With former Michigan defensive back coach Brian Smith departing to begin his new job as a defensive coordinator at Rice, a face familiar to the Wolverines has filled in for the meantime.
Devin Bush Sr., father to current sophomore linebacker Devin Bush Jr., has temporarily taken over the coaching role.
Bush has served as a defensive analyst for the team for two years but is now getting a chance to prove his coaching potential. Harbaugh hasn’t announced yet whether Bush’s promotion is either permanent or just for the Outback Bowl.
“He’s the interim safeties coach,” Harbaugh said. “I know Don (Brown) likes Devin a lot, and so do I, so this is a great opportunity for him to coach on the field. He hasn’t done that, and that’s an extended job interview. He’s done a good job.”
Bush’s resume so far mostly displays his playing career, but it’s not short at all.
He played as a safety for Florida State in the early 1990s, and as a Seminole won a National Championship, three ACC titles and multiple All-ACC recognitions.
He spent eight seasons in the NFL after getting selected by the Atlanta Falcons with the 26th pick of the 1995 NFL Draft. Five years later, he won a Super Bowl with the St. Louis Rams. Over his entire NFL stay, Bush had seven interceptions and returned two of those for touchdowns.
Prior to joining Michigan, Bush coached at Flanagan High School in Pembroke Pines, Fla., just outside of Miami. He won a state championship coaching his son, sophomore safety Josh Metellus and redshirt freshman linebacker Devin Gil in 2015.
Since joining staff as the interim coach, Bush is now allowed to be on the field coaching players.
Two Wolverines discussed how Bush is fitting in so far.
“He’s a high-energy guy, he gets after you a lot, and we’re learning a lot from him back in the safety room,” said junior safety Tyree Kinnel. “It’s good working with coach Bush these last three weeks.”
Added sophomore VIPER Khaleke Hudson: “He’s a great coach. He’s been through what we’re going through right now. He played at Florida State, played safety and he’s just a great coach and knows what he’s talking about. He knows our strengths and weaknesses. He’s a good guy.”
Kinnel said having Bush on the field has been very beneficial, and from an outside perspective, Bush’s temporary promotion makes perfect sense for Michigan. He’s familiar with the program, knows the system well already from his time as an analyst and is also close with the players.
Even when he wasn’t allowed to coach directly on the field, he still gave tips on the side.
Both Kinnel and Hudson said they’d be thrilled to have Bush to get the role permanently, but they also acknowledged that those decisions are up to Harbaugh and the coaching staff.
“Would be great for him to get the job,” Hudson said.
If Bush does get the full-time position, he’ll take over a portion of what has been Michigan’s best position group all season.
Under Smith (and cornerbacks coach Mike Zordich), Michigan’s elite pass defense allowed the least passing yards per game in the entire country and gave up just nine passing touchdowns. Smith had significant experience coaching defensive backfields in the NFL, and his abilities clearly paid off for the Wolverines.
Smith’s departure to Rice was announced in early December, and the players found out that he was leaving during one of their group meetings.
“He actually got the phone call in our safety meeting,” Kinnel said. “He took the call, finished up the meeting and politely told us what he was doing. We all respected his decision, and we all congratulated him. A (defensive coordinator) job is a pretty good job, especially for him because that’s what he wanted.
“We all said our goodbyes and our thank you’s. I wish him the best of luck at Rice.”
Smith talked to players individually after that meeting, giving each of them some last words of encouragement.
“It was definitely a good goodbye,” Kinnel said.
With Bush now in charge of the group, it seems to be a good new beginning as well.