The news from the Michigan football program over the holiday break was mostly about departures.

Rodrigo Gaya / Daily

Defensive coordinator Scott Shafer “resigned.” Dual-threat quarterback Shavodrick Beaver decommitted for the greener pastures of…Tulsa?

But the biggest college football story in Washtenaw County over the break was an arrival, and it didn’t come to Ann Arbor.

Believe it or not, the biggest news came just down the road in Ypsilanti.

For those of you who missed it, former Michigan defensive coordinator Ron English was introduced as the head coach at Eastern Michigan on Dec. 22. The hiring came one year and four days after Rich Rodriguez was introduced as Michigan’s head coach — a job English reportedly interviewed for.

This column isn’t calling into question the Rich Rodriguez hiring, nor is it suggesting English should have replaced Lloyd Carr at Michigan.

But English deserved a chance to run a program. Carr certainly thought so. After all, Carr was brought in by Eastern to consult on its search, and you better believe he played a big role getting English’s foot in the door.

Now that he has the job, it’s up to English to prove himself as a leader, and there’s little doubt he has the tools.

At Eastern, English is charged with turning around a program that is awful, even by Mid-American Conference standards. The Eagles went 3-9 last season, including a loss to Toledo. Sound familiar?

All skewed comparisons to Michigan aside, it will be interesting to see English develop as a head coach just down the road from where he made a name for himself as a defensive coordinator.

English is an energetic, young coach who has great recruiting ties across the country, especially on the West Coast. English won’t compete with Michigan for top recruits while he’s in Ypsilanti. The Eagles haven’t had a winning season since 1995, and they won’t have one in 2009, either.

But this is the first stop in what is likely to be a long coaching career. Five years from now, don’t be surprised if English is the head coach for a big-time program.

After watching English’s introductory press conference, it was easy to see he still has the fire that helped make Michigan’s 2006 defense one of the best in school history. Sure he was working with a lot of talent, but talent doesn’t translate to success without good coaching.

English becomes one of just six black head coaches at the 119 Football Bowl Subdivision teams, and for many, that will be the biggest angle on his hiring. English told the Ann Arbor News at his introductory press conference that he would rather just be known as a head coach, regardless of his race. But he admitted that the lack of minority representation in head coaching positions is an “issue.”

For now, the color of English’s skin might be what draws attention to his hiring at Eastern Michigan. But with his energy and passion for coaching, success on the field will likely be the story when he leaves the Eagles for a high-profile gig.

And the Wolverines won’t have to wait long to see what it’s like to have their old coach glowering at them from across the field.

English’s Eagles visit the Big House on Sept. 19.

— Sandals can be reached at nsandals@umich.edu.

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