The Wolverine

February 2019

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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74 THE WOLVERINE FEBRUARY 2019 N ew Ohio State head coach Ryan Day hired longtime Michigan as- sistant Greg Mattison and line- backers coach Al Washington away from the Wolverines in January. To one faction of the fan base, it felt like the college football world was coming to an end in Ann Arbor … But it didn't. What happened within days of the moves should be the latest les- son to college football fans when it comes to coaching moves … Breathe a bit and let things play out before panicking. It would be simple if New- ton's Third Law of Motion in Physics — that every action elicits an equal and opposite re- action — applied to the coach- ing carousel. At that point, Michigan head coach Jim Har- baugh could simply have found a list of coaches with similar qualifications, picked a couple out and gone on his way, continuing to build the program in his image. But it's not that easy. Given the Wolverines' 62-39 loss at OSU to end the season — his fourth straight against the Buckeyes, Michigan's seventh in a row and 14th in the last 15 — he really needed to hire coaches who would make a splash in addition to being great fits. If players and recruits were on edge after the shocking setback in Columbus, they were even more so after Mattison's defection. And while winning the press confer- ence doesn't have anything to do with winning games on Saturdays, perception is often reality when it comes to 18- to 22-year-old kids. Harbaugh's first move, though, wasn't reactionary, but proactive. When he hired co-offensive coordi- nator Josh Gattis away from Nick Saban at Alabama, he seemed to be sending a message that good (in this case a 10-win season for the third time in his four years at U-M) wasn't good enough. Gattis is widely respected as an outstanding offensive mind and an elite recruiter. The Athletic's Bruce Feldman went so far as to call his hiring the "best addition for Michigan since Har- baugh got [defensive coordinator] Don Brown" from Boston College. Harbaugh's next moves were also lauded. He replaced Washington with Boston College co-defensive coordinator Anthony Campanile to coach linebackers, added another up-and-comer in Arizona State's Shaun Nua to replace Mattison and turned the "Michigan is sinking" narrative into positive momentum. All of that guarantees nothing when it comes to winning the big games, of course, and some will wonder — per- haps rightfully so — whether the new hires understand just what Michigan- Ohio State means, and if they have it in them to finally get the rivalry back on even footing. There was even a faction that called for Harbaugh to turn to former Michigan defensive line- man Mike Trgovac, a former Notre Dame and longtime NFL assistant, to coach the line, noting he knew the rivalry inside and out as a Youngstown, Ohio, kid who used to beat the Buckeyes. Harbaugh did it his way, as he usu- ally does. We'll see soon enough if he made the right call, but his latest moves appear to be promising. "I started to think about the analogy of getting the right peo- ple on the bus," Harbaugh said on his Attack Each Day podcast. "We had some coaches depart and looked at that as an opportu- nity for our football team to grow and make ourselves better." As for Mattison, we get that big-time college athletics are a business and understand that he worked with former Ohio State coach Urban Meyer at Florida as his defensive coordinator from 2005-07 before heading to the NFL with the Baltimore Ravens. It was probably hard for him, too, to serve as line coach under Brown, essentially taking a de- motion, and that his duties as new coach Day's co-defensive coordinator are a step up. At the same time, for a guy who always preached the great- ness of Michigan and what it stood for, this one is tough to resolve, es- pecially considering the history. "Jack Harbaugh will always be one of the most influential coaches I've ever been with," Mattison said of Jim's dad after Harbaugh hired him back. "And I really respect [Ravens coach] John Harbaugh. You always knew he'd be successful. … And there's another Harbaugh that when we had our first child, Lisa, the only person she'd ever let baby- sit for her was Joanie [Jim's sister]. "That Harbaugh family, we've known for a long, long time." When it came down to it, though, Mattison seemed to employ the "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" strategy. Day is no Urban Meyer, and Har- baugh's resolve seems greater than ever. This transition seems to be an opportunity — it's up to him, now, to make the most of it and leave Mattison with the onus of regret. ❏ Chris Balas has been with The Wolver- ine since 1997, working part time for five years before joining the staff full time in 2002. Contact him at cbalas@ and follow him on Twitter @Balas_Wolverine. INSIDE MICHIGAN   CHRIS BALAS A Proportionate Response Jim Harbaugh was lauded for hiring Josh Gattis away from Alabama to be his offensive coordinator, as well as adding Anthony Campanile and Shaun Nua to his defensive staff to replace OSU defectors Greg Mattison and Al Washington. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN

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