Compare Michigan’s 2018 football roster and its 2021 spring roster and you’ll notice something strange. Coach Jim Harbaugh is, of course, still there. That’s been subject to much debate, none of which will be engaged in here. But among his assistant coaches, only one — Sherrone Moore, then the tight ends coach, now the offensive line coach — remains. 

For all the change around the Michigan football program over the past two seasons, no position has seen more coaching turmoil than the safeties group. Since star junior Daxton Hill arrived on campus in the winter of 2019, the Wolverines have cycled through five safeties coaches. Chris Partridge left after the 2019 season, replaced by Bob Shoop, whose mysterious personal issues meant that Aashon Larkins coached the unit in 2020’s 2-4 campaign. In January, new co-defensive coordinator Maurice Linguist was named the defensive backs coach. A month later, Michigan shuffled things again, moving Ron Bellamy — a former wide receiver who was originally slated to coach that unit — to safeties. 

And yet, through all that turmoil, Hill has remained in Ann Arbor. 

“It was really tough coming in,” Hill said Thursday. “Coach Partridge, he recruited me along with coach Moore. Then seeing him leave, that was a big deal for me cause they were really recruiting me the hardest. So to see him leave and then the coaches that followed, it was tough, really just trying to get adjusted to the new coaching and then building a relationship. 

“But at the end of the day, I know that’s just how things go at the college level. People come and leave, so I kinda had that mentality. Really just whoever came in, I’m just gonna be myself, have the best relationship I can with that coach. So it was tough having a lot of different safeties coaches.” 

Then, before pausing for the next reporter’s question, Hill offered up a familiar tune: “But I feel like Bellamy is gonna do a great job this year with the safeties.” 

That sentiment may be true, but it doesn’t erase everything Hill said before it about how difficult this all has been. Nor does it erase the questions of what could have been.

At Michigan, Hill has been a good, at times excellent, piece of a beleaguered secondary. But he’s won just 11 of 19 games and hasn’t won a bowl game. Meanwhile, Alabama, the school where he was briefly committed in the fall of 2018, is 24-2 with a national championship during that stretch. The Crimson Tide’s safeties coach, Charles Kelly, has been there the whole time. 

Yet, when asked whether he’s considered entering the transfer portal, where he would be a heavily sought-after commodity, Hill rebuked.

“Nah,” Hill said. “Finish what I start, so that’s my mentality.”

Minutes earlier, he provided an explanation as to why.

“With that deal, really just gotta trust your gut,” Hill said. “Sometimes people do it because they think that’s the best decision for themselves. Really just our impression or opinion, I really don’t have too much to say about that. But transfer portal, if they feel like they don’t see themselves here, that’s their deal. Really just staying true to yourself. If you see that you can stick it out and be productive towards a team then I’m all for it. If not, if you see yourself playing somewhere else, then that’s their decision.”

And despite all the commotion going on around him, Hill’s answer appears to be as simple as that.

Whether or not he would choose to go to Michigan if he could do it all over again is a hypothetical for another day. But thanks to Hill’s gut instinct, the Wolverines will have their star safety for at least one more year.

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown challenges at all of us — including The Michigan Daily — but that hasn’t stopped our staff. We’re committed to reporting on the issues that matter most to the community where we live, learn and work. Your donations keep our journalism free and independent. You can support our work here.

For a weekly roundup of the best stories from The Michigan Daily, sign up for our newsletter here.