Mike Elston, Wolverine

Tag: coaching changes


13Jan 2022
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Mike Elston, Wolverine

Mike Elston (image via Rivals)

Notre Dame defensive line coach Mike Elston is reportedly accepting the same position at Michigan. Elston is a former Michigan outside linebacker who got his coaching start with the Wolverines as a graduate assistant for the Wolverines before moving on elsewhere.

Elston made 29 tackles and 4 pass breakups as an outside linebacker at Michigan from 1993-1996. He then became a video assistant and G.A. at Michigan, coached at Eastern Michigan for a couple years, and then latched on with Brian Kelly. Elston was with Kelly at Central Michigan, Cincinnati, and Notre Dame, at various times holding the title of linebacker coach, defensive line coach, associate head coach, co-defensive coordinator, and recruiting coordinator. He’s had a wide array of positions and held some clout in a very good program, so that bodes well for his abilities.

At Notre Dame, Elston coached a variety of quality players, including Julian Okwara, Stephon Tuitt, Sheldon Day, Khalid Kareem, Daelin Hayes, Ade Ogundeji, Isaiah Foskey, Jerry Tillery, etc. While he’s never had a guy as productive as Aidan Hutchinson, he has coached a couple Notre Dame players (Tuitt and Foskey) into getting 11 sacks.

Despite the success of Michigan’s team – and Hutchinson and David Ojabo – in 2021, I think Elston is a significant step up from former defensive line coach Shaun Nua. That’s not just sour grapes because of Nua’s departure for USC; I was long critical of Nua’s developmental abilities, and there has been talk that Ryan Osborn helped out a lot with the edge guys who really exploded in 2021.

Elston has also been a solid recruiter. He’s ranked as the #36 recruiter in the country by 247 Sports for 2022, which is third on the Fighting Irish staff behind new head coach Marcus Freeman and offensive coordinator Tommy Rees. It also would place him third on Michigan’s staff, behind safeties coach Ron Bellamy and offensive coordinator Josh Gattis. I’m not huge into ranking coaches by the recruiting rankings of the players that they may or may not have been recruiting primarily or secondarily; I think that type of ranking is very convoluted and potentially very inaccurate. So I don’t put a ton of stock in the ranking, and I put more faith in the fact that he was the recruiting coordinator for a team that recruits pretty well.

11May 2021
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Steve Clinkscale, Wolverine

Steve Clinkscale (image via MGoBlog)

Michigan hired Kentucky defensive backs coach Steve Clinkscale to replace the recently departed Mo Linguist, who was named the University of Buffalo’s new head coach.

Clinkscale has been the defensive backs coach at UK for the past five years and just added the title “Defensive Passing Game Coordinator” this off-season. Clinkscale has also coached at Cincinnati, Illinois, Toledo, Western Carolina, and Ashland. He should fit pretty seamlessly into Michigan’s hierarchy, as Linguist was “co-defensive coordinator” but paid less than Mike Macdonald. I imagine “Clink” will be in the same boat, labeled as a “co-coordinator” but also getting paid less than Macdonald.

I have been aware of Clinkscale for a few years, because as a coach at Kentucky, he has been a strong recruiting presence in southeast Michigan. The Wildcats landed a few commitments from the Detroit area, including 2022 Belleville (MI) Belleville cornerback Jeremiah Caldwell, whom Michigan offered in recent months. Clinkscale has also recruited Spring Hill (TN) Summit linebacker Keaten Wade, who was high on the Wolverines before committing to Kentucky.

It would be a mistake to assume that every Clinkscale recruit will automatically flip to the Wolverines, but it gives Michigan a puncher’s chance. Caldwell is the long, lanky type of corner that Michigan got used to with Channing Stribling, Jeremy Clark, and the like, while Wade would be a good edge defender.

Considering the lateness of the change, this is about as well as Michigan could have expected to do. Clinkscale was reportedly #1 on Michigan’s list, and of rumored options, I would take him over anyone else.

8May 2021
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Mo Linguist, Ex-Wolverine

Mo Linguist (image via Bull Run)

Michigan co-defensive coordinator Mo Linguist was announced as the Buffalo Bulls head coach on Friday afternoon, leaving the Wolverines with an open spot on its staff going into the summer. Buffalo’s job opened up when Les Miles was let go as Kansas’s head coach, giving Lance Leipold a chance to jump from Buffalo to Kansas.

Linguist is known as an outstanding recruiter, but his actual coaching ability is a bit of an unknown. At most of his stops so far, he has only spent one season at any particular job and never stayed anywhere longer than three years. He was at Michigan for just a few months – basically the span of spring ball – before leaving.

From Linguist’s perspective, it’s pretty much a no-brainer if he has the goal of being a head coach. Whether he spent a few months or two seasons at Michigan, it’s a step up to become an FBS head coach.

On Michigan’s end, it’s tough to find the right balance. Jim Harbaugh hires a lot of coaches who go on to be head coaches, and that’s a testament to the type of coach he hires: hungry, ambitious, young, and respected guys. But that also means he’s going to lose a lot of those guys to promotions elsewhere. We have seen the opposite at Michigan, when guys like Lloyd Carr and Rich Rodriguez have brought in and held on to “their guys.” That’s not necessarily a terrible thing, but fans weren’t happy with those staffs, either. Jokes abound regarding Mike DeBord, Fred Jackson, Tony Gibson, and others.

Realistically, the thing that many Michigan fans were missing when they got excited about Linguist’s hire was that it was never going to be more than a one- or perhaps two-year thing. The most common outcome for Linguist is to spend a year on a job, meaning we would have been dealing with his departure sometime around February National Signing Day in 2022. The optics wouldn’t be good, either, when he ditched the team in January or right after NSD, leaving a handful of 2022 recruits in the lurch. The Michigan program would have been sifting through decommits, trying to flip lower rated guys late, and players asking out of their National Letter of Intent.

Sam Webb has brought up a couple names as potential replacements(LINK):

  • Kentucky DB coach Steve Clinkscale, who has been with the Wildcats since 2016
  • New Orleans Saints assistant Cory Robinson, who has had five jobs in the past five years
21Feb 2021
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Brian Jean-Mary, Ex-Wolverine

Brian Jean-Mary (image via MGoBlue)

Michigan linebackers coach Brian Jean-Mary is headed to Tennessee.

As I mentioned back in December – and previously – I have not been a big fan of what I’ve seen from Jean-Mary (LINK). He was in my bottom five coaches on Michigan’s staff, and four of those five have now departed (with defensive line coach Shaun Nua the only holdover).

I hope this does not have a negative effect on Junior Colson or Jaydon Hood, who were both recruited by Jean-Mary. Kids generally seemed to like him as a recruiter. I just don’t know how good he is at developing guys once they’re on campus. The linebacker play took a step back last year, and a bunch of linebackers transferred or left early and shouldn’t have.

This move seems to indicate that new co-defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald will take over coaching the linebackers. Previously, Macdonald said he would not coach a particular position and would “get in where he fit in” from practice to practice.