"Jim's a tough guy and you can see his personality is all over this football team," Fitzgerald said.
Hatch Gameday. Via MLive:
Positioned on the Crisler court alongside coach John Beilein and ESPN's Rece Davis and Jay Williams, Michigan freshman Austin Hatch looked up at the arena scoreboard as a his tale of loss and triumph played on the video screen.
If, by chance, a pin had hit the hardwood, you'd have heard it.
Beilein brushed a tear from his eye. As images of the 2011 plane crash that claimed Hatch's father and step-mother and left him in an eight-week coma flashed on the screen, Beilein rested his hand on Hatch's leg.
Hatch gave him an "it's OK" glance.
The nonsense of a 14 team conference defined. UNC and Wake are playing nonconference games in 2019 and 2021, because they'd rather do that than wait a zillion years to play each other again. Congratulations, conference commissioners.
This is a bump. Harbaugh was supposedly getting 7-8 million a year; he is not. The gap between his deal and his rumored deal seems to be headed to his assistants:
Michigan's coaching staff will have a fund of $4-5 million for assistant coaches, not including strength staff.
— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) January 23, 2015
That bumps at the same rate Harbaugh does. Michigan was at 3.5 last year; the top end of that scale would see them third nationally behind LSU and Alabama, pending everyone else throwing money at their assistants.
Other contract details. Harbaugh's deal is pretty standard. It specifies that he gets a private plane for recruiting, which I think we're all happy with. Saving time as you flit about and not dealing with commercial air travel are things that make sense for the head man. The rest of the terms are as favorable as you think they might be for a guy in that kind of demand: if Michigan fires him they're on the hook for the whole deal anyway; if he leaves his buyout is a pro-rated portion of his two million dollar signing bonus. IE, nothing.
Izzo is really something. Walter Pitchford got tossed three minutes in to the MSU-Nebraska game for throwing an elbow at Matt Costello. Tim Miles:
“I thought Walt deserved to get kicked out, after seeing it,” Miles said. “He made a mistake. I know he’s sorry for that mistake. He’s being held, he looks at the ref, but you don’t do that. That’s uncalled for. That’s not us. Walt will learn from that.”
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said Nebraska indirectly may have benefited from Pitchford’s ejection.
“I thought it energized them,” he said. “Calls went differently after that, like normally they do.”
Izzo could complain about winning the lottery.
Caris evaluated. Draft Express took the opportunity to evaluate Caris LeVert after the information NBA teams will get before next year's draft was abruptly finished by his foot injury. The upshot:
LeVert will need to decide now whether or not to return to Michigan for his senior season. The feedback he gets from NBA teams in the next few months will likely play a large role in that. While this is not considered a weak draft at the moment, it does look fairly shallow at the guard positions, which could help LeVert's stock.
Most places still have him as first round pick, though now he's out of the lottery. As a young junior he still has a lot of upside he could explore in college. Unfortunately, it's often hard for guys to come back when they go into a year expecting it will be their last in college. We saw that with Glenn Robinson III last year. GRIII entered the draft knowing full well he wasn't getting a guaranteed contract because of that momentum.
This is reasonably nasty. Kyle Connor will be a freshman next year.
— USHL (@USHL) January 24, 2015
He's projected as a first round pick.
So this guy exists. Not sure what job this gentleman landed:
— Adam Caplan (@caplannfl) January 26, 2015
But he landed a job. Hastings played for D-II Washburn University, which I have just learned has one of the best logo/nickname combinations in college sports:
They are the Ichabods.
Anyway, after college Hastings kicked around the 49ers practice squad for a few years, then landed in the Eagles' front office. He's probably getting one of those analyst jobs Michigan was supposed to be adding.
Etc.: ESPN wants to move next year's semifinal playoff games from New Year's Eve because they're afraid of Ryan Seacrest. Seriously. Charles Pierce on deflategate is mandatory. Harbaughtweets power-ranked. Jon Falk on decals.
Jay Harbaugh is 25, and therefore there's nothing I can tell you about him that has anything to do with anything. He is Jim Harbaugh's son, he went to Oregon State and then GAed under Mike Riley, he spent the past three years with the Ravens working as a quality control coach, and he knows modern rappists.
Got School Visits going UPPP, on a Tuesday! #Team137
— Jay Harbaugh (@JayHarbaugh) January 20, 2015
This is good, because every coaching staff needs someone who can decipher recruits' twitter.
JIM: This kid says he's throwing "hunnids." Is that some sort of exercise?
JAY: …in a sense.
JIM: Working on his arm, then?
JAY: If so he got that workout from Pac-Man Jones.
JIM: So no.
JIM: Moving on… this kid says he's named "Reagan." Any chance that's code for street drugs?
JAY: No. Pretty sure that's the president.
JIM: /issues offer
This extremely young staff might not need translation skills as badly as Hoke's needed Roy Manning ("ROY! COME HERE AND FIX MY AOL!"), but never hurts. After what looked like an NFL-enforced period of dormancy, JayBaugh has resumed twittering and has done so competently.
Flat tire has temporarily halted today's progress! Improvise and adjust! pic.twitter.com/XHpIJCeq61
— Jay Harbaugh (@JayHarbaugh) January 21, 2015
If this coaching profile seems heavy on references to twitter, please reference the bit above about Harbaugh getting carded when he tries to buy juice.
Anyway. Here is what Harbaugh did with the Ravens:
For the Ravens, Jay Harbaugh provided statistical analysis, self-scouting reports and breakdowns of opposing defenses.
He did shoot down an opportunity to join the 49ers last year, causing a reporter to write an article with the dubious premise that working for his uncle instead of his dad was a radically independent path:
Beyond Grandpa Jack Harbaugh and the brothers, there is Jay, a 24-year-old offensive assistant for the Ravens so determined to carve his own path in the industry that he turned down a chance to join his father for the inaugural season of Levi's Stadium.
But in that article we do get quotes about Jay. Mike Riley:
"Jay has forged his own way in this business to be a very good young coach," said Oregon State's Mike Riley, who was Jim's head coach for two years with the San Diego Chargers. "Jay is a grinder. He's like Jim to a T."
And the elder Harbaugh:
"One time, I asked, 'Do guys give you a hard time about working for your uncle, automatically look at that as the reason you got the job?' His response was: 'It's my responsibility to not give them the opportunity to confirm that suspicion.'"
That is accurate, and will remain accurate as long as he's at Michigan. That's just life. That is the exact right attitude to bring to the job.
He seems off to a good start in the proving-your-worth department, as he's been prominent on the recruiting trail already. But, yeah, your guess is as good as mine.
INTERLUDE: FURTHER ADVENTURES OF ROY MANNING
"ROY! Did you delete my BonziBuddy again?"
"Who do you think is going to call plays this weekend?"
"BonziBuddy is not Al Borges on your computer."
"He might be."
"That is an excellent point."
— Chris Clark (@Clark8Chris) January 22, 2015
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
You got me. Jim Harbaugh is a terrific coach with a great track record of hiring. Jack Harbaugh has literally sired a coaching tree without peer. There are reasons to think this is a good idea and not JayPa redux.
If JayBaugh ends up ascending to the offensive coordinator job without going elsewhere and proving his chops I would be worried. Until then he's just an exceptionally young and motivated position coach whose main job is recruiting. That's a luxury Jim Harbaugh has since he's part OC and full time QB coach of his own team. Also he is Jim Harbaugh.
urgent request: re-grow the hair
After a week or so of expecting Roy Manning to continue at Michigan, Mike Zordich's name came out of nowhere to lock down a job in the secondary. The former Penn State and NFL safety seemed kind of surprised himself:
“I was very content and happy with what I was doing,” Zordich said. “I didn’t initiate anything.”
Zordich called up John Harbaugh to chat about the Ravens' playoff game against the Steelers, John relayed his name to Jim, and soon after he was moving on from Youngstown State.
Zordich had another advantage: he literally played next to Greg Jackson in the NFL. The two were the starting safeties for the Philadelphia Eagles in 1994 and 1995.
"Really, there wasn't much said," said Zordich. "Everyone knew what they had to do and they just stuck together and hung in there."
"I think we're coming along well," said Jackson. "We're still growing into the system, me and Mike, (but) every week we're getting better and better out there."
That has to be rare: a college team hiring two guys who played together in the NFL to coach the same position group. Also rare: two twelve-year NFL veterans coaching a single position group.
Because of Zordich's long playing career his coaching career took a while to get off the ground. It started with six years at Cardinal Mooney, the Youngstown high school that must be the country's #1 per capita generator of football coaches. In 2009 he moved up to the Eagles as a quality control coach; two years later he was the safeties coach. Andy Reid then got axed in favor of Chip Kelly and Zordich was not retained.
In the aftermath he took one of those one-year sabbaticals you frequently see when an assistant is suddenly turned loose when his head coach gets axed. He resurfaced as the safeties coach and special teams coordinator for YSU last year and was set to be retained by Bo Pelini when Harbaugh called.
That is admittedly not a huge coaching resume. It's a few years as an NFL position coach surrounded by high school and I-AA jobs. I could go dig up stats for the Eagles during those two years, but that seems like it's beside the point.
It's tough with guys who have been in the NFL for a long time. Their day-to-day experience is clearly a major help (especially at a QB-of-the-D position like safety) but it necessarily means that they get hired for jobs before they have much of an opportunity to erect a flashing neon sign that says GOOD IDEA.
Zordich hasn't done that, but then again neither had Greg Jackson when Harbaugh hired him away from a single year as a nickel DB coach at Wisconsin. Harbaugh's earned a lot of trust in terms of his hires, and since this is a guy who comes from outside the tree there's little reason to think he's not qualified. Michigan was also looking at alums Roy Manning, a guy Mattison is obviously familiar with, and Chuck Heater, who's been a college coach for a million years and has a good amount of DC experience—Harbaugh picked Zordich over the Michigan Man options.
No track record yet.
Zordich does have a big name in Youngstown and Pennsylvania. He starred for Penn State in the mid-80s and his kid, a fullback, followed suit 30 years later. That should help him recruit. Michigan has done good work in PA over the years but did not have an obvious guy to hit that state; now they do. Zordich's presence in Ohio may also free DJ Durkin up to hit the deep south more than he might otherwise.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
I'm not able to venture one with evidence so thin here. He should be fine; I like the fact that he worked with Jackson so well before.
DJ Durkin's rapid ascension to a coordinator-level spot at the somewhat preposterous age of 34 wasn't surprising to a lot of people who knew him. Durkin jumped into coaching immediately upon completion of his playing career, first as a GA at Bowling Green, his alma mater, under Urban Meyer. He progressed to a steadily more impressive series of stops. Since that GA spot Durkin spent…
- two years as a grad assistant at Notre Dame under Greg Mattison
- two years as a BGSU position coach, first DE, then LB
- three years as Stanford's DE coach under Jim Harbaugh
- two years as Florida's LB coach, first under Urban Meyer, then retained Will Muschamp
- two years as Florida's DC
…and now he's at Michigan. Probably for more than two years, but not twenty. Coaching trajectories like that don't often end before the head coach level. Durkin's already been hired by Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh (twice), and those guys are head coach gatling guns.
Add in Greg Mattison and Will Muschamp (who knows what he's doing on defense to the tune of a $1.6 million gig at Auburn even after the Florida flameout) and that's a lot of excellent coaches vouching for him.
“Everyone I talked to said he is one of the bright young coaches in college football,” Muschamp said.
This is how quickly he moves up: when Dan Quinn was hired away from Florida to be the Seahawks DC it took all of three hours for Muschamp to promote him.
But until he's got a presser somewhere else, he's here. Michigan's won a defensive version of Jim Harbaugh, which isn't that surprising since his first big break was with him.
It helps Durkin's case he has the energy, intensity and work ethic to match the indefatigable Muschamp. Before he came to Florida in 2010, Durkin was the same way at Stanford with the hyper-intense Jim Harbaugh.
The way he coaches is the way Durkin wants his players to perform.
"We want to play with unbelievable effort and enthusiasm in what we're doing," he said. "That's the way I coach. That's my personality."
Stanford fans were impressed with him as well:
Durkin was always known as an insanely high-energy coach when he was at Stanford, and his special teams units were always well-coached. That intensity definitely carried over to his recruiting abilities, where he helped bring in and develop some of the best players in Stanford history.
I think his star pupil at Stanford was probably Shayne Skov, who became an unstoppable player on special teams his freshman year - he made so many tackles that the coaches basically had no choice but to play him at linebacker. The guy knows what he's talking about and has that same intensity as Harbaugh and Muschamp, so I think he's a perfect fit for the promotion.
And so is Scot Loeffler:
"His enthusiasm is off the charts," said Scot Loeffler, the former Wolverines quarterback and assistant coach who later was a Lions assistant, and who tutored Tim Tebow at Florida, where he worked with Durkin.
"I've known him for five years, and he's remarkably intelligent. He knows the game inside and out, and his toughness and love for the game is remarkable.
"I think he's a great hire for Michigan. He'll bring excitement to the program. He has that great enthusiasm. And I promise you, his defensive unit will be fundamentally sound."
He generally backed that up in his two years as Florida DC, with the caveat that Muschamp was also heavily involved:
There's a good measure of how random turnovers are: Florida was great or horrible with nothing in between over the last five years.
Durkin's first year at DC was a miserable 4-8 hole in which the Florida offense died, finishing 97th in FEI—a large part of the decline there was no doubt fatigue and apathy.
Durkin's position coaching chops are also impressive. At Stanford he was walking into a situation where talent was sparse, but he still had a major impact on their ability on a college level:
"He always found a way," [Ben] Muth recalls. "We really didn't have much speed out there at all at Stanford early on, and he still found a way to put together some really solid special teams groups.
"And we had some good position coaches. Our defensive line coach (Lance Anderson), our offensive line coaches (Chris Dalman, Tim Drevno), David Shaw. All obviously really good. But Durkin, he might've been the best position coach we had."
The year before Durkin got to Stanford with Harbaugh (2006), the Cardinal had 14 sacks as a team. Two years later, Stanford registered 33 sacks.
At Florida he did excellent work with their LBs. Jon Bostic, Jelani Jenkins, and Ronald Powell were drafted, with Bostic going in the second round. OLB/WDE guy Ronald Powell is projected as a top 15 pick in the upcoming draft. Antonio Morrison was a second team all-SEC guy at a mere 218 pounds.
After Muschamp's firing, Durkin was a hot commodity. He was courted by North Carolina and supposedly on the verge of accepting the Texas A&M DC job until Harbaugh stepped in. Those jobs went to Gene Chizik and LSU DC John Chavis, and Durkin was seemingly preferred in both situations. Hell, as late as early December OSU fans on Eleven Warriors were agitating for Durkin to replace Luke Fickell, in part because he almost ripped highly touted OH LB Jerome Baker from their sweaty clutches. Urbtopia has no doubt cooled those calls, but point is dude is desirable.
Durkin should be a major asset. He was named the Rivals recruiter of the year for the 2012 class after swooping into North Carolina and snatching two five stars out of the state; as mentioned above, he has been active in Ohio with recruits that OSU went into the recruiting year believing they had a blood right to. Durkin's hire immediately piqued the interest of several recruits in the south, including Roquan Smith, who visited last weekend.
Durkin's from Youngstown and has four years of experience scouring the south so he'll be a pointman on a lot of major recruitments.
Presser style preview:
Durkin has run both a 3-4 and a 4-3, but let's expand on a topic we briefly touched on during the very last searchbits: there's running a "3-4" and running a 3-4. The scarequotes version kind of has three down lineman plus a "drop end" who often lines up in a two point stance. There's no behemoth Wilforkian nose tackle, and the DL generally attack single gaps. This was what Florida ran most of last year, featuring 6'3", 260-pound Dante Fowler as their WDE/drop-end guy.
That's basically a 4-3 under taken slightly further. When running the under with Greg Mattison, Michigan would blitz SAM Jake Ryan, slant the three guys on the line away from him, and "fold" the end back.
The end result is the same 4-3 defense except the guys are in different spots and the offensive line may get confused, allowing your gap attack to be more effective. Durkin's most recent Florida defense was more explicit about the fact their defense flipped from down to down, but it was similar in philosophy to Michigan. Against FSU it was almost all 4-3 or nickel looks with the standard okie chaos on passing downs.
So I wouldn't expect Michigan's style of defense to change much.
What about the coverage? With Jourdan Lewis coming on and Jabrill Peppers hopefully healthy, Michigan could so some things, and Florida was inclined to do those things:
Florida plays a lot of press technique especially for cornerbacks, an in-your-face physical style of pass defense. The style also involves a shuffle step in lieu of the traditional backpedaling most cornerbacks are taught to do from an early age.
If Michigan does try to go aggressive again the comparison between staffs will be an interesting one.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
A couple years to get stablized and get some pass rushing talent in, then some dang good defenses, then he ends up like Pat Narduzzi, waiting for a good opportunity to break into the head coaching ranks.
If you like manball there's no better guy to have as your offensive coordinator than Tim Drevno. As both a TE coach and OL coach, he was one of the main architects of the thumping Stanford lines that brought the Cardinal to their recently-elevated level. Afterwards Drevno transitioned to the NFL and got a plum job at USC. Now he rejoins Jim Harbaugh at Michigan.
After a small-school tenure as an offensive lineman, Drevno's coaching career started with a few years coaching TEs and RBs at smaller schools. In 1999 he transitioned to OL at San Jose State. Since then he's been exclusively an OL coach save for his first two years at Stanford, when he handled TEs. He also held the offensive coordinator title for Harbaugh's extremely successful San Diego teams. (Harbaugh in fact inherited Drevno from the previous administration.)
At Stanford, Drevno was a key part of the machine that actually got up and running in Harbaugh year two:
[Ranking out of about 120]
|YEAR||TEAM||DREVNO||Rush S&P||Overall S&P||Main back(s)||Results|
|220 rushes, 900 yards,3.8 YPC|
|280 rushes, 1150 yards, 4.1 YPC|
|330 rushes, 1850 yards, 5.6 YPC|
|2009||Stanford||OL||12||6||Gerhart||340 rushes, 1870 yards, 5.5 YPC|
|370 rushes, 1800 yards, 4.9YPC|
|370 rushes,2100 yards, 5.6 YPC|
It's hard to separate Drevno out from the general Harbaugh effect, but again the continued success of Stanford after coach X's departure bodes very well in this case. This wasn't Texas or Alabama when they were up and running. This was a program transformation that stuck; that Stanford continued to excel after Drevno left is pretty good since he was one of the major molders of guys like David DeCastro and Jonathan Martin.
Drevno went with Harbaugh to San Francisco, where he was the OL coach; oddly, NFL veteran Mike Solari was also the OL coach. The two guys had the same title. In any case, the San Francisco OL was up and down.
[rankings out of 32 teams]
|YEAR||TEAM||Rush DVOA||Line Yards||Power Success||Adj Sack Rate|
After a step back in year one, the 49ers had a terrific rushing offense in year two; they then took a major step back. At no point was their sack rate anything other than bad, but he did inherit that and quarterbacks do have a significant, often-unacknowledged hand in that. Kaepernick is a guy who prefers to extend plays even if that results in additional sacks because when it doesn't he frequently lopes downfield for thirty yards.
Despite those numbers, San Francisco sent two OL to the Pro Bowl in 2013 and had their entire line named as either a starter or an alternate in 2012. Margins in the NFL are razor thin.
L to R: true FR, redshirt FR, junior, true FR, redshirt SO
Last year, Drevno returned to college at USC, picking up a run game coordinator title and inheriting a line that thinks last year's Michigan line is impressively experienced. Three true freshman saw extensive time, with Toa Lobendahn moving to left tackle midseason when sophomore Chad Wheeler went down with injury. Redshirt sophomore Zach Banner moved into the starting RT job; Max Tuerk was the only upperclassman, and even he ended up moving to center.
This is like last year's Michigan line if you replaced the starting guards with freshmen instead of a redshirt junior and redshirt sophomore.
Despite that, the numbers were middling:
|Offense||Adj. LY||Rk||Opp. Rate||Rk||Power Success Rate||Rk||Adj Sack Rate||Rk|
USC was about average in line yards and adjusted sacks, a bit below that in "opportunity rate"—the percentage of run plays that go for five yards—and bad at short yardage. Top USC back Javorius Allen almost hit 1500 yards at 5.4 a carry. That's impressive for what must have been one of the youngest lines in the country.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Drevno has extensive Harbaugh experience and did very well considering the situation in his single year at USC; he was one of the primary guys driving the Stanford rushing renaissance whether it was as a TE coach or an OL coach. A lack of OC experience is not a problem since Harbaugh has a major role in coordinating his own offense, and Drevno worked with Harbaugh in that capacity at San Diego.
At 45, he's probably looking at this job as an opportunity to impress and get a head job. Given the history there that's not exactly a longshot.
UPSHOT FOR REST OF STAFF
Ain't no more upshot.
WELP. You know, you schedule a thing in Cleveland right after OSU loses to Virginia Tech and you think two things: 1) OSU is definitely not going to be winning the national title that night and 2) Michigan's not going to be finalizing its assistant coaches after hiring Jim Freakin' Harbaugh. I've been playing catchup this week.
BUT ANYWAY. Your assistant coaches.
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR/OFFENSIVE LINE
TIM DREVNO. I'm mostly through his hello post. Upshot: Harbaugh vet with OC experience under him at San Diego who coached TEs and OL at Stanford (yes please) before following Harbaugh to San Francisco, where the OL's performance was highly variable. Drevno left last year to go to USC, where he had excellent results with an extremely young (as in three true freshman starters) Trojan line.
Drevno's a good fit with Harbaugh specifically and appears to be the most qualified OL coach Michigan's had in forever. USC fans were super pissed about losing him.
QUESTIONS. Is OC/OL too much for one plate? How are his recruiting chops?
SOMEWHAT UNFAIR GRADE. A-. Lack of big-time OC experience the one drawback; tons to offset that.
TYRONE WHEATLEY. You know Wheat. Even if you are a pup, there is Wolverine Historian for you. Michigan legend, quick-riser once he hung up the spurs, driven to be a head coach. Should be a killer recruiter and guy who tells guys to run at the holes.
QUESTIONS. Is there enough of a difference in RB coaches to matter, or is vision un-salvageable?
SOMEWHAT UNFAIR GRADE. A. Excellent trajectory, is Ty Freaking Wheately.
JEDD FISCH. Former OC at Minnesota, Miami, and with the Jaguars was dumped after two years in Jacksonville during which he was provided not much talent and a ton of rookies. Two-year tenure at Miami was highly encouraging, featuring a big turnaround from Jacory Harris and the development of pretty-good Stephen Morris.
Fisch's WR experience is somewhat limited. He didn't play football and hasn't had a WR job since 2008.
QUESTIONS. What exactly will he do as a passing coordinator? How much does his relative lack of WR background hurt?
SOMEWHAT UNFAIR GRADE. B+. Recruiting questions due to his relatively short tenure in college, awkward fit at WR, but also a position coach who is 38 with 5 years of OC experience behind him.
woo! suck it, dad! via MGoVideo
JAY HARBAUGH, son of Jim. Yeah, nepotism hire. The younger Harbaugh at least resisted the call when it was offered to him earlier:
With a coaching vacancy to fill this offseason, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh zeroed in on a promising young member of his brother John's Baltimore Ravens staff. John reluctantly granted permission, and Jim proceeded to woo the up-and-comer.
But his pitch wasn't good enough -- not this time, at least.
"It's a dream to one day work for my dad, and hopefully the opportunity will come," said Harbaugh's son, Jay. "He understood where I was coming from."
Jay is the first Michigan coach who's appallingly younger than me—25—and should have Michigan on the cutting edge of the Facebooks and Instagrams and swipe-right-to-commit websites; he necessarily has zero track record.
I'd rather have a guy with one of those, but if that's the cost of Harbaugh whatever man. Also, let's look back that the Harbaugh coaching tree… okay. I mean:
"One time, I asked, 'Do guys give you a hard time about working for your uncle, automatically look at that as the reason you got the job?' His response was: 'It's my responsibility to not give them the opportunity to confirm that suspicion.'"
QUESTIONS. Is he actually a good coach? Will having a 25-year-old on staff help with the insta-twitter-snap-tinder-cruiting?
SOMEWHAT UNFAIR GRADE. C. Zero track record. Shades of JayPa, but Harbaugh isn't the OC. Harbaugh name rescues it—there is obviously a heritage there.
DJ DURKIN. Mattison/Harbaugh/Muschamp protégé has experienced meteoric rise in the coaching profession, to the point where he's taking his second DC job at a prestige program at the tender age of 37. (It's his birthday. Happy birthday.) Called plays for Florida's kickass D the past two years, has three years of Harbaugh experience as the DE coach at Stanford.
Should be a dynamic recruiter both in Florida, where he has four years of experience, and in Ohio, where he grew up and played college football at Bowling Green. Was pursued heavily by A&M and UNC, the former of which "settled" for throwing a walrus of money at LSU DC John Chavis.
QUESTIONS. How much of the Florida D was Muschamp and how much was him? How long will he stick around before getting a head coach gig? Does he know Mike Judge and can he get him my movie script?
SOMEWHAT UNFAIR GRADE. A. An up-and-comer with a terrific track record who immediately piqued the interest of a half-dozen recruits in SEC territory when he took the job.
GREG MATTISON. Michigan retained its DC as a position coach, and he was pretty good to excellent as defensive coordinator. Also, he's regarded as a terrific recruiter and provides continuity to help ease transition costs and prevent too many transfers. Pretty pretty good. Good fit, as well—Mattison's known various Harbaughs for 40 years and had Durkin as a GA when both were at Notre Dame. He's not going to butt heads with Michigan's new DC, but rather help him ease into being the man in charge of his own D.
Yeah, he's expensive for a position coach, but that contract was already signed.
QUESTIONS. How long does he stick around?
SOMEWHAT UNFAIR GRADE. A. Or five swag Mattisons.
MIKE ZORDICH. Twelve-year NFL vet has a decade-long coaching career that is mostly on lower levels save for a short stint with the Eagles. Should know everything about coverages given playing experience; Youngstown dude who went to Penn State should be able to hit Ohio and Pittsburgh hard.
QUESTIONS. Can he recruit at a big-time level? What happened with Philly and why did he get stuck at YSU?
SOMEWHAT UNFAIR GRADE: B-. NFL pedigree is nice, track record lacking, does bring a presumed set of recruiting chops that should be highly useful in PA.
GREG JACKSON. Another guy with a decade-plus career as an NFL safety; hooked on with Harbaugh after a few years at small schools and one at Wisconsin, whereupon his DBs were statistically lights-out. LSU alum who will likely focus on recruiting the south.
QUESTIONS. Was he a driving force behind the kickass 49ers DBs or was that either a statistical fluke or just a fortunate confluence of talent? Can he overcome the extreme gravitational pull of the South—and especially Louisiana—in recruiting?
SOMEWHAT UNFAIR GRADE: A-. Track record a little short, but dang man.
JOHN BAXTER. Thirteen-year career at Fresno State saw Bulldogs block a stunning 84 punts and kicks and return a bunch of the unblocked ones for touchdowns; upon his hire at USC was an immediate success with the Trojans. Left out after Kiffin firing when Sarkisian brought in his own guys, took a year off, was pursued by Texas and Pac-12 schools this time around and chose Michigan.
Also has 15 years of experience as an associate head coach and touts his "Academic Gameplan," which helped drag Fresno State out of the depths of schoolwork purgatory.
QUESTIONS. Spread punts?!?!?!?! (Yes.) How's his recruiting?
SOMEWHAT UNFAIR GRADE. A. Should be a massive upgrade on Michigan's dismal Hoke-era special teams.
A BRIEF COMPARISON TO THE PREVIOUS STAFF(s)
As in how good of an idea they seemed like when hired, not now. Otherwise these grades would be worse.
Borges: C. Had been out of football, not much success since first year at Auburn. Did have a good year with Lindley in second year at SDSU.
Doug Nussmeier. B+. Pretty clear he was getting chased from 'Bama so Lane Kiffin could enter, but a guy with an impressive track record who's still respected enough to get the Florida OC job even after last year.
Fred Jackson: C. Had been losing his fastball for a while. In-state recruiting successes offset by wildly inaccurate talent evaluations, and how hard is it for Michigan to recruit in-state anyway?
Jeff Hecklinski: B. Long time Hoke assistant did do a nice job with SDSU WRs, both of whom went in the third round after Heck's departure for M.
Darrell Funk: C. Pre-Hoke experience topped out as OL coach at Colorado State. Seemed plausible as an up-and-comer.
Dan Ferrigno: D. Had bombed out of college coaching in 2008 and was back in HS when Hoke picked him up; aging; no thought of upward mobility.
Greg Mattison: A. Big time college coordinator coming straight from the NFL.
Jerry Montgomery. B. Iowa alum and up-and-comer who Michigan yoinked away from Indiana mere weeks after he agreed to move there. Trajectory was borne out when Oklahoma came in with a big offer and stole him away.
Mark Smith: D. Had been with Hoke forever after moving from Indiana State, failed DC at Ball State, no track record of success recruiting or coaching. Also no thought of upward mobility.
Roy Manning (CB): C. Awkward fit in secondary, but young go-getter good on the trail. Would have been a grade higher if left in the defensive front seven.
Curt Mallory: C. Longtime DBs coach who had bounced around the Big Ten for a while; was coming off three years as Illinois co-DC and one as Akron's DC, albeit with little success.
All you have to do to measure relative attractiveness of Hoke's last staff is where they're landing. Borges and Ferrigno are supposedly headed to San Jose State; Jackson retired; Mallory went to Wyoming. Nussmeier is the exception, and he was only around for one year. Nobody else has an announced destination yet, and it's hard to see anyone other than Manning and Hecklinski getting a good Power 5 job—and even that's somewhat doubtful.
Notably, the biggest jobs many of Hoke's assistants had before coming into Hoke's orbit were not real big. A hypothetical Hoke-Harbaugh "impressive job not related to you or Michigan" challenge starts out with a couple of pushes and then is a blowout:
|HOKE COACH||PRIOR CEILING||HARBAUGH COACH||PRIOR CEILING|
|Mattison||Ravens DC||Mattison||Ravens DC|
|Borges||Auburn OC||Durkin||Florida DC|
|Hecklinski||Arizona QB/pass game||Fisch||Jaguars OC|
|Mallory||Illinois co-DC||Drevno||USC OL/run game|
|Ferrigno||Oregon WR||G. Jackson||Wisconsin DB|
|Smith||Indiana State DC||Baxter||USC ST|
|F. Jackson||Vandy RB||Zordich||Eagles DB|
|Funk||Colorado State OL||Wheatley||Bills RB|
|Manning||Cincinnati RB||Harbaugh||Ravens QC|
[Fred Jackson is a weird outlier, admittedly.]
Calibrate your preference between Borges and Durkin as you will; to me there's no question which guy I'd rather have at the time they were hired. Ditto Ferrigno versus Jackson since Jackson had been very impressive with Harbaugh. And this staff is very, very young. By my reckoning everyone on it save Baxter, Zordich, and Mattison is hungry to move up—and capable of doing so. I'm not sure you could say that about anyone on Hoke's staff.
Hooray, then? I think so.