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5 Candidates Who Could Replace Wolverines DC Mike Macdonald

The Michigan Wolverines could be losing one of their top coordinators to the NFL.

After keying a transcendent turnaround within the Michigan defense, Mike Macdonald is reportedly heading back to the NFL.

In one season as Michigan’s defensive coordinator, he was responsible for creating a scheme that led to the success of EDGE rushers Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo. The former was a Heisman finalist, while the latter enjoyed a breakout season after playing sparingly in his first two years as a Wolverine.

Now Macdonald, like both his pupils, is heading to the pros. Before coming to Michigan, he spent seven seasons on staff with John Harbaugh, the brother of Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh. Most recently, Macdonald was the team’s inside linebackers coach.

Now, he will rejoin the Ravens as the team’s defensive coordinator. At age 34, he’s the youngest person to hold the position in team history.

So, who will Michigan recruit to replace him? Here are five candidates to consider. 

Steve Clinkscale

Current job: Defensive backs coach/defensive passing game coordinator, Michigan

Why Clinkscale: Hired last season, Clinkscale had his fingerprints all over the back half of the defense for the Wolverines. He keyed the attack that limited opponents through the air against Michigan, helping the unit reach its full potential.

He’s the obvious in-house replacement, as many believe him to be the heir apparent. There was also the notion that he ranks among the best defensive assistants in college football, as his hire last offseason was deemed a big hit for Jim Harbaugh and his staff.

The continuity of Clinkscale with the Wolverines should be very helpful in what would likely be a smooth transition.

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Mike Elston

Current job: Defensive line coach, Michigan

Why Elston: Harbaugh hired Elston to a three-year contract in early January to be the team’s defensive line coach. He comes from Notre Dame, where he held the same role, in addition to being the team’s assistant head coach.

The newly hired coach is returning to his alma mater. He played outside linebacker for the Wolverines from 1993-96. If Harbaugh is looking for another alum to be the next coordinator, Elston is his guy.

The 47-year-old has been a coach since 1997, when he began at Michigan as a student assistant. His ties run deep to the program, and he has proven to be a good recruiter.

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Larry Foote

Current job: Linebackers coach, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Why Foote: Another alum, Foote took up coaching after 13 years of playing in the NFL. He played his last season in 2014 with the Arizona Cardinals, before transitioning to the coaching ranks and becoming the team’s assistant linebackers coach.

He’s been the Buccaneers' linebackers coach since 2019. In that time, he’s worked with top pro backers in Devin White and Lavonte David.

The blend of pro experience and working with some of the game’s best could be a good sell in recruiting. But, the question remains whether he’s ready to be a defensive coordinator at this time. If so, he could wind up being a great hire for Harbaugh and company.

Anthony Weaver

Current job: Defensive line coach/run game coordinator, Baltimore Ravens

Why Weaver: Harbaugh poached Macdonald from his brother’s staff at the Ravens, so taking another assistant isn’t out of the realm of possibility. According to reports, Weaver interviewed for the team’s defensive coordinator job.

If Harbaugh desires another coach from Baltimore’s staff, this would be the one to get. Weaver spent last season with the Ravens and the previous five with the Houston Texans as the team’s defensive line coach. In 2020, he served as the team’s defensive coordinator, in addition to his defensive line coaching responsibilities.

With the success that the Wolverines had on the defensive line, bringing in another coach from the pro ranks may prove helpful. Weaver could be a huge help, as Michigan looks to rebuild without Hutchinson and Ojabo. 

Jimmy Lake

Previous job: Head coach, Washington (Fired in 2021)

Why Lake: A defensive-minded head coach at Washington, Lake’s tenure didn’t turn out the way he hoped. The Huskies sputtered in 2021, particularly from an offensive standpoint. Despite this, the defense had moderate success.

His time as a head coach was unsuccessful, but it was his work as the program’s defensive coordinator that got him the job in the first place. If he’s looking to get back on track, this could be a good partnership.

Lake and Harbaugh are familiar with each other, having played each other in Week 2 at the Big House last season. It may be unlikely, but his resume as Washington’s defensive coordinator could impress enough to warrant him a look.