Brian Smith, Ex-Wolverine

Tag: coaching changes

8Dec 2017
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Brian Smith, Ex-Wolverine

Brian Smith (image via

Safeties coach Brian Smith is leaving Ann Arbor to become the defensive coordinator at Rice. Rice hired a new coach this off-season named Mike Bloomgren, who worked with Smith with the New York Jets.

Michigan will be on its third safeties coach of the Jim Harbaugh era, following Greg Jackson in 2015 and Smith in 2016-2017. The safeties played fairly well under Smith, considering he had two first-time starters (Tyree Kinnel, Josh Metellus) in 2017 and helped get Delano Hill to be a mid-round draft pick. However, the safeties were considered to be the weak spot of Michigan’s defense in 2017.

It’s possible that cornerbacks coach Mike Zordich could take over the entire secondary, and it’s also possible that Michigan promotes from within – Devin Bush, Sr. is a former NFL and Florida State player who was a big-time head coach in Florida. Otherwise, I have confidence that whoever Jim Harbaugh and Don Brown bring in will do a very good job with the players on the field. As a recruiter, Smith wasn’t talked about much by recruits, so perhaps the next guy will have a little more pull.

On a side note, Scott Turner is slated to become Michigan’s 10th assistant coach following the New Year, but he’s an offensive guy who will probably slide in as the wide receivers coach. It will be interesting to see whether it’s Turner or some other staffer who steps in for Smith on the recruiting trail for now, since non-coaches can’t recruit.

25Jan 2017
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Greg Frey, Wolverine . . . again

Greg Frey (image via Twitter)

Indiana co-offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Greg Frey is now Michigan run game coordinator/offensive tackles/tight ends coach Greg Frey. As has been rumored for several days, the former Michigan coach (2008-2010) is returning to Ann Arbor.

Frey is from Clearwater, FL and went on to play college football at Florida State under Bobby Bowden from 1992-1996. He then coached at South Florida, where Kenyatta Jones was the first offensive lineman drafted from the school. He coached at West Virginia with Rich Rodriguez before being brought to Michigan. Since his last stint in Ann Arbor, he was co-OC/OL coach at Indiana, where he developed offensive guard Dan Feeney into an All-American and helped Jason Spriggs become a 2nd round pick of the Green Bay Packers in 2016.

Let me repeat: He developed a 2nd round pick and an All-American. At Indiana. And those are two separate people, not just one.

Additionally, he helped to develop David Molk into a Rimington Award winner (though technically that came one year after Frey left), and he helped to recruit and develop Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield. The 2008 season was rather forgettable, but Michigan improved significantly in 2009 and 2010 with little in the way of experienced talent. (Lewan and Schofield redshirted as freshmen in 2009.) With a good deal less talent, Michigan had some decent offensive lines in those days that helped Denard Robinson run for oodles of yards and allowed him time to complete almost 63% of his passes.

With the arrival of Frey, Tim Drevno has responsibilities for the centers and guards. Jim Harbaugh used this setup previously at Stanford when he had a C/OG coach and an OT/TE coach. Frey has limited experience coaching tight ends, but they do often work in concert with the tackles on combo blocks, and some of the pass sets are similar. This also potentially creates a line of succession if Drevno leaves for a head coaching or coordinator job after next season.

On top of the day-to-day work with the team, Frey has been a solid recruiter and has ties to the state of Florida. I think this is a positive move for the program overall, and the mediocre offensive line has been holding Michigan back for the past couple seasons. Getting another set of eyes on the offensive line and maybe some more one-on-one tutelage or different ideas on how to run the ball might get the Wolverines going in a more positive direction.

As a result of hiring Frey, Jay Harbaugh will now move over to coach the running backs after Tyrone Wheatley left for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Harbaugh has little to no experience with running backs, but the same could be said for his previous role with the tight ends. In his two years at Michigan, the units that he’s been responsible for have produced a Mackey Award winner (Jake Butt) and a bunch of blocked kicks. While it’s not a sure thing that he continues to have success with the running backs, there’s no evidence that he will be holding the team back with the way he coaches the running backs.

16Jan 2017
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Tyrone Wheatley, Sr., Ex-Wolverine

Tyrone Wheatley and Jim Harbaugh (image via Freep)

Running backs coach Tyrone Wheatley, Sr. has reportedly accepted a job with the Jacksonville Jaguars, where his former boss Doug Marrone has been hired as the head coach. Wheatley coached with Marrone at Syracuse from 2010-2012 and then with the Buffalo Bills in 2013-2014.

Wheatley was an All-American and a former 1st round pick from the University of Michigan, and he went to high school in Dearborn. After playing stints with the Giants and Raiders, he also coached in Dearborn before moving on to college. He was hired at Michigan in 2015 when Jim Harbaugh returned to Ann Arbor, and he did a solid job coaching the position. At the time of his departure, he ranks as the #6 recruiter in the country, according to 247 Sports. He was the primary recruiter in the Detroit area and had a big hand in landing Donovan Peoples-Jones and Ambry Thomas. He was also credited with mending some broken fences with Detroit (MI) Martin Luther King, which helped reel in Thomas and 2016 signee Lavert Hill.

Michigan is in somewhat of a bind at this point. With some early enrollees already on campus (including Peoples-Jones and Thomas), nothing can be affected there. However, Michigan continues to recruit running backs, including O’Maury Samuels and Kurt Taylor. The departure could affect their recruitments, and the Wolverines need a difference-maker at running back. With some potential targets already off the board (Eno Benjamin, Najee Harris, Cam Akers, etc.), this shortens the list of potential late additions or replacements.

Hit the jump for some thoughts on his departure.

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10Jan 2017
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Pep Hamilton, Wolverine

Pep Hamilton (right) with Andrew Luck (image via Zimbio)

Pep Hamilton has reportedly been hired as Michigan’s passing game coordinator and assistant head coach. He will be working with the quarterbacks (along with Jim Harbaugh) and the wide receivers. Hamilton replaces Jedd Fisch, who went to UCLA as the Bruins’ offensive coordinator. The assistant head coach title is likely a little extra benefit thrown in there to help convince him to leave the NFL.

Hamilton went to high school in Charlotte, NC, and then played quarterback at Howard. After he graduated he became the quarterbacks coach and then offensive coordinator at Howard. Since then he has spent time with the New York Jets (QB/WR), San Francisco 49ers (QB), Chicago Bears (QB), Stanford Cardinal (QB/WR/OC), Indianapolis Colts (OC), and Cleveland Browns (QB/AHC). He was Jim Harbaugh’s wide receivers coach at Stanford in 2010, and then he became David Shaw’s offensive coordinator after Harbaugh and Greg Roman went to the NFL.


  • 2011: #6 OFEI
  • 2012: #54 OFEI


  • 2013: #20 Weighted Offense
  • 2014: #22 Weighted Offense
  • 2015: #32 Weighted Offense

His 2011, 2013, 2014, and 2015 seasons were all with Andrew Luck at quarterback. His 2012 year was with Josh Nunes and Kevin Hogan at QB, when Hogan seriously outplayed a limited Nunes. In his one year as wide receivers coach at Stanford, Doug Baldwin caught 58 passes for 857 yards (14.8 yards/catch) and 9 touchdowns.

I like this hire. Hamilton has NFL experience, and he’s been around Harbaugh in the past. He knows what to expect from the aspect of competition and energy. We also know that Harbaugh isn’t afraid to step outside of his coaching tree (Don Brown, Jedd Fisch, etc.) to make hires, so if Hamilton couldn’t hack it, Harbaugh wouldn’t have targeted him.

I know some people aren’t thrilled with Hamilton because he coached for the Browns and his success was mediocre at times, but highly successful college and NFL coaches aren’t looking for co-coordinator jobs. Jedd Fisch got fired from the Jacksonville Jaguars before he got hired and did some good things at Michigan. If you’re at a spot like Michigan, you’re looking for a pro-style up-and-comer from the lower ranks of football, or you’re looking for an FBS/NFL retread who has fallen on slightly harder times. Since that first category doesn’t really exist right now (everyone’s running a spread offense), Michigan was bound to get someone like Hamilton all along. I went through some options last week (Erik Campbell, T.J. Weist, etc.), and they all fall in that category or they’re graduate assistant types looking to move up in the world.

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3Jan 2017
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Jedd Fisch, Ex-Wolverine

Jedd Fisch

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:

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