. There are no joke degrees at Stanford. We have 22 guys in engineering, 8 pursuing pre-med, that’s unheard of. I was talking to a recruit yesterday that said that the school he was talking to told him he can’t pursue premed and play football. That’s the greatness of Stanford, we don’t do that. We don’t set a ceiling.

SR: Stanford is near the best at everything, a lot of people feel we should be the best at football as well.

JH: That’s what we think. We’re going to get there.

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