Coaching turnover is inevitable in college football. Sometimes, it comes naturally from coaches leaving for other positions. Other times, the team simply realizes a certain coach isn’t a good fit for the program and decides to move on.
The Michigan football team’s coaching staff featured a bit of both this offseason. As a result, an array of new faces dot the sidelines at spring practice, while other familiar faces have shifted into unfamiliar roles.
Under virtually any coaching staff in the country, though, one message always remains consistent:
“We’re still focusing on starting the run game, establishing the run game,” fifth-year offensive lineman Andrew Stueber said. “It’s a huge part of our offense, definitely a cornerstone. … But definitely we’re gonna have some new blocks, some new wording and some new language.”
In general, that’s how the Wolverines’ new coaching staff is going to operate — approach the same goals and basic concepts with new wrinkles and extra energy.
That should be especially true on the offensive side, where offensive coordinator Josh Gattis stands as the only coach remaining in his same position from last season. The goals and overarching “speed in space” philosophy remain the same, but at a positional level, Michigan’s reshuffled staff will find new ways to get there.
After finishing 11th in the Big Ten in rushing last season, the Wolverines desperately need a boost in the run game in 2021. At least on paper, the staff made the changes necessary to remedy that position, hiring Mike Hart to coach the running backs and moving former Oklahoma offensive lineman Sherrone Moore to offensive line coach to replace a departing Ed Warinner.
Schematically, the approach may well remain the same. Much like Michigan last season, Hart was happy to rotate Indiana’s running backs throughout a game even with workhorse back Stevie Scott on the roster. That bodes well for the Wolverines’ backfield, namely senior Hassan Haskins, sophomore Blake Corum and five-star freshman Donovan Edwards. And, as Stueber said, Moore will mostly roll with the same blocking schemes Warinner installed in 2020.
The key difference comes with their approach in practice. Especially with Hart and Moore, the new offensive staff is younger and more relatable to the players.
“As far as the transition (from Warinner to Moore), it’s definitely a different kind of coaching style, a different kind of energy in the room,” Stueber said. “But I think the younger guys really appreciate it. It’s become a more open-room environment, you can ask a lot more questions. And he knows from experience, too.”
In theory, that combination of openness and experience could elevate competition. It commands a level of respect that could convince players to buy into the existing schemes, or, in Hart’s case, push them to fight for more carries in a crowded running backs room.
“Working with (Hart) is a blessing,” Haskins said Mar. 2. “He’s one of the greatest. Every day I talk to him like he’s a legend. … He understands the running backs, because he was one.”
Of course, improvement isn’t a given. This isn’t the first time that coach Jim Harbaugh has reshuffled his staff, nor did he necessarily want all the departures to happen. There’s far from any guarantee that a minor facelift is the answer to Michigan’s problems.
The new offensive staff is definitely a gamble. Coming off a 2-4 season, though, it’s a necessary one.
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