"He makes it really easy on you as a coach because he has tremendous football instincts," Michigan tight ends coach Jay Harbaugh said. "Things come really naturally to him. He doesn't have to see things too many times. He has a good sense for how things should look and feel, and he's a tough, physical guy."
The play of your unit so far this year: thoughts on it?
“I think the second game against Oregon State we played more like we expect to play, which was a lot more effort and a lot more- you know, we’ve always prided ourselves here on running to the football and everybody getting to the football. And that game, I think, the guys did that at a more consistent rate.
“We still have to get better at our technique. They hear that from me every day and they’re gonna hear it until we grade out on technique like we should. We’ve got to improve that.”
Fair to say a light’s gone on for Chris Wormley?
“Chris has made some plays. You know, Chris has done some good things and there’s a lot more good things to be had and he’s got to keep striving to be as good as he can be. He’s a very talented football player. You’ve got great size, great ability to run, he’s strong, and I’m looking for him every game to get better.”
Coach Harbaugh mentioned Ryan Glasgow as a guy who played well. What did he do well last game?
“Ryan just goes out there every day and plays with very, very consistent technique. Great toughness, there were a number of plays in that game where he did what we expect our defensive line to do and that’s relentless effort to the football. Made some key tackles on plays where the guy was running and came from inside out and made some good hits. He’s just every day- one thing about Ryan is every day he has come out and he works hard and tries to improve. Been very pleased with him.”
That first drive against Oregon State: what were you thinking, and then were you automatically thinking we’ve got to make certain adjustments after giving up three big plays?
“Yeah, there wasn’t any panic. You knew it was a breakdown here and there that caused it, and you knew that we were going to make the adjustments we needed to on the sideline. DJ [Durkin] does a great job making sure he knows what’s going on in all parts of it, and he just got everybody together and said, ‘This is what’s happened. This is what we can’t let happen’ and they adjusted it and they did it.
“It’s been very good, the sidelines. After every play we’re all together and DJ will call the group together and explain exactly what and then we break it down at each position, and I think that’s been good for both ball games and can even be better.”
[After THE JUMP: Rotation, ‘handsiness,’ and just where the heck is Lawrence Marshall]
Greg Mattison returns in 2015, and though he’ll be working in a different capacity he inherits a line of which he was one of the chief architects. He talked about the functional differences (and similarities) between the 4-3 and 3-4 and the progress his linemen have made over the summer at last week’s Media Day.
[I jumped into the scrum mid-response]
“You know, one thing [is] you don’t get around the kids much in the summer. I saw him [Lawrence Marshall] today [and] I said, ‘What do you weigh?’ He looks great. All our kids- Kevin [Tolbert] did a tremendous job in the weight program and all our kids worked extremely hard whenever I had a chance to pop my head in and take a look.”
DJ said you guys are going to be multiple. How much of a challenge is that for your defensive linemen?
“It’s not. It’s not. You know, when people talk about different schemes it really comes down to techniques. You can call it anything you want; one time you play a five-technique, one time you play a four, one time you play a three. You’ve got to learn them all.”
Do you like the depth and talent that you have up front?
“Yeah, I definitely do. These kids, we’ve been together for a long time. These guys have played a lot of football and maybe before they should’ve, but now they’re bigger, stronger, and older. Now it’s our job to get them to be as good as they can be.”
You guys have used Taco [Charlton] at a couple different spots his first couple years. He’s played some here and there. He’s a junior now. What does he have to do to really [inaudible]?
“I think he’s got to keep working on his technique. He’s a guy coming out of high school that really wasn’t a defensive lineman, so I think you’ve got to continue to take the technique with the strength. Add both of those together. And he makes flashy plays, [he] makes good plays. Now he’s got to do that consistently.”
[After THE JUMP: ways the 4-3 and 3-4 are the same]
[Note: Mattison and Jackson’s availabilities overlapped so I missed the beginning, where Jackson compared Jabrill Peppers to Rodney Harrison. Luckily I managed to board the Peppers hype train after it left the station.]
With Jabrill, what are the things you see that are unique to him that other players might not have?
“Fire. His fire. His passion for the game. Relentless. His practice habits are off the charts. He’s coachable. He listens to everything you tell him and he tries to go out and do it each and every single day. He’s everything you ask for.”
He’s young, though. Does that emerge at all?
No. No. When you’re out there on the field you don’t even think of that with Jabrill. It’s funny you say that because it’s like he doesn’t even play like a freshman. I mean, he’s experienced out there. And the funny thing is that everybody looks up to him when he’s out there. He plays with a passion, he’s tough, he knows what he’s doing, he’s always around the football. What more can you ask for from a guy like Jabrill?”
How have you seen guys embrace or react to a new culture and all the newness?
“I think the players are excited and I think they’ve embraced it, and I think the most important thing is that the guys want to win. The players want to win. That’s the funny thing about it is that when you come in here as new coaches you’re [thinking] you’re going to have guys go this way and this way; nobody did that. Everybody came together, started listening to coaches, and starting doing exactly everything we asked them to do.
“That was the biggest thing is how when we got here everybody was coming and watching tape on their own and trying to learn the defense, which is great and that’s all you can ask for. Guys are wanting to get better, watching film with each other [and] doing the things that other schools are not going to do, and those guys are doing the extra [work].”
How big of a resource has Greg Mattison been?
“I think it’s been great, because when we first got here he told us about each and every player and he was dead on about each and every player. I picked his brain about each and every guy back there and he was dead on about each and every guy, and I think he’s been valuable.”
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest]
[why take a new picture when there’s perfection in your file?]
"What can I answer?"
Can you just tell us about the whole process of staying? There was some uncertainty there about what your future was going to be and then talking to Jim…
"Yeah. Whenever there's a changeover the head coach will always hire who he wants to hire and I feel very fortunate to be able to stay at Michigan. You know I love Michigan and I feel very strongly about the players coming back and the guys in this program and I feel very strongly about Coach Harbaugh. I've known that family for a long time. It's just great to be back. That's the thing I'll say."
Were you exploring other options in that interim?
"I had a number of offers. Some in the NFL and things like that, but I made up my mind that if I had the opportunity I'd love to stay and I did, so I stayed."
Talk about this defense. You were excited about it growing last year but obviously this year–
"Well, I'll tell you what. One thing: DJ Durkin is doing a tremendous job, and I think the defensive coaches– It's exciting because you see some of the things we're doing, some of the kids with experience, some of the kids picking it up and it's exciting to see it moving forward. It's exciting to see the kids getting really coached and wanting to get coached and it's good."
Do you have a preference between the defensive line and linebacker, because you've coached both?
"Yeah, I've coached defensive line my whole life. You know, I started out as a D-line coach and I coached the line, oh, I don't know, if you figure– I'd hate to say how many years because that'd give up how many years I've been coaching, but I do know I've coached defensive line probably a lot longer than linebackers and I really like the defensive line. It's a place where I think technique and teaching [are important] and you can get guys to be better. You can make improvements there through technique and hard work so I'm excited to coach the D-line."
There's been a lot of talk of running some 3-4 defense this year, which you haven't done a lot of. Is that different for the defensive linemen?
"You know, we're exploring everything. We did that last year. We ran that last year, but what we're kind of doing on defense [is] trying to see what scheme fits the players we have, so we're pretty broad with what we're doing."
What has your working relationship been like with DJ Durkin and how are you guys kind of feeding off each other?
"Well, Coach Durkin and I are very, very close friends. We coached together a long time ago at Notre Dame. I traveled down there two years ago back to Florida to talk to him about what they were doing and he's done a great job wherever he's been. I've known DJ for a long time and I've always felt that he's a tremendous football coach. Some of the things that he's done at a young age at Florida is remarkable and I knew that, and that's why it's exciting to work with him. It's fun because were not just coaches together, we're friends and that's – I've always liked to be a part of something like that."
[After THE JUMP: Position buzz and 2-gap talk]
Who are some of your pass rushers, and talk about the standup outside linebacker.
"We've had a number of guys get nicked up and guys are really working hard. Our numbers are down on the D-line and they just keep working through it. I'm not going to single out anybody because they're all working extremely hard, and we won't know until into the season who our pass rushers are. I hope every one of them are. I think the one position, if I did single one out, that I'm really, really pleased with is the noseguard position. I think Glasgow and Mone and Hurst are doing a really, really good job. And the other positions are working hard also, I just– that's the group that really seems like they've got a lot of experience."
Is Willie [Henry] playing the nose too?
"No, Willie will be playing tackle and end."
You have a good relationship with these guys on defense already. Have you served as a liaison between the players and the staff?
"No, I haven't needed to do that. I think somebody else asked me that one time. These coaches are so experienced and there's no liaison necessary. I think when the kids are in their meetings and they're being coached by them, players understand right away when a guy who's coaching them is really doing a great job and is really sharp and I think these kids knew right away. I mean, how could you help but not? I talked about DJ and you've got Mike Zordich and Greg Jackson, who played 12 years in the NFL. He coached at the highest level and both of them have coached in the NFL. They are very experienced, very good coaches."
How about from the other end? Have any coaches come to you and said, 'Hey, this guy responds this way' or 'This guy plays real well in this technique'?
"No, it hasn't been– we all speak so freely in our meeting room that if somebody would bring up something about a player and I've seen it before or I haven't seen it before I'll just say that. I kind of have the luxury of having been with them so I'll just say, 'This kid really is a good player, he really is doing a good job,' and I'll say, 'He had signs of showing that before,' that kind of thing. They've done such a good job, in my opinion, knowing what each player's strength is and each player, what he needs to work on so it hasn't been that kind of thing."
You were pretty adamant last season about the experienced youth on this team and that it was coming. You're here this spring now: Have you seen it?
"I have. Yeah, I have. I've seen these kids working hard. I've seen them be a lot more mature. I mean, these practices are tough practices, and if you're a young kid you kind of maybe fold. There's times sometimes where that happens. I've been real pleased with our guys as far as stepping forward and just keep going, keep going. That shows experience."
You talked about coming back to finish what you guys started. Is that the message from you to the guys you're coaching? I mean, you recruited a lot of those guys.
"Yeah, I don't know if it's to finish because when you finish you say it's over. I just wanted to stay a part of what Michigan is and what Michigan will be and what Michigan has been forever and I think that's coming. I just want to be a part of that and I'm fortunate to be a part of it."
You've worked for a lot of different guys at all different levels, including Jim's brother. What's it like working for Jim? What are his unique traits?
"Well, he's just a very, very, very sharp coach. He's really, really intelligent. He's demanding. He's very businesslike. Every day you're going to work to get better. He expects his coaches to work hard. He expects his coaches to do their job. You don't win 49 games in the NFL in three years and not be a great coach. And he's always been that; you don't do what he did at Stanford and not be a great coach. And everywhere he's been he's just done a great job."
There's a lot of guys on the staff with NFL experience, whether it's playing or coaching. How are you seeing details of that applied to this spring practice?
"I think the one thing when there's a lot of experience in a coaching staff [is] you can make adjustments very easy and be able to teach it. Sometimes what happens if you don't have a lot of experience and there's adjustments to be made [is] you have to teach the coaches first and then the coaches have to teach the players but this staff, they have so much experience that they've done that. They say, 'Oh yeah, we've done this. We can get this done' and it's easy to make adjustments that way."
What have you seen from Chris Wormley so far?
"Chris Wormley is working really, really hard. He seems every day to be taking another step toward being the Chris Wormley that we recruited and the Chris Wormley that you were really expecting to see before he had the knee [injury], and I'm really happy with the way he's been working. He's been very physical. He's totally into it. He's been a leader by example. I'm get pleased with what Chris has done."
MGoQuestion: Are there guys on this line that can play two gaps or are you not really looking at 2-gapping this season?
"Well, I think in every defense you have to 2-gap sometimes, so it's nothing different. But it remains to be seen. There's not a lot of people that do play 2-gap."
You've run the show here defensively for the last four seasons. How difficult is that transition to not be-
"Not at all. Not at all. Not at all because, as I said, I really respect the guy I'm working with and the guys I'm working with, and I've done that for so long that sometimes you say it's kind of enjoyable just to take these four guys and see how good they can be. And I knew that when Jim hired me, there's only one coordinator and what he says we do and once you get that you say, 'Okay, my job is to go coordinate the defensive line and to do a great job with that.' And I've done it so long, I've had so many opportunities to do it that it's really just about seeing how good we can get this team."
[Note: Mattison and Greg Jackson’s availability overlapped, so this transcript isn’t complete. I switched over to Jackson’s huddle at this point and missed 1-2 minutes of Mattison.]
I always hope the fictional person goes to Michigan. Key And Peele East/West Bowl is obligatory:
Ace talkin' recruiting. On SI.com:
SI: Basically, if you avoid any more M00N games, that's a plus. Is it safe to say the 2016 class should really see the Harbaugh bump in recruiting?
AA: Definitely. While the staff has put most of its focus on piecing together the 2015 class in about a month, a lot of offers have been sent to top-tier '16 recruits, and those have been received quite well. Michigan would get an edge if it lands five-star defensive tackle Rashan Gary; his high school coach is rumored to be taking a support staff job in Ann Arbor, and the guy replacing him at Paramus (N.J.) Catholic played for Harbaugh in San Francisco (ex-49ers linebacker Blake Costanzo). There is also a lot of in-state talent in this cycle, and Harbaugh along with Tyrone Wheatley, the new running backs coach, have made the rounds at several Detroit-area schools. That should pay dividends sooner rather than later.
Mattison follow-up. Surprise: Greg Mattison is not looney tunes. Daishon Neal's high school coach:
Reached by phone Wednesday, Neal's high school coach Jay Ball (Omaha Central) said he spoke with Mattison on Tuesday, and has a great deal of respect for Michigan's defensive line coach.
"First of all, DaiShon N eal is a great kid and coach Mattison is a guy that I have a lot of respect for, he's been in the coaching business for 40 years and deserves every amount of respect that he gets," Ball said. "It sounds to me like there's two sides to the story, and maybe things were misinterpreted.
"And that's about all I'm really going to say."
I feel bad for that guy, who's been put in an awful spot by Neal's crazy helicopter dad. Even if you did boot Mattison from your home—something that is likely fiction—nobody gains anything by going on the radio to proclaim it.
It's really happening? I mentioned that there was chatter on Tennessee boards that Mike DeBord might be their offensive coordinator earlier. I didn't think it would actually happen for a zillion different reasons, but… uh…
Most recently — TE coach, Chicago Bears
DeBord, like Jones, is a former head coach at Central Michigan, and the two Midwestern natives have become good friends over the years. DeBord, a former offensive coordinator at Michigan from 1997-99 and 2006-07, hasn’t coached since serving as the Chicago Bears tight ends coach from 2010-12 and is currently the Olympic Sports Coordinator at Michigan….
Why he’s still on the board: Because he remains, by all accounts, the clubhouse leader for the position despite also holding at least a couple of potential NFL offers in his pocket.
I am going to be fascinated if this in fact happens. Tennessee found some life on offense last year when they turned to sophomore dual-threat QB Josh Dobbs, who ran for 500 yards in six games and is not at all like John Navarre. DeBord, meanwhile, is probably unaware that quarterbacks are allowed to cross the line of scrimmage.
He also hasn't been a coordinator since 2007—Lloyd Carr was the only guy who ever thought he was that level of coach. He'd seemingly given up on the whole enterprise when he took an administrative spot in the Michigan AD. To suddenly show up in the SEC as a coordinator is a reversal worthy of Zack Novak.
It also means that Mike DeBord found a coordinator gig before Al Borges.
More job stuff. Paramus Catholic coach Chris Partridge—who you may remember from such recruitments as AHHH JABRILL PEPPERS—left the school to take a job with Rutgers. Rutgers then rescinded that offer, supposedly because Partridge is not widely liked by New Jersey high school coaches worried that he will recruit their players away from them. Well done, Rutgers.
Partridge's side of the story is that Rutgers did offer him but he had not committed to the job. In the aftermath there was some chatter from Sam Webb that Michigan might step in with a job for the suddenly unemployed Partridge, and this job posting certainly looks like one designed for a guy a lot like him:
Responsible for the planning, coordination, execution and assessment of recruiting operations. Directly responsible for the coordination and liaison of high school coaches and talent stakeholders in the college football prospect market.
1. Assist Director of Player Personnel as directed, for the purpose of the coordination, evaluation and liaison with all High School Coaches and talent stakeholders in the college football prospect market.
2. Responsible for the planning, coordination and execution of Football Camps and Clinics in support of the University of Michigan Football Program.
3. Responsible for the oversight and internal compliance of all football related matters.
4. Responsible for the accuracy and input of all prospect/recruit documentation and data management for prospective football recruits.
5. Responsible for the evaluation and analysis of all recruiting classes during the duration of their eligibility of collegiate play.
5-10 years of college football recruiting experience with an in-depth understanding of the role of the High School Football Coach.
This looks like a job for a high school coach moving up. FWIW, Paramus has 2016's #1-ranked DT, Rashan Gary.
There is also a spot for an Associate Athletic Director For Saying NO STOP DON'T DO THIS DUMB THING, which basically sounds like an SID spot. To the relief of almost everyone on the beat, Derek Satterfield was canned immediately upon Hackett's hire.
Not all politicians are smart. No polo, but do me a favor and vote for whoever's running against this Al Pscholka guy if you happen to live in his district:
"I think student-athletes are students," he said. "It's just that simple. We've certainly gotten away from that fact. I've been broadcasting high school sports for 30 years, and the message we should be sending our kids is that college is really important."
Rhetorical tip: anyone saying "it's just that simple" has just said something dumb. Guy can't even defend his lame-duck bill passed out of an idiotic dedication to the ideal of amateurism. He's put Michigan and Michigan State in a possibly disadvantageous position relative to other schools if and when teams start unionizing in the near future.
This is a thing I like to hear. Hockey picks up '99-born defenseman Quinn Hughes. Hughes is a 2018(!) recruit on Chris Heisenberg's page. It sounds like he is in the Eric Werner/Steve Kampfer mode:
Hughes is a quick, cerebral defender, plays a possession style with soft hands. One of the smartest defenders in the age group.
— Sean Lafortune (@SeanLafortune) January 29, 2015
Hughes, like fellow D commit Griffin Luce, is the son of an NHL front office guy who played college hockey. That makes him particularly unlikely to defect to the OHL—these guys know all the pros and cons of both routes already.
It will be interesting to see how Michigan's recruiting classes hold up after Berenson's retirement, which is tentatively scheduled to be after next season. I assume these guys are aware that they're likely to be coached by someone else.
Really? Lunardi has Michigan in his next four out. Crashing The Dance pretty much does as well—George Washington gets the last at large and then Michigan is seventh in the pecking order, give or take projected automatic qualifier Green Bay. Bubble must be pretty soft this year.
Minor ding. WOLV reporter with an injury scoop:
Inside scoop: Jake Butt tore his meniscus and had surgery two days ago. @AceAnbender
— Ben Meyers (@BenSMeyers) January 29, 2015
A meniscus is usually a month-long thing so that shouldn't hurt Butt too much. Should be back for spring practice, in fact.
Etc.: I beg Michigan recruiting reporters to go full Texas in the near future, for entertainment's sake. Connor and Werenski off the board in the first 15 picks of various NHL.com mock drafts. A lot of weird guys stepping up at Next Man In U. Walton availability unknown.
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.