Tim Drevno, a prized offensive coordinator on Michigan’s football staff, would be open to discussing Western Michigan’s head football coaching vacancy, The Detroit News has learned.
Drevno last week signed a five-year extension, worth a minimum of $1 million per season, to stick at Michigan and maintain a long alliance with head coach Jim Harbaugh.
His new contract does not bar Drevno from becoming a head coach elsewhere. And with the Broncos hurriedly hunting for a man to replace P.J. Fleck, who last week became head coach at Minnesota, Drevno, 47, is regarded by NFL scouts as one of the top college head-coaching candidates in America.
Multiple scouts as well as an industry source familiar with Drevno’s view of the Western Michigan job, said he would be open to talking with the Broncos.
The same scouts and source, who all requested anonymity because of sensitivities to other coaches, including Harbaugh, identified additional assistants as candidates ripe for Western’s consideration.
The group includes Mel Tucker, defensive coordinator at the University of Georgia, and a man who has twice worked for head coach Nick Saban (at Michigan State and later at Alabama).
Another consensus candidate: San Francisco 49ers defensive backfield coach Jeff Hafley, 37, a New Jersey native and personal fireball who has worked as an assistant for Dave Wannstedt at Pitt and Greg Schiano at Rutgers.
The candidacies point to a happy challenge for Western Michigan athletic director Kathy Beauregard and her bird dogs as they hunt a coach who will inherit a team that played in this year’s Cotton Bowl and finished the season an astonishing 13-1.
The Broncos’ status explains Drevno’s willingness to at least talk about a job Beauregard has hinted can exceed Drevno’s salary at Michigan.
Tucker’s status is strikingly similar. He draws raves from scouts familiar with the Ohio native who played college football at Wisconsin and began his coaching career as a graduate assistant under Saban in 1999.
Tucker, who last week turned 45, later worked as an assistant and co-defensive coordinator on Jim Tressel’s staff at Ohio State. He moved to the NFL, where he was an assistant and defensive coordinator with the Browns and Jaguars. He was Jaguars interim head coach for five games in 2011 and later was Bears defensive coordinator before joining Saban at Alabama as assistant head coach and defensive backfield assistant.
He left a year ago for Georgia when Saban’s defensive coordinator, Kirby Smart, won the Georgia job following Mark Richt’s firing.
Scouts interviewed say Tucker has a surplus of requisite skills: polished personal presence, excellent Xs and Os analytics, with exceptional recruiting strength.
Hafley, 37, is another bright light considered by scouts to be an inevitable high-profile football general.
Those familiar with Hafley consider him to have all the color and charisma Fleck famously brought to the Broncos. But, intriguingly, they say he brings an equal amount of reserve that tends to fit with a university’s culture. It’s a combination Western might find comfortable, they argue, when his background and coaching style appear to match what a Mid-American Conference school seeks now that Fleck has departed.
Hafley played four years as a wide receiver at Siena College ahead of a career in coaching. After working at Pitt and Rutgers, he moved with Schiano to the NFL as a defensive backfield assistant when Schiano coached Tampa Bay.
Hafley had the same title with the Browns for two seasons before joining San Francisco. Should no head coaching job materialize, scouts say it’s likely Hafley will stick with the 49ers, even as they consider a new head coach following Chip Kelly’s firing. Josh McDaniels, a heavy favorite for the 49ers job, knows Hafley from their years in the business and would be expected to keep Hafley, say NFL sources familiar with both men.
Scouts submit it’s Hafley’s pedigree and past coaching influences that couple with his personality and recruiting aplomb to make him an inevitable Division 1 head coach.
Beauregard and her allies haven’t been tipping hands on who might find a place in Western Michigan’s interview room. The list, Beauregard has said, is likely to be open-ended — even with a recruiting season at full-boil and the Broncos keen on sustaining some football revelry they rather enjoyed in 2016.