Pros and cons of the Michigan football coaching job after Jim Harbaugh

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Michigan needs a new head coach. A league source said Jim Harbaugh will be the next coach of the Los Angeles Chargers The athleteopening the top job in Ann Arbor for the first time since 2014.

Harbaugh returned Michigan to glory, finishing his career with a national championship, three straight Big Ten championships and three straight wins against Ohio State. Having accomplished everything possible, he returned to the NFL in search of the elusive Super Bowl.

This may be a very quick search, considering who’s on staff and what happened last season, but it’s enough time to click on a job profile.

So how good is Michigan’s job? What names could get into the mix? Here are the factors to take into consideration.

Michigan is a national championship program

For many years, it didn’t look like Michigan was a program that could compete at the top of the sport. It had the history, a lot of money, and very good players, but it didn’t seem to have the talent advantage to compete with the best of the SEC in the same way that Ohio State could. Harbaugh continued to hit ceilings during his tenure, first in Ohio State and bowl games and then in the CFP semifinals.

That has completely changed now. Harbaugh exploded through every roof and showed that there are no limits to this program anymore. The Wolverines have won it all and produced some of the biggest draft classes in the country. They can develop and win better than anyone else in a given season. There are no more questions or boundaries here.

There will be a bit of rebuilding, but there are solid pieces in place

Several star players returned to the Wolverines for the 2023 season to accomplish what they did. Now they’re gone. Players on their way to the pros include quarterback JJ McCarthy, running back Blake Corum, wide receiver Roman Wilson, guard Zach Zinter, defensive tackle Kris Jenkins, defensive back Mike Sunristil, and cornerback Josh Wallace, among others.

That’s a lot to replace for any team. Harbaugh said before the season that he believes this Michigan team could set a record for NFL Draft picks, and that seems possible.

But returning players include running back Donovan Edwards, tight end Colston Loveland, defensive lineman Mason Graham and cornerback Will Johnson, all of whom are current or potential stars, though it’s always possible more players could leave through the portal after a coaching change. On the flip side, Michigan could find more players through the portal now or in the future, especially at the quarterback position, once its coaching situation is finally settled.

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It’s one of the best-resourced programs in the country, but can it compete at non-recruiting?

There has never been a shortage of resources. The Wolverines ranked 11th nationally in football expenses in the 2021-22 season, according to Sportico’s database. All facilities are in place.

But what made Michigan’s national championship so surprising was that it built this team without staying at the top of the recruiting rankings. From 2020 to 2023, the Wolverines’ recruiting classes ranked 10th, 13th, 9th and 17th in the 247Sports Composite rankings. They ranked 14th nationally in the 247Sports talent rankings last season. Winning a national championship without a top-five recruiting class or a superior quarterback has never happened in modern history. The Wolverines became one of the best developmental programs in the country and turned really good players into NFL players.

Is this development sustainable without Harbaugh? Or does Michigan need to recruit at the level of Georgia, Alabama and Ohio State? The Buckeyes, clearly fueled by Michigan’s three straight wins and a national title, have loaded up over the past week, adding several top recruits and transfers. Head coach Ryan Day has said in the past that Ohio State needs to step up its efforts in the NIL. It seems they have. Michigan wasn’t at that level. Maybe this should change with a new coach. Or maybe not.

So what names could get into the mix?

Obviously, this research begins with and can end with Offensive coordinator Sherron Moore. It’s not often that a school has an assistant on staff who has two top-10 wins under his belt. Moore beat Penn State on the road and Ohio State in Ann Arbor while Harbaugh sat at home due to a Big Ten suspension for sign-stealing and advanced scouting. The fact that he won at Ohio State as Michigan’s head coach is a resume point that no one else can match. He’s loved by his players, can continue the culture and momentum, and has coached a few games. He was the choice of Harbaugh and Michigan the second time Harbaugh was suspended, and he would be an easy choice here, unless anything from the Connor Stallions scandal comes back to directly implicate Moore. We haven’t seen it yet.

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If Moore doesn’t get the job for whatever reason, defensive coordinator Jesse Minter and running backs coach Mike Hart could be internal options as well.

Go deeper

Sherwin Moore auditioned for Michigan. Where will his story go from here?

Kansas coach Lance Leipold He’s been in the mix for several jobs, including Washington, thanks to the miracle work he did in Lawrence, and he knows the Midwest as a Wisconsin native. The man just wins. The 59-year-old inherited a winless Kansas program and won nine games in his third season, beating Oklahoma and finishing No. 23 this season. He won two MAC Division championships in Buffalo and developed several NFL players before that. He went 109-6 at Wisconsin-Whitewater with six Division III national championships before that. The biggest question will be whether he can recruit at the top of the sport. He just signed edge rusher Deshaun Warner, a top-70 recruit, at Kansas.

Kansas State head coach Chris Klieman He has won 27 games over the past three years, with a Big 12 championship in 2022 and consecutive top 20 finishes. The 56-year-old has won four FCS national championships at North Dakota State. Similar to Leipold, Kleiman wins often. But also like Leipold, can he recruit at a top-10 level?

Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Todd Monken And Defensive coordinator Mike McDonald Options can be. Both are also potential future NFL head coaches, so they may not want to return to college football, but Monken has guided Georgia’s offense on its way to back-to-back national championships in 2021 and 2022, and he has done a fine job as head coach at Southern Miss a since a decade. McDonald was Michigan’s defensive coordinator in 2021 (when they lost to Monken and Georgia in the CFP), before returning to the Ravens to run that defense. It is also clear that both were connected to work for John Harbaugh in Baltimore.

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Mike McDonald is letting the Ravens defense do the talking

Iowa State coach Matt Campbell He felt like a natural fit for many Big Ten jobs, but he stayed in Ames. The 44-year-old Ohio native had Iowa State’s most success in a century, winning the Fiesta Bowl and finishing No. 1 in the Big 12 in 2020, but he’s only aged 18-20 since then and his name isn’t as hot in coaching circles as it was. It was a few years ago. We also haven’t seen him coach and recruit for a Power 5 job with high expectations.

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LSU coach Brian Kelly The name came up as a possibility a few weeks ago. Perhaps coincidentally, LSU has since seen an overhaul and expansion of the Tigers’ personnel. Kelly hired Missouri defensive coordinator Blake Baker to be the highest-paid assistant coach in college football ($2.5 million) after Baker turned down several bigger jobs. Kelly also hired defensive line coach Bo Davis away from the Texans at an increased salary. Kelly spent two decades at Michigan and always seemed like an unusual culture fit at LSU to replace Ed Orgeron, but the moves LSU has made in recent weeks make such a move by Kelly seem very unlikely.

He was Wisconsin coach Luke Fickell Be interested? The lifelong Buckeye has an $8 million buyout to leave Wisconsin. Long after his 6-7 interim coaching stint at Ohio State in 2011, Fickell went 57-18 at Cincinnati, winning at least 11 games three times and reaching the College Football Playoff in 2021. If this was a year ago That would make all the sense in the world. But being new to Wisconsin, coupled with an underwhelming 7-6 debut season last fall, might make that unlikely on both sides.

Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson He also won at multiple levels of the sport. Clawson is 63-61 at Wake Forest since 2014, with six winning seasons in the past eight years, including an 11-3 record in 2021. He previously coached and won at Bowling Green, Richmond and Fordham. At Wake Forest, Clawson succeeded in one of the toughest assignments in the Power 5, recruiting and developing players like Sam Hartman and Kenneth Walker III before they moved on for their final seasons.

(Top image: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

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