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.]
SI's Thayer Evans is reporting that Michigan will hire Boston College defensive coordinator Don Brown in the same capacity at Michigan:
Boston College DC Don Brown will be Michigan's new DC per source.
— Thayer Evans (@ThayerEvansSI) December 20, 2015
Sam Webb has an unconfirmed report that Brown told BC's players he would depart today.
This is the first that Brown's name has come up in connection with the Michigan job, which goes to show how much this was on lockdown. I was momentarily disappointed and then I remembered spending much of the year mad at BC for having the audacity to be above Michigan in the rankings.
This is not because they beat up on Howard and Maine. S&P ignores that stuff. Meanwhile let's play spot the outlier in Dalvin Cook's season:
15 for 54 is BC. everyone else got nuked except Georgia Tech, which managed the 17 for 82 above.
BC's defense finished the year third in S&P+ behind only FSU and Michigan despite having nowhere near the talent either of those two teams had *and* having the kind of crippling dysfunction on the other side of the ball that usually leads to late landslide victories. You know, the kind of offense that can do this:
Wake Forest 3, Boston College 0: It's okay to hate something you love sometimes
Football Study Hall's Ian Boyd wrote a feature on Brown's defense not five days ago. Read the whole thing but here's the nutshell version:
With a quick LB corps, safeties that can play multiple roles, and effective DL anchored by highly skilled tackles all of the schematics and skill sets on the Eagles' defense were able to pull together to form a dominant unit. They were hard to move the ball against on normal downs and then pure murder on 3rd and long. Too bad about that offense.
Brown doesn't fit Harbaugh's profile in that he's 60 and presumably not looking to move up, but as far as results go he's a very impressive hire. And he's a college guy, so thumbs up for that.
Mattison has been around the block [Eric Upchurch]
Defensive coordinator bits. Michigan isn't in any rush to fill the spot since they know what they're doing for the bowl game (it'll be Mattison) and they don't have any urgent recruiting to do (Chris Partridge is on the road temporarily and it's a dead period through the New Year).
For a while it seemed like the main guy was Stanford DC Lance Anderson, who admitted contact with both BYU and Michigan early last week. BYU is currently looking for a Mormon to coach their team after the departure of Bronco Mendenhall, and Anderson fits the bill. So does Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo (a name I will force Ace to pronounce if it ever comes up on the podcast), but that flirtation apparently came to an end yesterday. Anderson would be a guy on the ensuing shortlist. And even if he's not:
Lance Anderson: "I'm not leaving #Stanford for another coordinator position. I'm very happy here, love this."
— Andy Drukarev (@StanfordRivals) December 17, 2015
Anderson's track record is short and Michigan's flirtation with Harbaugh's former Stanford personnel mostly serves to get them raises. Moving on, then… to… people? I guess?
I haven't gotten any intel on the search, sadly, and so much of what others have said has mutated so quickly or proven to be false that I don't think anyone has a good read. Sam Webb brought up Wisconsin DC Dave Aranda as a possibility. Aranda has a very good track record save for a certain game against Ohio State last year, so that's a mixed blessing right there.
Colorado DC Jim Leavitt is working his way back into college coaching after an Incident that got him fired from his post as the USF head coach. An Oklahoma fan laid out the case for Leavitt in January, when the Sooners were looking for coaches on D:
Everywhere coach Leavitt has been, he’s been successful. He was the co-defensive coordinator with Bob Stoops at Kansas State, where they managed to take a pitiful defense and turn it into, statistically, one of the nation’s best. He then went on to the University of South Florida and built the program from it’s infancy as an FCS program to a Big East conference FBS program. The success he had at South Florida, including at one point being ranked number two nationally, has not been anywhere close to repeated since his departure.
Leavitt was offered the Alabama job multiple times before Nick Saban eventually landed in Tuscaloosa. He was offered head coaching positions at multiple major FBS programs and turned them all down to stay at South Florida.
Leavitt landed with Harbaugh in San Francisco after the Incident, and is a quality coach.
And I'll continue to advocate for Houston DC Todd Orlando*, a former Wisconsin linebacker who has been very successful in stints at Utah State and Houston. That he was Tom Herman's top choice to be DC is also very appealing—this is a gentleman selected by a top spread guy.
Todd Orlando is not pictured at right. But if he was, oh man.
*[Oddly, Orlando and Aranda were at Utah State consecutively. Someone hire that guy to be a head coach. Oh right Wisconsin tried that and he ran away.]
Thanking ushers with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind. Jim Harbaugh doing Harbaugh things:
Jim Harbaugh made a surprise appearance at a dinner yesterday simply to thank Michigan Stadium ushers for their work pic.twitter.com/Uloc5xNv8P
— Alejandro Zúñiga (@ByAZuniga) December 16, 2015
They got the people who stand on the seats in the IMG section to not do so for the OSU game this year, so I would also like to thank the kind lady who did that.
Filling in a LTT-shaped hole. Michigan has offered Texas grad transfer Jake Raulerson. Raulerson got his degree in three years and has two to play, so he would help fill in one of the gaps left by the six-man 2012 OL recruiting class dwindling to two. Raulerson has seen a fair bit of time:
He started five games on the offensive line for Texas as a redshirt freshman and played twelve total games in 2014 for the Longhorns. He was a four-star prospect out of high school and was the 116th ranked overall player in the 2013 class coming out of high school. Alabama and UCLA are among the other programs he is believed to be considering.
At 6-4, 295 he is most likely a center but could play either guard spot as well. He is (obviously) a high-academic kid, and would immediately compete to fill the spot Glasgow is vacating. He would also be around in 2017, when Michigan loses Magnuson, Kalis, and Braden.
Raulerson would not count against the cap of 28 players the Big Ten imposes on recruiting classes, so if Michigan thinks they'll have a spot there's no downside.
RichRodding in progress. Meanwhile, poor damn Charlie Strong. Strong is two-thirds of the way to the full RichRod. Strong:
- is probably a good coach, possibly a very good one
- got a primo college job despite no previous connections to it
- inherited a brutally bad roster thanks to the previous coach staying on a couple years too long
- attempted to install a culture radically different from the existing one
- lost a lot of games his first two years
- lost whatever questionable support there was for him in the first place thanks to the previous bullet
- made a bunch of panicked coaching moves after some bad decisions on the side of the ball opposite his specialty
- died a thousand recruiting deaths as a result.
In related news, Texas offered TX DT Chris Daniels yesterday. Daniels commits… tonight. Probably not to Texas. As of right now the Longhorns have zero (ZERO) of the top 20 recruits in the state committed, and two of the top 50*. That is a long way away from the Mack Brown days when Texas would lock up 15 of the top 20 before the previous year's signing day.
*[They are crystal ball favorites for four of the remaining six uncommitted players but much of that feels like the same kind of momentum that saw Jordan Elliott a Texas CB favorite weeks after he publicly announced Michigan was his leader. Michigan is in on two of those players, OL Jean Delance and LB Dontavious Jackson.]
Etc.: Congresspersons acquire free tickets to college sporting events. Jabrill Peppers is Naughty By Nature's nephew? Did we know this? Ann Arbor best college town, put it on the mantle next to all the other ones. Illinois promotes Ryan Cubit, son of Bill Cubit, to OC. Michigan pays its assistants a lot. Smart Football back and popping. Citrus advanced stats tale of the tape.
Ranked out of five swag Mattisons, naturally. Also check out this board post that should be a diary from alum96.
Greg Jackson, DBs, Michigan
If Michigan goes with an internal promotion it will be Jackson, not Greg Mattison. Mattison isn't going anywhere as he plans on retiring at Michigan; Jackson could make a move if he was offered a coordinator spot. After Michigan's defensive backs had a terrific year, that is at least a vague possibility.
In this scenario Michigan would bring in the best DL or LB coach they can find—Roy Manning?—since Mattison can coach either position group.
Likelihood: if Michigan does not end up with a slam-dunk outside candidate this is probably happening.
Verdict: Love what he did with the DBs this year, but track record still thin. Would at least ease necessity of finding a front seven coach.
Jeremy Pruitt, DC, Georgia
Probably out the door after Kirby Smart's hire at UGA. Has never left the south, possibly in his life. Had some sort of midseason blowup after which Mark Richt had to reassure everyone on twitter that Pruitt was still the DC, but afterwards it was assumed he was gone even before Richt got axed. That might be a problem for many coaches. It's probably an asset when you're working for Harbaugh.
Pruitt is regarded as a big-time recruiter as well. Mecole Hardman appears attached at his hip and he is at least at Durkin's level there. Georgia defensive players took to twitter en masse to plead for his job after Richt's firing, so whatever issues there were didn't seem to impact his players much.
Pruitt has taken on Auburn—the SEC's closest analogue to Ohio State's offense—three times in his career. Chronologically:
- As FSU's DC in the 2013 national title game: Auburn (the #7 FEI offense) put up 450 yards and 31 points, though two touchdowns were drives of 27 and 25 yards.
- At Georgia he held the #5 2014 Auburn offense to 7 points and under 300 yards, and then throttled a much much worse offense this year for similar numbers.
That's a pretty decent track record.
Likelihood: currently believed he will replace Smart at Alabama, where he was the DBs coach for a minute. Is believed to be interested in the Michigan opening. Would be an awkward fit since Michigan already has two DB coaches, but if he comes it might not be the end of the shuffling.
Longshot, but if he meets with Harbaugh they might get along, or get in a knife fight. Or both, because a knife fight seems like a good way to break the ice with these two.
Verdict: Pruitt is an angrier Durkin with good success against Auburn.
Barry Odom, DC, Mizzou
No Harbaugh connection, but probably available after Pinkel announced his retirement. Alum96 laid out the case for him, which largely built around the fact that he rescued an awful Memphis defense and then took over at Mizzou, where he maintained a very good D in trying circumstances:
He went to Memphis for 3 years and took an awful D and built it up year after year - by year 3 it had excellent metrics for a non P5. Again let me emphasize with these spread offenses today you can go to a non P5 and make a top 20 offense. You can do it at the bottom of the P5 too (seee Indiana or Washington State) Schemes help offense a lot more than defense. Building a top 20 defense or near it without elite athletes is damn hard as scheme can only take you so far - you need the horses. So his annual progress at Memphis and his final product in 2014 both impress. I also like that Memphis defense fell dramatically this year when he left - it shows me the defense suffered without him.
Then he took over a Missouri defense this year which had metrics similar to GMatt UM and kept is steady despite a steady outflow of NFL draft picks from the front 4 especially (and front 7 in general) in recent years. This despite coaching a 3-4 at Memphis and converting to a 4-3 at Missouri.
Odom fits Harbaugh's profile: he is a young up-and-comer, and he's got a very solid 4-year track record. Recruiting is something of an unknown, but he's 38 and is after it. Also a linebackers coach.
Likelihood: would definitely come. Harbaugh has to find him on his radar though.
Verdict: aside from Pruitt the guy on the board with the best combo of results, age, and experience.
Todd Orlando, DC, Houston
Former Utah State DC snapped up by Tom Herman when he took the Houston job. Moved Houston's D from 73rd to 31st in one year, and before that had kick-ass Ds (15th and 9th!) at Utah State of all places. Wisconsin grad, so Midwest-y. Had seven prior years as a DC at FIU and UConn. LB coach and former LB himself.
Honestly, if Herman likes him that's good enough for me.
Likelihood: dollars would make the difference.
Verdict: relatively young, ton of experience, excellent results, good staff fit. Yes please.
Lance Anderson, DC, Stanford
Harbaugh protégé ascended to top spot at Stanford two years ago. Michigan made a run at him last year but with Durkin coming in that turned into some sort of co-DC situation that a sitting DC was unlikely to find appealing.
Very solid first year save getting bombed by Oregon 45-16; finished #7 in FEI. Rather less good this year as Stanford finished 61st.
Likelihood: Doubtful. Would be a lateral move from a school that doesn't lose many coaches. Shaw is an offensive guy, so he's probably working with little or no interference. Unknown if Michigan throwing a bucket of money of him would move him since Stanford is private and we don't know how much he makes. Stanford does have a million billion dollars in general, though.
Verdict: Young, knows Harbaugh, probably can get after it in recruiting, LB/DT coach so a good fit for the current staff. Track record a little eh.
Jim Leavitt, DC, Colorado
Former USF head coach fired after grabbing and slapping one of his players at halftime of a game in 2009. Did win a wrongful termination suit afterwards. Found a home under Harbaugh as a linebackers coach for the duration of his San Francisco tenure, then grabbed the Colorado DC job. Year was nothing to write home about but he did improve the Buffalo D from #104 to #73.
Tenure at South Florida was long enough ago that we don't have a ton of advance stat data, but by FEI his last three years were excellent considering the circumstances: USF was 4th, 37th, and 35th from 2007 to 2009.
Likelihood: If Harbaugh wants him he'll come. How likely that is after the incident that got him fired is unknown—but I have to think it's not particularly high.
Verdict: Guy knows his way around a college defense and the incident that got him fired is now six years in the past. Still a major drag. Is a LBs coach, so that's a fit.
Scott Shafer, former HC, Syracuse
2008 season whipping boy took the dignified way out after having the 3-3-5 imposed on him midseason with predictably disastrous results. Moved to Syracuse as DC and then got the head job when Doug Marrone got the Bills job. Got reasonable results with bad talent until this year (DFEI, 2009-2015: 70, 38, 39, 39, 65, 36, 104).
Excellent dude who was Harbaugh's DC in 2007 before leaving for Michigan, which… uh… I know that seemed like a good career move at the time.
Likelihood: currently unemployed, so a definite yes if Michigan is interested. Harbaugh might hold a grudge for a lateral move.
Verdict: Eh. I'm sure he'd be fine.
Vic Fangio, DC, Chicago Bears
Cumong man, this makes us look ridiculous.
But Rivals said…
Verdict: Do you even want an NFL coordinator? We just saw what happens when an NFL style defense goes up against a spread option. Fangio's only stop in college since 1982 was one year with Harbaugh in 2010. This was a good year in which Fangio's defense gave up 52 points to Oregon. Also, like, recruiting?
In seemingly done but not official news that would have been way more disappointing last week:
Source: D.J. Durkin will be the next coach at Maryland.
— Pete Thamel (@SIPeteThamel) December 2, 2015
I think we all assumed that Durkin would be a head coach sooner or later, but not after one year, and not in Michigan's division. At least Durkin gets away from Ohio State's offense, though. Yeah.
Unless there's an 11th-hour switch here, Michigan needs a new DC and/or a LB/DL coach. Mattison can handle either unit in the front seven and could get bumped back up to the main job; Greg Jackson might be a DC possibility as well—the job he and Zordich did with Michigan's DBs was terrific.
Steve Lorenz has three DC names to watch that includes a familiar name: former Michigan DC and Syracuse HC Scott Shafer. Shafer did get a really raw deal here the first time around.
META first: Happy to announce that Ace's thing was diagnosed and he's gonna be fine.
Out of the Blue. It was refreshing, wasn't it, when Hackett killed off the Michigan Man Bler.
Bo retired with a cult of personality because he was great at coaching football, and great at improving the lives of people around him. Trusting him and his guys served Michigan well enough so long as he and those guys and their guys continued to do things well and righteously.
|Camus on why Candyland is the greatest game ever. [Existential Comics]|
Hoke was righteous; he didn't do well. Outside Michigan circles there was general bewilderment that Brady could come to this year's football bust, sit beside the men who fired him for fielding progressively worse football teams, and receive a standing ovation. Winning football games can you earn you a lot of respect, but it's not the only way to get it.
I too want to move on from the Cult of Bo, and I too concede that most football coaches out there are good guys. I don't see any problem with recognizing these things and also recognizing that Brady Hoke stood out among his coaching peers. You see it in his players. We'll see it again in the coming years when there are more transfers and more off-field things to wag fingers at, because Brady is an extraordinary human who genuinely cares about people beyond the normal good guy capacity. That quality isn't what got him fired; it's what got him a shot at his dream job in the first place.
We needed to get out of this Blue Bler and relearn how to make decisions with something other than faith in a dead man—sadly it took the people in charge two transitions to realize it. There's no way to eradicate the bler people; fortunately there is a home run-seeming candidate who grew up around the program and quarterbacked it for a time.
Ultimately the question on Harbaugh is 100% "Will he?" Communist Football made the case for the thing we want to believe. If it happens yay for Michigan and the world and the ozone layer. If not, we're…
Into the Black. If we're not looking for the next Bo Schembechler to run Bo Schembechler's program, what are we looking for?
Nobody's telling us. In his Highlander movie-themed discussion of Michigan's pursuit of Harbaugh, I think Gameboy absolutely nailed the coaching search process, which goes:
- Big list of candidates
- Whittling of candidates into a pool
- Precision ranking and clarity among top tier
- Pick the guy
Because fans don't get to be part of the process, the bits that leak out make no sense. We are the mortals who keep finding bodies beheaded by swords all over town, plus a few bread crumbs left by those who seek to use us for their own ends, and start drawing conclusions.
Rock and Roll is Here to Stay: In looking for a new paradigm a lot of us have settled on Urban Meyer's regime and coaching tree. Copying a successful rival is as good a strategy as any; in fact it's exactly how Canham chose Bo in 1969.
In that vein, Kyle Whittingham is the next Urban Meyer-like candidate to get the alum96 treatment. Among Urban-like names being tossed around, Whittingham is probably the most palatable to the residual bler in Michigan's brass—Mullen carries the stench of the SEC and we have no idea whether they see the things in Herman that we do. Like Harbaugh, his candidacy is more of a "Will he?" than a "Can he?"
[After the jump, there's more to the picture than meets the eye.]