Michigan hires Ravens linebackers coach Mike Macdonald as defensive coordinator

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Mike Macdonald, most recently the linebackers coach of the Baltimore Ravens, has joined Jim Harbaugh’s staff as defensive coordinator.

The hiring had been anticipated for more than a week and was made formal Sunday, a day after the Ravens were eliminated from the postseason. Macdonald, 33, spent seven seasons with the Ravens under coach John Harbaugh, Jim Harbaugh’s older brother.

Mike Macdonald has been hired as Michigan defensive coordinator.

 “Mike is an excellent defensive mind who is highly respected across the NFL,” Harbaugh said in a release. “He has been a valuable member of the Baltimore Ravens staff, and shown a passion for teaching, coaching and developing his players.”

Macdonald is the second hire made official by Michigan in the last week. Mike Hart, Michigan’s all-time leading rusher, joined the staff as running backs coach after coaching the position the last four years at Indiana.

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“It is an honor to join Coach Harbaugh’s staff at the University of Michigan,” Macdonald said in the release. “I firmly believe in his vision and am excited to get to work. Our staff will work tirelessly to develop our young men both on and off the field.”

Macdonald replaces Don Brown, fired last month after five seasons with Michigan. Brown is now defensive coordinator at Arizona.

He began coaching high school football at Cedar Shoals in Georgia and while studying finance in Georgia’s Business College, from which he graduated summa cum laude, he joined the Bulldogs as a student assistant in 2010 and worked with the offensive scout team. He then became a graduate assistant on defense and mostly worked with linebackers from 2011-2013.

“He’s definitely sharp,” former Georgia coach Mark Richt, now retired from coaching and is working for ESPN, told The Detroit News last week referring to Macdonald. “He can walk into any room and communicate with anybody, probably just about any subject, whether it’s a real-life subject or a football subject, and that’s what matters the most.”

Richt said it was easy to identify Macdonald as an up-and-comer and elevated him to graduate assistant.

“What happens is a guy gets his foot in the door, you see his work ethic, you see he’s a sharp guy, you trust him, he’s already got a working knowledge of the system, and you’re like, ‘He’s a perfect fit,’ so you hire him as a graduate assistant coach,” Richt said. “And then he gets more responsibility as he goes.”

Macdonald is young, which also makes him relatable to the players. Former Michigan captain Chris Wormley, a defensive lineman with the Ravens 2017-2019 and now with the Steelers, wasn’t coached by Macdonald in Baltimore, but he got to know him.

“I liked him and the players in his room loved him in Baltimore,” Wormley said. “A young up-and-coming coach who will bring new schemes to the program. Not the biggest rah-rah guy like Don Brown but knows his stuff.”

Richt said he knows Macdonald has the proper makeup to take on the job as Michigan’s defensive coordinator and also that it probably wasn’t easy for John Harbaugh to part with him.

“It’s hard to give up a good guy,” Richt said. “He’s definitely not going to send him a guy he’s trying to get rid of, I’ll say that.”


Twitter: @chengelis