After a regular-season ending loss to Ohio State, Jim Harbaugh said his team needed to get stronger.
At the time, it wasn’t clear if he meant that literally. But it’s clear now that Harbaugh believed in making a change, as the Michigan football team announced Thursday afternoon it has hired Ben Herbert as the team’s new strength and conditioning coach.
Herbert held the same position at Arkansas under former coach Bret Bielema for the past five seasons. Bielema, Herbert and the rest of the staff were let go earlier this offseason.
The Wolverines previously employed Kevin Tolbert at the position. Tolbert worked under Harbaugh in stints at Stanford and with the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers, and was with Michigan throughout its preparation for the Jan. 1 Outback Bowl.
Herbert will come without significant ties to Harbaugh, but he does have shared history with the Big Ten.
Herbert was a defensive lineman at Wisconsin, where he was a four-year letterman. He then spent 11 seasons with the Badgers on the strength and conditioning staff, eventually earning the position of head strength coach under Bielema.
In the winter of 2012, Bielema left for Arkansas, bringing Herbert with him to Fayetteville. He explained his philosophy in a video produced by the school’s athletic department in the summer of 2013.
“My overall philosophy encompasses a lot of different things,” Herbert said. “I think everything starts from a development standpoint, with how well you take care of your body, the types of foods that you eat, your meal frequency, the types of fluids that you put in your body — we place a huge emphasis on water.”
Herbert also touched upon which areas he places emphasis on in the weight room.
“From a weight room development standpoint, the most important thing right out of the gate for our young guys when they come in is developing their lower body and developing their back,” Herbert said. “A lot of guys spend a lot of time (bench) pressing in high school. They don’t spend a lot of time pulling and they don’t spend a lot of time training their lower body. That’s where we see our biggest gains.
“Teach guys how to eat well, teach them how to hydrate properly, teach them how to train the right way, focusing on lower body and back development, and we set them up for a great result.”
One of Herbert’s biggest success stories at Arkansas, former tight end Hunter Henry, tweeted out support of the hiring on Dec. 30.
“One of the best hires in the country!” Henry, a second-round NFL Draft pick, wrote. “This guy is legit. Might have to make a trip up to Ann Arbor now.”
According to Michigan’s press release, Herbert is a certified member of the National Strength Conditioning Association and the Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coaches Association. He was named Master Strength and Conditioning Coach in 2015, “the profession’s highest honor,” and was the youngest coach to win the award.