John Baxter, Ex-Wolverine
Michigan special teams coordinator John Baxter is no longer coaching at Michigan. He has been re-hired at USC, which is where he was before spending one year in Ann Arbor. Michigan took a step forward on special teams this year, doing an excellent job on kickoff returns (#3 in the country with 28.4 yards/return), pinning opponents deep on punts, and covering kickoffs, not to mention thwarting a couple attempted fakes by Florida in the Citrus Bowl. Michigan also forged a pretty decent kicker out of Kenny Allen (80% on field goals, 100% on extra points), who spent the previous three seasons concentrating on punting. There were a few hiccups along the way, though, including the dropped punt snap that lost the Michigan State game, a punt return touchdown allowed against Indiana, and a long return allowed against Rutgers. Michigan was better on special teams, but not great.
It’s unclear how Baxter’s position will be filled. Michigan recruiting coordinator Chris Partridge was on staff temporarily for the Citrus Bowl after defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin left Michigan for the Maryland head coaching job. Durkin tried to take Partridge to Maryland, but he stayed at Michigan after being promised an “increased role.” This may be that increased role. Prior to coaching Jabrill Peppers, Juwann Bushell-Beatty, Rashan Gary, and others at Paramus (NJ) Catholic, Partridge was a position coach and assistant special teams coach at both Lafayette and The Citadel, so he does have some experience with coaching specials. If Partridge were to take on a coaching role, there have been rumors that Devin Bush, Sr. – the father of Michigan early enrollee Devin Bush, Jr. – will leave his head coaching job at Pembroke Pines (FL) Flanagan to take on a recruiting coordinator role for the Wolverines.
Baxter’s recruiting area was the West Coast. This change should not affect the Wolverines greatly in that area, since Jim Harbaugh, Tim Drevno, Jay Harbaugh, and Greg Jackson have all spent time living and coaching on the Left Coast. Baxter was also in charge of implementing a respected academic program to help athletes stay on track while playing sports, a program he puts in place wherever he goes.