The Wolverine

March 2022

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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6 THE WOLVERINE MARCH 2022 "It feels like the beginning." — Jim Harbaugh, following Michi- gan's 42-27 win over Ohio State N ot so many weeks later, it felt like the ending. When Harbaugh boarded a jet for Minneapolis in- tending to exchange maize and blue for purple, some held their breath, and others threw up their hands. Just when the head coach finally got the Wolverines back on top, he bolted like vintage Tyrone Wheatley through a crease in the line. Then the return to the NFL didn't work out. Talks with the Minnesota Vikings fell apart. Harbaugh headed back to Ann Ar- bor, vowing to Michigan athletics director Warde Manuel — as told to the Detroit Free Press — that this wouldn't be happening again. It was a one-time thing. So, all's well, right? Pick up where you left off, build another Big Ten contender and everybody's just happy. Most of all, keep together the staff that played such a big role in making it all happen. Oops. Turns out, new Baltimore Ravens de- fensive coordinator Mike Macdonald operated in 2021 under the Harbaugh- to-Harbaugh one-year loaner program. Macdonald flat-out became one of the most impressive U-M assistant coaches around in a long time. His turnaround of the defense as coor- dinator — capped by holding the Buck- eyes 20 points under their gaudy scoring average — produced hopes for a long run in Ann Arbor. Sorry. The NFL issued a call-back, and Macdonald answered. Offensive coordinator and Broyles Award-winner Josh Gattis? He bolted for Miami, sharing with players how unap- preciated he felt by Michigan's adminis- tration. When the Wolverines became Big Ten champs, several heavily invested in the program weighed in on essentials for keeping it going. All mentioned main- taining a continuity in the staff, which did such a masterful job in 2021. That didn't exactly go as planned. But what does in football, where proper reac- tion counts as much, if not more, than initial action? Here, we'll draw from the example of the greatest quarterback in the history of organized football. Tom Brady didn't win Michigan's quarterback job in 1997, and he didn't leave. He stayed and became a champion. Brady didn't budge when many fell in love with the new rookie QB, Drew Hen- son. Instead the veteran fought him off and finished his Michigan career with a dominating flourish. Brady didn't blink when he became the 199th pick in the 2000 NFL Draft. He told New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft the boss had just made the best decision of his entire career — and Brady was right. Brady didn't even flinch when — after 20 years — the Patriots figured they could do better without him. He packed his bags and won his record-extending seventh Super Bowl. It's all about how you respond in foot- ball. To its credit, Michigan responded this offseason. Harbaugh dug in and went back to work, hiring former Wolverine and highly valued Notre Dame assistant Mike Elston as defensive line coach and recruiting co- ordinator. He dipped into the Macdonald/ John Harbaugh/Ravens gene pool to hire Jesse Minter as defensive coordinator. Minter spent a year coordinating Vanderbilt's defense, but prior to that, operated in the Ravens' system for four years. His U-M defense should deliver a familiar feel for those looking on and the players he'll be inheriting. Michigan retains co-defensive coordi- nator Steve Clinkscale, a strong coach and recruiter, and the rest of the staff. Offensively, quarterbacks coach Matt Weiss gets a nice bump up, moving to co- offensive coordinator, a role he'll share with line coach Sherrone Moore. Mean- while, running backs coach Mike Hart adds run game coordinator duties to his plate. All enjoyed a big hand in U-M's of- fensive success in 2021, and inherit an ab- solutely loaded roster for the coming year. Anyone believing the Wolverines' withering attack against Ohio State in- volved a Gattis sole masterpiece wasn't paying attention. Former U-M offensive linemen saw blocking schemes from the days of Bo Schembechler and Jerry Han- lon folding up the Buckeyes. Sure, they had plenty of modernized spread looks, but multiple cooks served this up. Most retain a stirring spoon. Bottom line — Michigan's greatest mo- ment in nearly two decades could have devolved into a mess. It didn't. As the head coach would say, Onward. * * * The passing of former Michigan radio play-by-play man Frank Beckmann, who operated behind the mic from 1981-2013, cannot go without mention here. Frank was not only the consummate profes- sional, passionately and expertly deliver- ing the calls for the Wolverines, he also treated others, including younger report- ers, with a kindness and warmth so ap- preciated. Rest easy, Frank. You were one of a kind. ❏ WOLVERINE WATCH   JOHN BORTON Building On Triumph And Turmoil Jim Harbaugh had to replace both coordina- tors this offseason, but hopes are high after he shuffled the staff, thanks to many who played key roles in 2021 earning promotions to stay in Ann Arbor. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL Editor John Borton has been with The Wolverine since 1991. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @JB_Wolverine.

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