Long-time reader, second time emailer. I sent you a fake inspirational poster featuring Tate Forcier when those were still things. You used it. Good times.
I have the following mailbag questions:
1. With the departure of Durkin, Baxter, Jackson, et. al, do you see the revolving door continuing for assistant coaches? I don't have a problem with it because HARBAUGH and it means they are poach worthy. What about Drevno? He seems unlikely to leave anytime soon. I guess my question is: how much of the offense is Harbaugh, and how much is Drevno/Fisch? Would there be a big change if one of the latter left? Butt's comments about not having to learn a new offense this year were nice to hear just for continuity's sake.
This offseason's turnover was a bit extreme. Maryland hiring Durkin after one year as a defensive coordinator actually in charge of his defense—at Florida he was under Will Muschamp—was unexpected. I figured we'd get a 3-5 year run from him before he was established enough to make the jump. Losing Baxter and Jackson is actually more of a worry for me. Baxter went back to California, which is understandable if you're sawft because you've spent your time in that climate. Jackson may have decided he's more of an NFL guy.
Harbaugh seemed to make a conscious decision to reduce staff turnover with his picks for replacements. College DC lifer Don Brown is past the point where he'd be a head coach candidate; Chris Partridge and Brian Smith are young guys moving up who will probably stick around a while before any potential bump to quasi-co-psuedo associate head coach and run defense coordinator. Michigan's defensive assistants should be set for a few years, with a Mattison retirement the next likely swap.
On the other side of the ball it's murkier. It's Harbaugh's offense, of that there is no doubt. Coordinators on the same side of the ball as a heavily involved guru head coach often take a significant amount of seasoning before they are targeted for a move up the ladder. (See: Pat Narduzzi.) Drevno had not been a full OC prior to the Michigan move and has been with Harbaugh for a long time; he doesn't seem like a threat to depart for a few years yet, and when and if he does it'll be because Michigan's offense is shredding opponents.
Meanwhile Fisch is set to negotiate an extension that should bump his salary up significantly after a buyout year when Michigan was more or less paying the Jaguars. He seemed to get on with the staff and clearly had OC-type input in the passing game…
"good shit, Jedd" pic.twitter.com/6LKlSnY7Qp
— Ace Anbender (@AceAnbender) October 6, 2015
…so I wouldn't expect him to leave for anything short of a full OC spot. That may very well happen—before he was cursed to work in the mines of Jacksonville he had a pretty good run at Miami—but I think he'll be around for a while yet.
The guy to watch for a departure is Tyrone Wheatley, who has ambitions to be a head coach. He has a powerful motivation to stick around for four more years; after that I would not be surprised to see him look for an OC spot no matter where it is.
2. What about Chesson for the #1 jersey? Has that been officially retired? If so, I don't remember hearing much about it. I can't remember a better candidate in recent years than him.
#1 is not retired and shouldn't be. Devin Funchess just wore it, remember? The fact that this guy didn't remember that and I wrote most of this response before remembering that an NFL player wore #1 two years ago is… Brady Hoke, man.
Anyway: no retiring more numbers please. #21 getting retired is kind of a bummer, man, and I can't imagine #1 or #2 goes by the wayside for practical (running out of numbers) and recruiting (here's Charles Woodson's number) reasons. But I don't expect Chesson to take it. He is in a pretty famous WR number (86) already and he doesn't seem like the type of guy to care much either way.
Beilein status, part 1
Hey Brian. I see you trying to walk the line of criticizing U-M basketball while not calling for Beilein's head. Here's the issue to me...
it's easy to compare Beilein to what came before and say look at his improvement. But the "fire Beilein" says "Well, that's not good enough." The better comparison isn't to what came before but to what would come after. What are the odds of replacing Beilein with someone who runs a clean program, fits culturally with the university, and achieves more success on the court? I put it at about 10%. That's not a chance worth taking for someone who may be marginally better. But the only thing that would satisfy these guys is if we were dominating the Big Ten. So then you need to consider the odds of getting the coach who runs a clean program, fits in culturally and consistently out-performs Izzo, Crean, et al. I put those odds under 1%.
So it's a shame that Beilein isn't a slightly better coach than he is, but Michigan's biggest obstacle is that our rivals' programs are just consistently too good.
I mean, yeah. I think we're all pretty disappointed where the program is right now but that's largely an artifact of Beilein's insane level of success over the three years from 2012-14, which went
- Big Ten Title
- National Championship Game
- Outright Big Ten Title & Elite Eight
Frankly I didn't expect that level of performance from Beilein when he was hired. I just wanted to make the tournament most of the time and Pittsnogle some higher seeds. Take that expectation and remove the team's star for consecutive years and this is what you get.
That said, the trend here, especially on defense, is alarming. It's not really about the level of the program, it's about the direction of the arrow. If Beilein's projected performance going forward is the average of his Michigan career minus his first year (which I think we can issue a mulligan for given the state of the roster) then yes, it will be very difficult for Michigan to match or exceed that. If it's the last two years, even considering Levert's injury, then the pool of candidates who can expect to match or do better expands considerably.
I don't think that's clear yet. I do think we're going to see an offseason shakeup and hopefully a defensive specialist brought in. I am still resigned to the fact that Beilein's peak is likely to have already passed and that we'll probably be gunning for a Sweet 16 or two before he retires, not a title.
[After THE JUMP: more Beilein feelingsball, PWO pickin', can the Big Ten replicate the Harbaugh model?]
Former Gilman (MD) head coach Biff Poggi seemed to be moving on to another high school head coaching gig after an odd parting of the ways from his long-time post, but Sam Webb reported last night that Michigan had found a role for him after all:
Biff Poggi has been brought on as the assistant head coach in charge of special projects.
Poggi is of course the father of Henry; Michigan recruited Stephen Spanellis from Gilman last year and had Devery Hamilton committed for a while until a sudden Stanford flip.
Poggi may just be passing through; in January he told the Baltimore Sun he had a job offer from Michigan but that his staff would be relocating to St. Frances and that Poggi would likely return to high school coaching in the future:
Turner said someone from the Gilman staff would be the head coach in the fall. He also said he expects Poggi to return to Baltimore to take over the program at some point.
FWIW, Gilman has QB Kasim Hill in the 2017 class. He has a Michigan offer and is considering M, but there are a couple of obvious complicating factors in Brandon Peters and Dylan McCaffrey. No doubt MSU fans will fly off the handle about this anyway.
This was a bit of a worst-kept secret but it is now official:
Per a source, Pembroke Pines, Fla./Flanagan coach Devin Bush Sr. has been hired as a Defensive Analyst for the Michigan football staff.
Bush built Flanagan from not much into a state champ in Florida's largest division; he was a star at FSU and a first round pick before an eight-year NFL career as a safety. He is likely to slot into the role that Chris Partridge vacated after his promotion.
Notably this is not the defensive backs job recently vacated by Greg Jackson. Sam Webb has heard that former Wisconsin S and Michigan grad assistant Aubrey Pleasant, now a QC coach with the Redskins, might be in line for that job.
Michigan still has an analyst spot open after Erik Campbell got a position coach job at UConn.
Via Bruce Feldman:
— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) February 17, 2016
Jackson had been previously rumored as a potential Bengals assistant and has apparently found a landing spot in the NFL. That's not great news since Jackson did a terrific job with Michigan's cornerbacks in his first year in Ann Arbor; at least Michigan returns all those guys and should be able to maintain performance. Michigan does already have Greg Zordich as a DBs coach and could hypothetically go in any direction with the assistant opening, but I do expect them to add another secondary coach given the importance of DBs in the modern game.
No, it won't be Charles Woodson. Woodson already got a job with ESPN.
As many assumed when John Baxter went back to USC, Chris Partridge has been tabbed to fill the spot:
University of Michigan J. Ira and Nicki Harris Family Head Football Coach Jim Harbaughannounced Thursday (Jan. 14) that Chris Partridge has been permanently added to the coaching staff and will serve as the team's linebackers and special teams coach.
"Chris has a proven track record as a successful coach," said Harbaugh. "He has brought a lot of energy and enthusiasm to his work as our director of player personnel. I know that same passion will be exhibited in his work with our student-athletes."
Sort of, anyway. Michigan is evidently moving away from a special-teams-only coach and Partridge will get some help, or Partridge will chip in—the picture and the article have conflicting information—or whatever. They'll figure it out.
Keeping Partridge was a major priority for Harbaugh after DJ Durkin departed; Michigan's success recruiting New Jersey this year speaks for itself.
John Baxter has returned to USC after one year as Michigan's special teams coach. This is not ideal. Despite some late hiccups, Baxter was a godsend for a special teams unit that was amongst the country's worst under Brady Hoke. Michigan went from 66th to 16th in special teams efficiency in a single year under Baxter. Since most of the hiccups were acts of God* rather than strategic or coaching errors he largely lived up to the hype even if Michigan didn't block a billion kicks.
In his absence, Michigan looks set to give Chris Partridge a full assistant job.
— Sam Webb (@SamWebb77) January 8, 2016
This is good for recruiting. What it means for special teams is unknown—Partridge is likely to come in as a linebackers coach. Jay Harbaugh will probably pick up some of the slack since TE/ST is a common combination, and then you might see Mike Zordich chip in since Michigan is splitting the secondary.
There will probably be a drop. Baxter is the best at what he does and there was a flood of fond goodbyes from Michigan players on twitter—he was well liked. As long as Michigan doesn't go back to NFL punting I'll be happy.
If Michigan does end up promoting Partridge they will need a new recruiting coordinator. Devin Bush Sr., who built Flanagan High into a power from very little, has been rumored to be a candidate for a job even if this hadn't happened. Now you might want to pencil him in. He's basically a Florida version of Partridge. Michigan will hope to make up for Baxter's loss with a crootin bump.
*[Dropped snaps, missed tackles, and ridiculously bad refereeing against MSU, Indiana, and Rutgers, respectively. Michigan got a punt blocked against Penn State that was due to bad tactics.]