Michigan passing game coordinator Jedd Fisch, who had signed a 2-year extension for the 2016-2017 seasons, is headed to UCLA to be Jim Mora’s offensive coordinator. Fisch was hired by Jim Harbaugh after a two-year stint as the Jacksonville Jaguars offensive coordinator. Fisch worked with the receivers and quarterbacks and was involved with the play calling during his time in Ann Arbor.
Options to replace Fisch are varied, especially because Harbaugh has hired from outside of his sphere several times. He had no previous connections to Fisch, he didn’t know Don Brown before bringing him on board, and he had no real connections to Tyrone Wheatley or Mike Zordich, either. I’ll go through a few of the obvious names, though, since it’s hard to comb through the entire sport of football for possible replacements:
- Erik Campbell is a WR coach at UConn. He was an offensive analyst at Michigan in 2015, but previously, he spent time as a WR coach at Michigan under Lloyd Carr, Iowa under Kirk Ferentz, and with Montreal Alouettes under whoever coached the Montreal Alouettes. Campbell also played at Michigan with Harbaugh in the 1980s.
- Jimmie Dougherty is a WR coach/offensive coordinator by trade who was an analyst for Michigan in 2016. He was just hired this off-season as Oregon’s wide receivers coach under former Harbaugh assistant Willie Taggart, and Dougherty was assistant head coach/WR coach/passing game coordinator at San Jose State from 2013-2015.
- Joe Hastings is a former WR at Washburn College before spending time in the NFL with the Dolphins and 49ers, where he played for Harbaugh. He has been a grad assistant at Michigan for the past two years.
- Derron Montgomery is a former Iowa State WR who spent 2015 as a grad assistant working with Fisch at Michigan. Montgomery worked mostly with the receivers and then went to New Mexico Highlands to be their offensive coordinator for 2016. NMH went 0-11 in 2016, but by golly, they did score 40 points in their season finale.
- Ryan Nehlen is a former WR at West Virginia. He spent 2014 at Akron, 2015 at Glenville State College, and 2016 as a grad assistant at Michigan.
- Greg Roman is a former Harbaugh assistant who worked with the OTs and TEs at Stanford in 2009-2010 and then became Harbaugh’s offensive coordinator in San Francisco from 2011-2014. He was most recently the Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator, though he was fired by Rex Ryan just two games into the 2016 season.
- Drew Terrell is a former Stanford WR under Jim Harbaugh and then David Shaw. He has spent the last two seasons as a graduate assistant at Michigan helping Fisch, and spent one year at Virginia Tech before that. He had 463 receiving yards, 4 TDs, and an additional punt return TD as a senior in 2012.
- T.J. Weist is a WR coach/offensive coordinator by trade who was an analyst for Michigan in 2015. He spent 2016 as South Florida’s co-offensive coordinator/passing game coordinator/wide receivers coach with Willie Taggart, and he’s currently the interim head coach at USF. If he’s relieved of his duties there, he may be a free agent.
I include some of those younger guys because we have seen Harbaugh take chances with some of his assistants, like high school coach Chris Partridge, assistant to the assistant Jay Harbaugh, etc. If Harbaugh thinks a guy has the ability to help, he’s not afraid to hire him.
However, to be a co-offensive coordinator, I think Harbaugh will aim a little higher. Dougherty probably would have been a good hire and wouldn’t have had to move across the country if Michigan had known that Fisch was leaving. It’s not unheard of for a guy to leave a job so soon after being hired, but it would be rare. I’ve long been a fan of the work Campbell did at Michigan, and he helped some unheralded guys be successful at Iowa, too. He’s mostly just been a position coach, though, without a ton of experience calling plays. A lot of people are pointing to Roman, who is mostly an offensive line/tight ends guy. Harbaugh clearly trusts him, but he would probably need to rely on the help of some grad assistants to make that work, so that’s not a clear fix, either.
My guess is that Michigan hires someone who’s not on the above list, which makes this whole post rather superfluous. But it’s fun to speculate.
I thought Fisch did a good job of designing and calling passing plays at Michigan. A pro-style offense can be boring, but he found enough ways to vary the play calling and get guys open. It didn’t always work, because the offensive line and quarterback were shaky at times in 2016, but I rarely had a problem with the calls themselves. This may hurt Michigan in recruiting, though, because 2018 QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson – Michigan’s #1 target at the position – was thought to be down to UCLA and Michigan beforehand, and now he says UCLA is going to be tough to beat.
One other interesting note is that Michigan may promote an analyst like Devin Bush, Jr. to a coaching position temporarily so he can go out on the road and recruit. Bush probably isn’t a candidate for Fisch’s job directly, but his college and NFL experience may help him gain some pull in the recruiting sphere.