Tyrone Wheatley leaves Michigan for NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars

Monday, January 16, 2017 - 9:59pm

The Michigan football team’s coaching staff has another vacancy. The NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars announced Monday night that they had hired former Michigan running backs coach Tyrone Wheatley to the same position.

Wheatley, who was a star running back for the Wolverines in the early 1990s before he played in the NFL for 10 years, served as Jim Harbaugh’s running backs coach in each of Harbaugh’s first two seasons in Ann Arbor. His arrival coincided with that of his son, Tyrone Jr., who just finished his redshirt freshman year as a tight end for Michigan.

The elder Wheatley will now head back to the NFL, where he has experience as the Buffalo Bills’ running backs coach in 2013 and 2014. He will work for the same boss, head coach Doug Marrone, who coached the Bills during those two years and just accepted the same position in Jacksonville.

Wheatley’s running backs helped the Wolverines finish 33rd in the country in rushing this year, making a substantial jump from 83rd in 2015. Under Wheatley, senior tailback De’Veon Smith had his best season with 846 yards and 10 touchdowns. While Smith has exhausted his eligibility, Wheatley’s successor will work with fifth-year senior Ty Isaac, junior Karan Higdon, sophomore Chris Evans, redshirt freshman Kareem Walker and perhaps even Drake Johnson if he decides to return for a sixth year.

Harbaugh will now have to overcome more turnover on his staff for the second straight year. He already hired former Cleveland Browns assistant Pep Hamilton to replace Jedd Fisch as the passing game coordinator. After last season, he replaced special teams coordinator John Baxter, defensive coordinator DJ Durkin and safeties coach Greg Jackson with Chris Partridge, Don Brown and Brian Smith, respectively.