Breaking Down Michigan's 2021 Football Staff

It's not quite official yet, but Michigan's football staff appears to be in place for next season.
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Once the Jim Harbaugh contract extension fiasco finally ended, Michigan's head man was able to really focus on filling out his staff. Since Harbaugh signed on for an additional five years, defensive coordinator Don Brown has officially moved on, while quarterbacks coach Ben McDaniels, safeties coach Bob Shoop and cornerbacks coach Mike Zordich have also spent their last days inside Schembechler Hall per several reports. Michigan hasn't released anything official on any of them, but Brown is no longer on U-M's football website and he has been officially hired and announced by Jedd Fisch, Arizona's new head coach.

With four spots available, five if you count Jay Harbaugh's shift away from running backs, we all knew that several new faces were going to be roaming the sidelines for Michigan next fall. So far, only defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald and new running backs coach Mike Hart have been officially announced by the program, but the others seem to be done in principle. Here's a look at what U-M's head coach and 10 assistants look like as the Wolverines prep for the 2021 campaign.

Head coach - Jim Harbaugh

Harbaugh signed his five-year extension, but for half the salary, a much lower buyout and seemingly unreachable incentives, it's pretty much all about 2021 for him. If he leads Michigan through another lackluster season, he'll likely be done in Ann Arbor after next year.

Offensive coordinator/wide receivers - Josh Gattis

Gattis hasn't been the "speed in space" guru that Michigan fans hoped he'd be through two years and a lot of U-M fans wish Harbaugh would've replaced him right along with Don Brown. Michigan had the No. 68 offense in 2019 and the No. 78 offense last year. That's simply not good enough and there are plenty of people close to the program who want Gattis gone.

Offensive line coach/run game coordinator - Ed Warinner

It's a no brainer to keep Warinner. He has been one of Michigan's most consistent coaches and routinely puts units on the field who seem to hold their own. He played a lot of young guys last year and, while the O-line wasn't necessarily dominant, they weren't one of U-M's glaring issues either. Warinner's Twitter profile now includes "RGC", which is short for run game coordinator, so it'll be interesting to see how his role has changed and what it will look like on the field.

Tight ends coach - Sherrone Moore

This is another no brainer. Moore is one of Michigan's most promising young coaches and is dynamic on the recruiting trail. His tight ends have been productive and flash high upside, which also indicates that Moore has a good eye for talent. The only problem here — Moore's alma mater, Oklahoma, has tried to lure him away from Ann Arbor and likely will continue to do so until the season is much closer to starting.

Running backs coach - Mike Hart

Hart is a clear upgrade at the position over Jay Harbaugh, and as a Wolverine legend, he'll be loved and receive unwavering support from the fan base. Hart definitely knows the position, has recruited well for Indiana and was given extra responsibility as the associate head coach under Tom Allen. There's no doubt that Hart will bring great energy and leadership, and should also improve the culture at Michigan, while also shoring what's been a strange rotational pattern at the position. This is the hire that will excite Michigan fans the most, however I just don't think an RB coach actually makes that much of an impact on wins and losses. Still, it's a great hire and one that seemed to be inevitable for several seasons.

Defensive coordinator - Mike Macdonald

This one worries me quite a bit. Macdonald joins Michigan after coaching linebackers for the Baltimore Ravens. He's billed as being very energetic, organized and smart, but he's never recruited or called a defense in his life. I know most people were done with Don Brown, myself included, but that guy could call a game in his sleep after doing it at a high level for almost as long as Macdonald has been a live. This is being billed as a high-upside hire, but it feels like a reach to me.

Co-defensive coordinator/cornerbacks coach - Mo Linguist

On paper, Linguist actually seems more qualified to be the defensive coordinator than Macdonald does. Linguist is 36 years old and most recently coached cornerbacks in the NFL for the Dallas Cowboys. Before that, he coached cornerbacks at Texas A&M and also coached at Valdosta State, James Madison, Buffalo, Iowa State, Minnesota and Mississippi State. He played safety at Baylor and has been billed as extremely sharp and very talented as a recruiter. As good as Mike Zordich was at Michigan, Linguist might be an overall upgrade because he clearly can coach the position and is viewed as more dynamic as a recruiter. 

Linebackers coach - Brian Jean-Mary

After just one year at Michigan, Jean-Mary will be back in maize and blue in 2021. The linebackers did seem to play out of position at times last year, but it seems like a lot of that was because of Don Brown's scheme. Jean-Mary has been an assistant head coach, linebackers coach, recruiting coordinator and more during his 21-year coaching career, giving him a lot of skills that work well as a part of this staff. One weird season at U-M isn't really enough of a sample size to grade him in any direction, so keeping him on seems like a smart move.

Defensive line coach - Shaun Nua

Most people think Nua should be looking for a new job right now but everyone I've ever talked to loves the guy. Production was down from the defensive line last year, and Michigan has missed on defensive tackles way too many times over the last few recruiting cycles, but there's something about Nua that Harbaugh and everyone else obviously likes. Guys like Braiden McGregor, Aidan Hutchinson and others have raved about Nua as a coach and a man, but he definitely needs to achieve more success in a measurable way before he can be viewed as a successful position coach with the Wolverines.

Safeties coach - George Helow

I don't know much about Helow, but since Michigan didn't even really have a safeties coach last year, this is an upgrade. I don't think a lot of teams were battling to steal him away from Maryland, but for a position coach in his early 30s, he's had a nice career path. He most recently coached special teams and inside linebackers for the Terrapins but also coached at Colorado State for four years and interned with Alabama after wrapping up his playing days at Ole Miss, where he began his career as a walk-on. He's billed as a high energy guy and should definitely be better on the recruiting trail than Shoop would've been had he been involved with the team last year.

Special teams coordinator - Jay Harbaugh

There's really no nice way to say it — if Jay's last name wasn't Harbaugh, he probably wouldn't be coaching at the Division I level. I don't dislike him personally, but he's been given a lot of opportunities because of who he's related to. He's a sharp guy, is good in social settings and by all accounts works really hard, but there's just not much that suggests he's done a really good job at Michigan. Running back recruiting has been good, not great, and the rotation at the position last year was questionable at best. A move from running backs to special teams is a pretty big demotion that probably would've been a termination again, if it weren't for his relationship to the head coach. He helped out Chris Partridge on special teams before and should be able to handle the responsibilities of the job there.