Ben Herbert, Ex-Wolverine

Ben Herbert, Ex-Wolverine

January 29, 2024
Ben Herbert (image via Detroit Free Press)

Strength and conditioning coach Ben Herbert informed the team after this morning’s lift that he would be leaving Michigan to go work for the Los Angeles Chargers under Jim Harbaugh.

Herbert was hired prior to the 2019 season at Michigan after spending time at Wisconsin and then Arkansas under Bret Bielema. He rejuvenated Michigan’s S&C program and put numerous guys on Bruce Feldman’s “Freaks List,” including Kwity Paye, Kenneth Grant, Mazi Smith, and Kris “The Mutant” Jenkins, Jr.

For better or worse – and there’s no judgment here – this feels like Herbert is hitching his wagon to Jim Harbaugh’s Super Bowl quest. Herbert seems like a college guy to me, because he has a certain wow factor with young men that may not carry over to guys who are professional millionaires and have their own trainers. Herbert is very intimidating to 19-year-old kids, but to a 32-year-old guy who has made $120 million in his career? I’m not so sure.

Not only am I a little surprised because of those reasons (seems like a college guy, NFL strength coaches aren’t as revered, etc.), but his nephew Zach Ludwig also signed with Michigan in the 2024 recruiting class. Ludwig was not exactly a prized recruit and it’s unclear whether he was coming in as a linebacker or maybe a fullback or maybe a long snapper, but it did seem pretty clear that he was not someone Michigan would target if Ben Herbert weren’t around. So this would not exactly change the program, but I wonder about Ludwig’s status going forward.

On a personal note, I have sat through some S&C presentations at coaching clinics over the years, both from college and NFL strength coaches. I have consistently been more impressed by the college S&C guys more so than the NFL guys. Maybe it’s all optics, but the college guys seem to be much more organized and on point. I think that’s likely because they work in an educational setting where they have giant facilities, multiple assistants, and 140 kids depending on them daily for guidance and life training, not to mention physical training. But it makes sense if you think about the attitudes needed for success at the two different levels:

  • College: “You have 139 of your brothers depending on you. You eat together, you live together, you bleed together. Nobody is coming to save this team except the guys in this room.”
  • NFL: “Look, this is a 53-man roster. Do your job or get the f*** out and the GM find someone else. There’s a young All-American who just got cut, and there’s a 32-year-old veteran who’s willing to sign for the minimum to keep his career alive, and either one of them can take your job at any point. So do what you need to do, or else you won’t be around. Doesn’t matter to me.”

Associate Director of Strength and Conditioning Justin Tress will reportedly be taking over, at least for the time being. Tress is a Pennsylvania native and played college football at Kent State. He has been at Michigan since 2018 and is being paid $162,500 for the 2023-2024 school year, so to be an assistant strength coach and make that much money, he must do a pretty good job.

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