[UM Bentley Library]
Via Sam Webb, one of Michigan’s most successful assistants is returning to Ann Arbor:
@SamWebb77 reports Greg Frey has officially been hired as Michigan's OT/TE Coach (formerly Indiana's O-lin coach/Co-Offensive Coordinator)
— The Michigan Insider (@michiganinsider) January 25, 2017
Frey is one of the few things about the Rodriguez era that everyone would be elated to have back. In his short time here he recruited and developed 3/5ths (Omameh, Schofield and Lewan) of Michigan offensive lineman currently in the NFL, as well as Ricky Barnum. When Rodriguez was let go Frey was instantly snatched up by Indiana, where he developed Jason Spriggs and Dan Feeney. He also ran a lot more power at Indiana than under Rodriguez, if you’re worried about zone versus gap-style. I was worried when Ohio State hired (lately Indiana HC) Kevin Wilson that Frey might come with him. Bringing Frey back to Michigan might not have just given us another all-star assistant; it also possibly just deprived Urban Meyer of one.
It does mean a few shifted jobs on the current staff. Drevno will apparently now be focusing on the interior OL, while Frey takes the tackles and tight ends. With the youngest OL group since we have data—and Michigan likely to start a true freshman at one or both tackle spots—putting some extra coaching resources there makes a lot of sense. Several readers pointed out today that move also sets them up to transition smoothly if Drevno ever takes a head coaching position. A solid recruiter, Frey may also help Michigan close on a few of their tackle prospects.
That appears to mean Jay Harbaugh shifts to running backs for now. That could be for good, or they could wait and see if that extra full-time assistant rule passes and bring in someone for RBs while finding other duties for Jay.
UPDATE: JayBaugh to RBs official:
— Sam Webb (@SamWebb77) January 25, 2017
It appears Michigan has tapped Philadelphia Eagles asst LBs coach Brian Smith to fill the vacant secondary coach spot opposite Mike Zordich.
Sam seemed pretty certain last night:
Chip Viney & Aubrey Pleasant interviewed for U-M's vacant DB post, but hot name I'm hearing is former Philadelphia Eagles asst Brian Smith
— Sam Webb (@SamWebb77) February 25, 2016
And various media have picked it up this evening.
Quick bio: Don Brown brought in a familiar face. Smith played for Brown as a defensive back at UMass then coached linebackers under him before jumping to the NFL with Eric Mangini's Jets. Smith shifted around positions there under Rex Ryan (offensive quality coach, defensive quality coach, asst. DBs coach). Chip Kelly--who has a history of looking to the Northeast for his coachin talent--made Smith the Eagles assistant (to the) linebackers coach last year. He's only 36, which is very young I say. Quite young. Spring of his youth.
Quick react: Unlike the last time a linebacker coach moved to the secondary, at least Smith played defensive back (cornerback and safety) and has some history of coaching the position. This may be a return to his natural habitat. It does appear to be a Don Brown hire all the way--his former player (when Don was the DC at UMass), and a guy Brown as head coach elevated to coaching before losing him to the NFL.
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.