Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh’s glowing praise of his strength and conditioning coach Ben Herbert has been well documented in recent months. On Thursday, Episode Two of Michigan Made: Football showed just why exactly Harbaugh holds him in such esteem.
“Coach Herb, he’s involved with everybody,” Donovan Edwards said in the episode. “Regardless of if you’re the highest guy on the depth chart or the lowest guy, he’s always gonna give you the absolute best work to make you a better player and even a better man.”
A six-year tenured member of the Wolverines coaching staff, Herbert came to Ann Arbor by way of the Arkansas Razorbacks and Wisconsin Badgers, where he developed the highly successful training program that has produced 95 NFL Draft picks — 12 of which being first rounders — in his career across the three universities.
In his post-Ohio State press conference, Harbaugh called Herbert the “X-Factor” of the program, saying his mix of old school grit and cutting edge athletic training methods have turned the roster in a well oiled machine.
“He is the X-factor in our football program,” Harbaugh said in November. “He is the center of player development. He is phenomenal; more than anybody in our entire program. It’s with every player, it’s with every position group.”
Herbert’s value to the program is quite literally being a million dollar coach; in February, Herbert signed an extension that guarantees a million dollar salary each year of his contract through signing and retention bonuses, as well as a potential maximum of two hundred thousand dollars for every game over eight wins the Wolverines emerge victorious in.
According to the players, even that is a steal for what Herbert and his staff brings.
“The strength staff is unlike anything else at any other program,” Kris Jenkins said. “Every single day is insane, and we love that.”
Of course, training is nothing without the dietary and nourishment component. Luckily for the Wolverines, not only do they have the best strength staff in the game, they have the best nutrition staff as well; led by Abigail O’Connor, a diet and nutrition guru former Wolverine Mazi Smith credits with helping him become an ‘athletic freak’ and current running back Blake Corum praises in the episode.
“Abigail and her staff do a phenomenal job,” Corum said. “They know what you need. I’m trying to get cut up, this is the most I’ve weighed, I’m feeling strong. Whatever they’re doing is good and best believe I’ll be back better than ever.”
As the Wolverines creep ever closer to the start of fall camp, there’s no doubt that they’re ready to go physically and mentally as a result of Herbert and O’Connor’s guidance.