Michigan mailbag: Coordinator buzz; recruiting base; receiver transfer?
Sing it with me — “On the first day of Christmas, I give you a Michigan mailbag (and a partridge on top of Bob Wojnowski’s head)."
As usual, a pretty boring week in the world of Michigan football, right? Of course not, and there’s no sign of boring entering the equation here in the next many days. So sit back and enjoy the show, speculate away about hires, and what’s next for the program.
Until then, time to dig into the mailbag. As always, thanks for sending questions and happy holidays to everyone.
Question. Does Don Brown’s firing mean Harbaugh is more or less likely to return next year? @DeanUlrich88
Answer. Well, Dean, I’ve always believed Harbaugh would work out something with athletic director Warde Manuel and return, although they are taking their time getting terms acceptable to both sides. I suspect one of the terms has been some serious upheaval in the staff, particularly on the defensive side, starting with Don Brown. So, yes, I would interpret that as a clue that Harbaugh will be back for Year 7.
Q. Who do you think will be the new DC? Also, what’s status of Harbaugh’s contract? What other coaching changes are expected? @RajLakra
A. Raj, I know the buzz is Tim Banks from Penn State, and that would be a solid pick for a lot of reasons. He’s 49 and from Detroit, played at King and then Central Michigan, and his Detroit connection certainly has paid dividends for Penn State recruiting this year. Michigan needs that. My Detroit News colleague Dave Goricki wrote about Banks in June and how he has recruited hard in Detroit.
I thought his comments were significant and fit what Michigan needs in recruiting: “Growing up in the area, I have a deep appreciation for the type of kids that come from those programs and I have a great deal of respect for the coaches in the area,” Banks told Goricki. “There’s a lot of great coaches that have been there for a long time and some of the younger coaches who have just got started have done some great things in a short amount of time. I know when I get a kid, when we’re fortunate enough to get a young man from the state of Michigan we know we’re getting a guy who is prepared, and to me hard work, dedication and toughness, all of those things are synonymous with players from that area.”
Q. "It’s a Wonderful Life" is my all-time favorite Christmas movie and in my top ten of all movies. How much staff turnover can we expect? Will we be looking at a different kind of kid on defense with DB gone? You are my fav Twitter follow. Merry Christmas @jimUMfan
A. Following up on Raj’s question, there will be more staff turnover. A text I received Wednesday night: “A lot of changes coming.” And I do think Michigan will return to recruiting defensive linemen, particularly tackles, who are bigger and stronger versus making speed a top priority. How are you going to stop the run unless there’s beef inside? And totally agree, "It’s a Wonderful Life" is a fantastic movie with so many lessons shared.
Q. Using your crystal ball, any idea if the RB and/or the WR room will change by addition/subtraction excluding Christian Turner’s departure and incoming recruits between now and say August? Thanks. @Marty3535
A. Marty, I don’t envision addition at this moment, but you never know when new staff come in which players might want to follow from his previous stop. And with the freebie transfer, there probably will be more of that if there’s room on rosters. I do suspect at least one transfer from the receivers, at least that’s the rumbling I’ve heard, and if there is a true spring practice as we knew before 2020, that’s when there will be more shuffling. The running back room is crowded, and it’s not like the old days when backs essentially waited their turns. The transfer market has changed that.
Q. Having seen it as a theme in current online chatter, is the solution to Michigan’s current woes as simple as improved recruiting in Ohio/Pennsylvania and mended relationships in certain Michigan schools? @hooverstreet
A. I have chatted about that a little bit, as well, and at the risk of sounding old-school, there is validity to recruiting your home base hard, and by that I mean, Michigan, Ohio, Illinois (mainly around Chicago), Indiana, and western Pennsylvania. I say this not meaning to disparage the recruiting movement at UM to New Jersey and the northeast. Hardly. Michigan has picked up some fine recruits there. But this has to be the base, and to your last point, Detroit has to be a major focus. Last I checked, there’s a tremendous amount of talent in Detroit and in the metro area.
Q. I asked Warde but I’ll ask you and hopefully you can get an answer. It seems something or someone is preventing success within the walls of the Michigan program. Should they consider a third-party investigation to see if someone outside can identify the disconnect within? @MYHouseMaster
A. This sounds so sinister the way you worded it, but that comes when there’s disarray and a program is losing. Look, Rich Rodriguez a month ago in a podcast, all of which was detailed in The News, shared some insight into issues he had with the administration, so I’m not suggesting there isn’t any interference or disruption. But my feeling is Harbaugh has a very long leash and is rarely questioned or told, “No.” He has everything he needs at Michigan, so the program’s success, in my opinion, is directly connected to the coaching, and also the players need to be held accountable, let’s not forget that.
Q. Do you think Michigan football has a problem with too much interference in the way the coaches operate? From Warde, administration or large donors? Another question, UM has a huge group of NFL alums. Are they allowed to help the kids in any way? If so, does UM solicit or accept help? @JimHill85404257
A. Jim, touched on this in the answer above, but I do think Harbaugh has had a lot of room to run things the way he wants. We could argue maybe too much room. He has made his hires. He has identified who he has wanted to hire, perhaps not always through a thorough vetting process, and orchestrates the show. As far as NFL alums, I’m not sure how this can be balanced. Coaches are hired to coach. They have analysts working with them. This could be a too-many-cooks-in-the-kitchen thing. That said, I absolutely believe it’s important to keep the connection and have those NFL veterans speak to the players and offer tips, maybe open the lines of communication so a player can reach out on an individual basis.
Q. What happened to cause the COVID-19 outbreak with the football team? The hoops, hockey guys are playing — who broke protocol to cause this? Is my Christmas cookie package arriving by tomorrow? @freehan11
A. John, I mailed everything two weeks ago and nothing has arrived. I’m assuming someone else is enjoying the cookies I sent you (wink). As far as the COVID-19 outbreak in football, the lone concern among the players in the summer when the protocols were set is that they knew it could take just one player to get the virus and unknowingly spread this. Did this happen because some went home and enjoyed Thanksgiving with family? That would be hard to confirm, but this is a situation where it only takes one and the dominos tumble.
The women’s basketball team has had recent issues and postponed a few games. This was never going to be flawless and hasn’t been.
Q. What is JH’s biggest UM football wish this year? @davidsadanowic1
A. Probably that Wojo and I go away. But seriously, I think he wishes for an injury-free year because he likes this team and the incoming freshman class and has something to prove.