The Wolverine

September 2021

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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8 THE WOLVERINE SEPTEMBER 2021 E verybody knows the well-worn definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result. Following a shocking 2-4 season in 2020, people hung on Michigan football many unsavory descriptors. You can't call the Wolver- ines crazy. They changed, and dramatically so. Most of the defensive staff — which oversaw an injury-riddled crew giving up nearly 35 points a game last year — packed its bags. Some will claim 2020 as an aberration, but Ohio State lighting up the scoreboard like a winning slot machine in recent years wasn't. Big changes took place on offense as well, with new or rearranged coaches guid- ing four of the five position groups. So there's no digging in and standing pat with head coach Jim Harbaugh. Skeptics remain as unmoved as a sumo wrestler in quick-drying cement. Those who project the Wol- verines to climb over .500 this year aren't exactly shoving all their chips to the center of the table. Seven wins, maybe. Eight for those swept up in autumnal euphoria. Those inside Schembechler Hall don't care. They're stiff-arming neg- ativity, clotheslining opinions from corpulent press box inhabitants and chop-blocking the notion that medi- ocrity stands predetermined. They're right, and smart, to do so. Does that mean all the questions, all the potential issues instantly go away? Of course not. But if your college football battle plan involves making concessions in August, you don't have one. Say what you want about Michi- gan's chances in 2021. Just don't say it to those fighting and clawing every day to make the turnaround happen. A couple of the newcomers know what it's like to win a Big Ten cham- pionship at Michigan. They know what it takes. They know how it should look, how it should feel. The rest have won big elsewhere, and they concede nothing in that regard. But for safeties coach Ron Bel- lamy and running backs coach Mike Hart, there's a little extra blue blood coursing through the veins. "It's exciting," Bellamy said. "I get chills every time I walk through the building. I just think about my fresh- man year, the first time I walked in here from Louisiana. It means some- thing. It's a special place." "It's great to be back," Hart of- fered. "Obviously, I love this place. I'm just excited to get going." They're both excited to get Michi- gan going, back to a championship level. It's not as if the Wolverines under Harbaugh have done nothing. The head coach completely turned around the 5-7 squad he inherited, winning 10 games his first season. The following year, Harbaugh's Wolverines stood one play away from beating Ohio State, a berth in the Big Ten title game, a likely con- ference championship and a spot in the College Football Playoff. But the unsolved mystery of Mich- igan football remains. It's stunning, in every way. The Wolverines haven't won the Big Ten since Hart's freshman season. They're an unimaginable 4-9 against Michigan State since 2008. And the record against the Buckeyes? Obscenity laws prevent us from offering it up. Bellamy acknowledges the tough times. "There have been highs and lows," he said. "You're just kind of kicking yourself, like, 'Man, I wish I was there to help make a difference.'" He's here now, to make a difference. So is Hart, who gets to switch sidelines. The often-playful inter- viewee keeps it light, when discussing what he's most anticipating upon his return to Michigan Stadium. "The fans cheering for you, I guess — not booing," he said. "It's going to be excit- ing. It's going to be exciting to be on that sideline, finally. I've been there a couple of times on the other sideline. I'm really just looking forward to it. It's going to be fun." He paused, then noted: "I mean, the team got booed. I hope they weren't booing me! I would hope not!" Hart laughed over the last remark. But he realizes as well as anyone this reclamation project is no laughing matter. He's here to make a difference. So is new defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald and his new crew, among them the direct-speaking DBs coach and defensive passing game coordinator Steve Clinkscale. "We want the guys to go out there, have a chip on their shoulder, prove everybody wrong," Clinkscale said. "We're coming to show people what we're all about. We're just going to do it quietly, be humble, be honest and be hungry, and at the end of the sea- son, pray the result is what we want." Capacity crowds at The Big House will be praying — and occasionally braying — right along with them. ❏ WOLVERINE WATCH   JOHN BORTON Michigan's Reset Provides Intrigue Safeties coach Ron Bellamy, a former U-M wideout, is one of six new assistants on Jim Harbaugh's staff ready to make a difference. PHOTO BY EJ HOLLAND Editor John Borton has been with The Wolverine since 1991. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @JB_Wolverine.

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