Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Former San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh had quite an impact on the NFL when he began his stint with the team back in 2011.
Harbaugh was fresh off a 2011 Orange Bowl victory with his Andrew Luck-led Stanford Cardinal when he inked a five-year deal with San Francisco to become the team's next coach.
He led the 49ers to playoff wins in each of his first three seasons, which included an appearance in Super Bowl XLVII (2012) - a loss to his brother, John, who coaches the Baltimore Ravens.
The Associated Press named Harbaugh the 2011 NFL Coach of the Year following his first season. But the situation in San Fran disintegrated quickly after an 8-8 season in 2014, when the NFC West program failed to make the playoffs.
The 49ers and Harbaugh mutually agreed to part ways, and on Dec. 30 the coach was introduced as the man to replace Brady Hoke at the helm of Michigan's football program.
There's a vast and identifiable difference between Harbaugh's style of coaching and that of Hoke's. Hoke received his fair share of criticism for seeming too indifferent and emotionless on the sidelines, especially when his Wolverines suffered through a dismal 5-7 2014 season, in which they went 3-5 against Big Ten competition.
Harbaugh is animated, passionate and, quite frankly, a psycho. But he gets wins and asks the best from his players. Many like to see that from their head coach.
But Harbaugh is entering into a Michigan regime that is filled with Hoke recruits, and the style in Ann Arbor is changing drastically.
Perhaps the threat of significant change struck initial fear into some of the players who entered the spring on the Michigan roster because five of them with eligibility remaining have voluntarily left the program since Harbaugh and his staff arrived on campus.
The most recent was Blake Countess, a defensive back who was a 2013 All-Big Ten first-teamer and an honorable mention selection last season. He was expected to compete in his final season of eligibility for one of the cornerback spots, but things looked a bit grim for Countess after Stanford graduate transfer Wayne Lyons landed at Michigan earlier this week.
Countess announced his decision to transfer from Michigan via Instagram. He will be immediately eligible to play at another program thanks to NCAA graduate transfer rules.
Countess is one of the bigger names to flee the program since Harbaugh's hiring. He joins center Jack Miller, running back Justice Hayes, quarterback Russell Bellomy and tight end Keith Heitzman on that list.
Senior receiver and kick returner Dennis Norfleet also was recently kicked off the team, and his high school coach attributes his dismissal to a disagreement with the new Wolverines coach.
"Dennis informed us he was no longer on the team," Dale Harvel, his former coach at Martin Luther King High School in Detroit, said. "Something about a disciplinary thing between him and coach Harbaugh. Whether it was academics or something internal, I'm not sure. He just said they had a disagreement and he was let go."
Norfleet is Michigan's all-time leader in kick returns with 94 for 2,203 yards. If he was dismissed from the team for slipping grades, there was still an altercation between Harbaugh and Norfleet that created some type of riff, of which Harvel was quickly made aware.
This isn't an isolated incident, either. There are numerous reports from former players that back up the concept that Harbaugh is, indeed, a lunatic.
San Francisco 49ers guard Alex Boone said when Harbaugh came in, he was able to fire his squad up and instill a culture of giving-it-your-all. But as time went on, some of the players' attitudes toward his fast-lane style did a 180.
"He does a great job of giving you that spark, that initial boom. But after a while, you just want to kick his (expletive)," Boone said in an interview on HBO's "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel." "He just keeps pushing you, and you're like, 'Dude, we got over the mountain. Stop. Let go.' He kind of wore out his welcome."
Boone went on to say Harbaugh pushed guys too far and demanded too much, and that turned a lot of players off to his style in rapid fashion.
And that was at the highest level of professional football in the world. Imagine what a bunch of college athletes will think if Harbaugh brings a similar style of coaching to the Wolverines program. At least the 49ers were getting paid to be under Harbaugh's rule.
He does have more college coaching experience on his resume than professional, though. Harbaugh's first head coaching gig was at the University of San Diego from 2004-06 on the FCS (then Division I-AA) level. From there, he went to Stanford, where he spent the 2007-2010 seasons.
Current FOX Sports analyst and ex-San Fran receiver Randy Moss said Harbaugh treated his 49ers players like they were college kids. So maybe it's a good thing he'll actually be coaching, you know, college kids again.
This most recent departure from the Michigan football program could simply be a coincidence; perhaps Countess just wanted a change of scenery. Maybe he was exceptionally loyal to Hoke.
But with each player who leaves the program with remaining NCAA eligibility, it seems more and more telling that this could potentially be the exodus within Michigan's football program.
The question is, could this be the ultimate legacy of the Harbaugh empire?