The Wolverine

2021 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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108 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2021 FOOTBALL PREVIEW BY CHRIS BALAS N ew safeties coach Ron Bellamy didn't have to do much research when he accepted Jim Harbaugh's offer to join the Michigan coach- ing staff in January. As the head coach at West Bloomfield (Mich.) High — less than an hour from the U-M campus — and as a football alum (1999-2002), the former Wolverines receiver had remained well aware of the go- ings on at Schembechler Hall, fair to other programs recruiting his kids but still heavily invested in his alma mater's success. Initially tabbed to coach the team's receiv- ers, Bellamy didn't hesitate when Harbaugh asked him to make the switch to defensive backs. "You hear a lot about the kids when you're a high school coach," Bellamy said. "For me, I've followed Michigan football. I knew about the roster already, knew a lot of the kids like the Vincent Grays of the world … played against [redshirt sophomore cornerback] Vin- cent and [freshman cornerback] Andre Sel- don. I knew a lot of guys in that secondary." Second-year freshman safety Makari Paige, too, had been one of his players at West Bloomfield, and he welcomed Bellamy back as his coach with open arms. But there was one player Bellamy had to win over when he arrived, and it just so hap- pened to be one of the team's difference mak- ers. If the Wolverines are going to exceed expectations this year, sophomore Daxton Hill will be a big reason why. An elite athlete with a football IQ that's off the chart, the former five-star could have gone anywhere in the country. He chose the Wol- verines over Alabama, flipped to the Crimson Tide and then came back to U-M on National Signing Day. He has watched position coaches come and go ever since. After Hill's freshman season, safeties coach Chris Partridge left to take a co-defensive coordinator job at Mississippi. Harbaugh hired former Penn State, Tennessee and Mississippi State defensive coordina- tor Bob Shoop to teach the safeties — but he never coached on the field, sidelined for personal reasons. Instead, analyst Aashon Larkins became the third safeties coach in just two years for Hill and his safety teammates. All eyes were on Hill when Bellamy was named safeties coach, but it turned out there was nothing to worry about. "Yeah, it's tough having a lot of different safeties coaches — but I feel like coach Bel- lamy is going to do a great job this year for the safeties," Hill said heading into summer. "… Him coming over here has been huge for the defensive backs, the safeties room, the corners room — he's been really helpful for the whole secondary. "His [head coach experience] translated to the field during practice. He's high intensity. The energy has been on a whole different level." Sticking It Out And with that, U-M fans breathed a sigh of relief. Hill had never given any indication he was going to leave, but the lack of stability and a 2-4 season, the transfer portal explo- sion and more made for an unpredictable offseason. Several players — not just his Michigan teammates, but also throughout college foot- ball — decided to leave their schools, some to move closer to home, some just looking for a change of scenery. Hill, though, decided to stick it out. He didn't begrudge his teammates for their deci- sions, but he's always been his own man. He chose the Wolverines when Alabama made him a priority, going against the grain in fol- lowing his heart rather than the masses who assumed he'd join the Crimson Tide, and he wished his former teammates well on their new ventures while continuing to work on making Michigan better. "With that deal, you've just got to trust your gut," Hill said. "Sometimes, people do it because they think that's the best decision for themselves. It's really just all personal opinion. I really don't have too much to say about that. Transfer portal — if they don't DIFFERENCE MAKER Safety Daxton Hill Is Ready To Take His Game To The Next Level

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