Coming off of its first College Football Playoff appearance, the Michigan football team is looking to build upon that momentum and success.
Of course, that’s easier said than done. There was considerable turnover in Ann Arbor this offseason — and not just for the roster. The Wolverines have new offensive and defensive coordinators.
Finding continued success with different leaders isn’t a new phenomenon, it’s par for the course in college football.
But this upcoming season, the Wolverines are in a position unfamiliar to them during Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh’s tenure. As the incumbent Big Ten Champions, the Wolverines have an opportunity to break through as a contender on the national stage, making the need for a seamless transition critical.
At Big Ten Media Days, Harbaugh seemed optimistic about it.
“It’s been a really good continuation from last year’s team,” he said. “… It’s been a continuation of that this entire off-season. (It’s) just been tremendous.”
Staff turnover is something that Michigan’s had to adapt to in recent years. This is the second season in a row that the Wolverines have had someone entirely new to the program running the defense. Just over a year ago, when in a similar circumstance, Harbaugh’s brother John recommended two coaches to him: Mike MacDonald and current defensive coordinator Jesse Minter.
Harbaugh says that he spoke to both but eventually decided upon MacDonald. And after MacDonald left to take a job as the Baltimore Ravens’ defensive coordinator after just one season with Michigan, Jim knew who he’d call.
“I went back and talked to Jesse Minter right when Mike left, and just felt it was the absolute best thing for our team,” Jim said. “Both Jesse and Mike MacDonald, along with my brother (John) and Wink, had really devised that Ravens defensive system. They were in on the ground floor. And an added bonus is that Jesse Minter got a year of defensive play calling under his belt as the defensive coordinator at Vanderbilt.”
While Minter is new to the program, he brings an air of familiarity and a different perspective that may prove useful.
On the other side of the ball, the Wolverines face a similar situation. Replacing last year’s Broyles award winner, Josh Gattis, are co-offensive coordinators Sherrone Moore and Matt Weiss. Unlike Minter, both Moore and Weiss have been with the program for over a year already.
Harbaugh spoke glowingly of the in-program hires.
“Matt Weiss is incredibly smart,” Harbaugh said. “He is one of those people that, when you’re doing a project, (he is) so detailed, thinks about it from every angle, plans everything out. I’ve never met a play I don’t like and always feel that our players can execute anything, just give them the chance. Let’s just get started and get the project going. … So we make the perfect, perfect blend really between Matt and myself.”
Harbaugh struck a similar tone when describing Moore:
“Then Sherrone (Moore) … is the living embodiment of both Matt Weiss and myself,” Harbaugh said. “He’s right there. And the most important, because he’s coaching the offensive line. So it’s an incredible group that way.”
Just like this season’s team, the new heads of offense and defense for Michigan have huge shoes to fill. But perhaps the familiarity in the spaces they occupy will be enough to help the Wolverines build off of last year’s success. And maybe, just maybe, their differences will help push Michigan over the top.