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As you may have heard, Michigan has done some restructuring of its recruiting plan. About a year ago, I wrote about how I thought Michigan could “fix” its recruiting (LINK). Some of those steps have been taken, and others not mentioned have also occurred.
A few things have changed in the past year, largely for the better.
1. Ronald Bellamy replaces Bob Shoop as safeties coach. There are rumors about Shoop’s time at Michigan, but he was never known as a good recruiter – though recruits did say a few positive things once in a while – and basically served as an analyst in 2020. Shoop is more of an X’s and O’s guy. Meanwhile, Bellamy spent the last chunk of his life coaching West Bloomfield (MI) West Bloomfield to a point where it was a perennial threat to win a state championship. Bellamy got good talent to come to West Bloomfield – who would normally have attended other schools – and coached them up. He developed positive relationships with athletes who didn’t even attend West Bloomfield, and recruits seem to gravitate toward him. The former Wolverines wide receiver seems to be more of a father figure than a bombastic personality, but it appears to be working on the recruiting trail.
Hit the jump for more.
2. Mike Hart replaces Ed Warinner as offensive coach. Hart was a superstar running back at Michigan in college, and after a brief NFL career, he rose up the coaching ranks quickly, including stops at Eastern Michigan, Syracuse, and Indiana. Offensive line coach Ed Warinner left the program this off-season, letting tight ends coach Sherrone Moore move to OL, running backs coach Jay Harbaugh move to TE, and Hart to move from Indiana to Michigan. Hart is a young coach with charisma, intensity, and a solid track record. While Warinner was a solid recruiter, the trade-off for landing Hart is a step up for the Wolverines. (Harbaugh and Moore have already proven themselves as recruiters, and while Harbaugh has coached tight ends previously, the jury is out on Moore as an offensive line position coach.)
3. NFL guys replace Don Brown. I know a lot of people were down on Don Brown as his tenure came to a close at Michigan, but I think players and recruits loved Brown. He was a feisty, mustachioed older gentleman with an aggressive attitude. In a lot of ways, I think he was similar to the (formerly) beloved Greg Mattison. Many jokes were made and questions raised about Brown’s heavy reliance on recruiting his old stomping grounds in the northeast, but their success and his ability to produce big numbers and high draft picks for defensive players was respectable. Nobody knows who Mike Macdonald and Matt Weiss are – they coached the Baltimore Ravens linebackers and quarterbacks, respectively – but their NFL cache should pay off to an extent. Overall, I think this is pretty much a wash. Their personalities might not be as dynamic, but their youth, experience, and willingness to pursue elite prospects could pay off similarly.
Side note: Despite the above mentioned jokes about Brown’s recruiting in the northeast, many of those players – Ben Mason, Kwity Paye, Andrew Stueber, etc. – have paid off. Michigan fans want the Wolverines to recruit more in California, for example, despite the fact that most California players (Devin Asiasi, Kekoa Crawford, Giles Jackson, Zach Charbonnet, etc.) end up back on the west coast in short order.
4. Director of Player Personnel Courtney Morgan replaces Matty Dudek. Dudek was much maligned at Michigan. He had a quirky personality that a lot of Michigan fans didn’t appreciate, even before he came to Ann Arbor after stints at Pitt and Arizona. Dudek could interact in a prickly manner with fans on Twitter, but a lot of recruits loved him. His job was largely to collect information about recruits, keep in contact with them, arrange visits, etc. Meanwhile, Morgan comes from the west coast and Fresno State. I mentioned above that recruiting in California does not pay off as well as a lot of Michigan fans think it does, but if Morgan can translate his positive relationships to a more Midwest-centered situation, then that should pay off nicely. I do not think Dudek (now at Mississippi State) was as bad at his job as a lot of Michigan fans think, but I do think Morgan – a former Michigan offensive lineman – has a better reputation.
5. Aashon Larkins moves from safeties coach/analyst to Recruiting Coordinator. Larkins filled in as the on-field safeties coach last season when Shoop (see above) did not fulfill his obligations. Larkins spent several years coaching at Bethune Cookman, Jacksonville State, and the Citadel. I do not think Michigan’s safeties performed well in 2020, and I can’t pin that all on Larkins, but I think I prefer him as the recruiting coordinator over safeties coach. He reportedly has a very likable personality and has made some great connections, especially down south.
6. Director of On-Campus Recruiting Christina DeRuyter hired from Vanderbilt. From my understanding, the position that Christina DeRuyter recently filled is a new position on the staff. Dudek was previously doing this job and was basically the tour guide on campus, making sure visiting players hit all the necessary spots – whether it was the athletic facilities or the relevant campus buildings or the local restaurants. Dudek juggled a lot – perhaps too much for one person – and DeRuyter takes some of the load off of Courtney Morgan and Aashon Larkins. DeRuyter is a lot like Maurice Linguist in that she has worked at Arizona, Texas Tech, Vanderbilt, and Michigan in the last three years. (She worked at Vanderbilt only briefly this off-season.) So is she a long-term fix? Probably not. But at least the position has been created and could potentially be filled by someone else if she leaves in a year or two.
Michigan has also hired other personnel this off-season (Tony Jones as Recruiting Operations Coordinator and Jerret McElwain as Director of Scouting), and this seems like a concerted effort to expand and refine the recruiting situation for the Wolverines.
Overall, I think these are mostly positive moves for the program. Oddly, the highest profile move – firing Don Brown and hiring Mike Macdonald – is the one that I think pays the least dividends, because Brown was a very good recruiter. He didn’t always recruit the right guys for a program at Michigan’s level, but he made an impact with the guys he did recruit. I think if Jim Harbaugh had been able to convince him to recruit some different guys – particularly defensive backs and defensive tackles – then Brown might still be Michigan’s defensive coordinator after having more successful 2019 and 2020 seasons.
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