The Wolverine

March 2024

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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8 THE WOLVERINE ❱ MARCH 2024 T he Wolverines ascended the moun- tain. They reached the zenith of col- lege football in a thrilling, astonishing, intoxicating 15-0 ride to the national championship. They hugged, exulted and let loose a primal bellow of ultimate vic- tory. Then they and their fans celebrated for about 36 hours, and reality began to set in. No, it doesn't stay this way, memories notwithstanding. There's more than one portal open, and the strength of the pull outdoes any TV commercial. Less than four weeks after they hoisted the trophy in Houston, many packed their bags for a road trip with no return. Head coach Jim Harbaugh, architect of three seasons of ecstasy: gone. Strength and conditioning coach Ben Herbert, supplier of Michigan grit, physi- cality, toughness and tenacity: gone. Defensive coordinator Jesse Minter, at the heart of the defensive turnaround that took U-M to the top: gone. Defensive line coach Mike Elston, cre- ator of chaos up front: gone. Co-defensive coordinator and defen- sive backs coach Steve Clinkscale, closer of the back door: gone. Safeties coach and special teams swami Jay Harbaugh: gone. At last check, the new scoreboards re- mained in place at Michigan Stadium. But many who helped light them up the past three seasons headed for Los Angeles or other far-flung venues. Not Sherrone Moore. He's the new guy, the first full-time African American head coach in Michigan football history. He's ready to SMASH, and he's not looking for one bit of sympathy. "Our standards will not change," Moore vowed at his introductory press confer- ence. "We will be smart, tough, depend- able, relentless, enthusiastic, and do that at a championship level, with a cham- pionship team that loves football, plays with a passion for the game, plays for each other, plays for that winged helmet." Moore said all the right things. He ex- hibits all the characteristics that made him the players' choice to lead Michigan: toughness, bravery, intensity and unwav- ering energy, exuding a tough-love ap- proach to the player-coach relationship. Now comes the hard part. Keeping it going until the shelves get restocked, and receiving patience in the process. No mat- ter how you slice it, 2024 won't be 2023. See, it's not just coaches stampeding out Schembechler Hall's doors, seeking NFL glory. It's the triggerman, the quar- terback Harbaugh dubbed the greatest college QB in Michigan history. It's 17 of his veteran teammates, all invited to the NFL Combine like J.J. McCarthy. Blake Corum, Cornelius Johnson, Ro- man Wilson, the entire starting offensive line, defensive stalwarts such as Jaylen Harrell, Kris Jenkins, Braiden McGregor, Michael Barrett, Junior Colson and Mike Sainristil — all just a fond memory in a winged helmet. Oh, and did we mention there's more than Ohio State to worry about, in the new Big 18? Try adding a road trip to Washington, and home games with Or- egon and USC, to the November visit to Columbus. Throw in a nonconference contest against Texas, and you've got the sort of schedule some Michigan fans have been dreaming about for years. The slate carries with it all sorts of "be careful what you wish for" potential, es- pecially following The Great Exit. Ohio State is loading up again. The Buckeyes are buying players like coffee addicts snatching up Starbucks offerings. Ryan Day is so committed to demonstrat- ing his team's toughness, he's challenged Lou Holtz and Knute Rockne's ashes to a cage match in Columbus. Back in Ann Arbor, Moore's reconfig- ured staff will be recruiting its own play- ers. New defensive coordinator Wink Martindale's biggest job early might be preventing "gift from the football gods" sophomore defensive tackles Kenneth Grant and Mason Graham from becom- ing gifts to other programs. He should drop his Dr Pepper and whatever else he has in his hands to keep them out of the transfer portal. Michigan itself needs to decide how to compete in a world less about "The Team, The Team, The Team" and more about "The Cash, The Cash, The Cash." Ath- letics director Warde Manuel insists the Michigan experience is transformational, not transactional. In theory, that's both admirable and laudable. But if you're slid- ing south against unpunished spenders, one of three things must happen: accept your fate with proud defiance, ensure somebody starts cracking down on the new Wild West or get in the game. No matter what happens, Moore isn't conceding anything. "It's changed," he acknowledged. "It's changed tremendously. And we're going to be extremely aggressive with it. We're going to attack it." In the meantime, he shouldn't be attacked. It took a vastly more experienced Harbaugh seven years to beat Ohio State. Seven years to win a Big Ten championship at Michigan. Nine years to hoist the grand prize. These pages are filled with newcomers who committed to Moore & Co. The new guy also deserves a commitment to pa- tience from everyone, after a champion- ship celebration turned into an unnerving adios. ❑ WOLVERINE WATCH ❱ JOHN BORTON A Michigan Celebration Cut Short Sherrone Moore, pictured with his daughter, Shiloh, and guard Trevor Keegan, celebrated Big Ten and national championships as offensive coordinator, but the new head coach now faces the task of rebuilding the U-M coaching staff. PHOTO BY MICHAEL MILLER Editor John Borton has been with The Wolverine since 1991. Contact him at and follow him on X (Twitter) @JB_Wolverine.

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