JACKSONVILLE -- The residual effect from the worst beating in Michigan's bowl game history is being felt.
Coach Rich Rodriguez has not lost his job, but apparently he has lost his top recruit. Orlando Dr. Phillips High School's Dee Hart, the nation's top-rated all-purpose offensive back according to at least one recruiting Web site, withdrew his verbal commitment to the Wolverines Sunday and announced his intentions to attend Alabama.
Rodriguez's shaky situation which only intensified following Saturday's 52-14 Gator Bowl loss to Mississippi State swayed Hart's decision.
"It's just the question marks with coach Rodriguez and just not knowing his stability," Hart told TheWolverine.com.
UM's current recruiting class is at 13 members. Hart becomes the second player to withdraw, following quarterback Kevin Sousa who said last month he plans to sign with Wake Forest.
Most believe the severity of Saturday's loss sealed Rodriguez's fate at UM, if there was even a debate to begin with. Athletic director Dave Brandon is expected to finish his evaluation of Rodriguez and the program by the end of this week and then make a decision. In three years, Rodriguez is just 15-22 and 6-18 in the Big Ten.
Should a change be made, Rodriguez would have the program's shortest tour since coach Elton Wieman's two years in 1927-28.
Names of potential replacements have circulated ever since the Wolverines (7-6) lost ugly to Wisconsin and Ohio State in the final weeks of the regular season.
Stanford's Jim Harbaugh, a former UM quarterback, is the top choice. Born in Toledo, Harbaugh is 57-27 in seven years at San Diego and now Stanford. The fifth-ranked Cardinal (11-1) is a 3.5-point favorite in tonight's Orange Bowl against Virginia Tech. If Harbaugh chooses to leave after this season, though, his next job could be in the NFL. The younger brother of successful Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh, Jim is reportedly a candidate for the vacant San Francisco 49ers job. The Harbaughs father, Jack, was an assistant coach at UM under Bo Schembechler, so the Wolverine ties are obviously strong.
Another possibility is San Diego State's Brady Hoke who once served on Jack Harbaugh's staff at Western Michigan. A former assistant at UM under Lloyd Carr, Hoke has been a head coach the last eight years, the first six at Ball State. His teams have finished below .500 five times, but yet he is regarded as a good coach. Hoke's boss at SDSU has publicly said he believes Hoke will accept the UM job if it opens and he is extended the invite.
Les Miles reportedly accepted the UM job back in 2007 but that proved not the case. Nevertheless, the Louisiana State coach had some level of interest in accepting the job at his alma mater. Although he has won a national championship and is a sparkling 61-17 overall at LSU heading into Friday's Cotton Bowl against Texas A&M, Miles has never been fully embraced by fans in the Bayou.
Perhaps the former UM assistant would be willing to relocate to Ann Arbor, but to do so, he'd likely be required to take a significant pay cut. At LSU, Miles made $3.9 million this year. Rodriguez made a shade more than $2.5 million.
Whoever UM's coach is to begin the 2011 season will have a roster likely very similar to this year's. Only four starters in Saturday's game won't be back, and one of them, cornerback James Rogers, will be replaced by the guy whom he replaced -- Troy Woolfolk, who was out all of this season with an injury.
"I can promise that this team is going to work so unbelievably hard in the offseason," freshman offensive tackle Taylor Lewan said Saturday. "We're going to come out as a completely new team next year."
Contact Ryan Autullo at: email@example.com or 419-724-6160