Whom might Michigan hire to fill the defensive assistant spots?

Whom might Michigan hire to fill the defensive assistant spots?

January 9, 2019

Roy Manning

A lot of rumors have been floating around over the past couple days about potential replacements for defensive line coach Greg Mattison (now Ohio State’s co-defensive coordinator) and Viper/outside linebacker coach Al Washington (now Ohio State’s linebackers coach). Here are some of the names I’ve heard and a few thoughts on each:

  • Brian Baker (Mississippi State DL coach): Baker carried over from Dan Mullen’s staff to Joe Moorhead’s, and he coached in the NFL for 19 years with the Lions, Redskins, Browns, Cowboys, Vikings, Rams, and Panthers. He’s from Maryland and played college ball at Maryland. He has coached some excellent NFL players over the years (Robert Porcher, Luther Elliss, Kevin Williams, etc.), but he has no real connections to the states of Michigan or Ohio for local recruiting purposes, and his track record is not that of a rising star.
  • Devin Bush, Sr. (Michigan analyst): Bush was the head coach at Flanagan High School in Florida for a few seasons before getting hired as a defensive analyst at Michigan. As a former Florida State and NFL player, he has the playing chops to carry some weight with players. He does have connections in the fertile recruiting grounds of Florida. As a former safety, he would probably be best served coaching safeties while bumping current safeties coach Chris Partridge back to linebackers.
  • Anthony Campanile (Boston College co-defensive coordinator/safeties coach): Campanile is a New Jersey native who attended (but did not play football at) Rutgers, and he has since coached at Rutgers and Boston College, along with a couple high schools in New Jersey. One of those high schools is traditional powerhouse Don Bosco Prep, the school where Jabrill Peppers played before controversially transferring to Paramus Catholic. Campanile was named co-defensive coordinator at Boston College prior to 2018, which was his third year at B.C. Boston College finished at #70 in total defense in 2018. UPDATE: Campanile was hired as a defensive assistant.
  • Brady Hoke (unemployed): Hoke’s history is well known. He has been the head coach at Ball State, San Diego State, and Michigan; he was the defensive coordinator at Oregon for one season; and he has been the defensive line coach at several places, including Michigan and with the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers fired him mid-season in 2018. I think it would be extremely awkward for him to work under Jim Harbaugh, who replaced him as head coach in Ann Arbor, but Hoke does have some historical success as a defensive line coach and recruits well in the midwest. It would be a good hire if there’s no awkwardness, but Hoke would probably consider himself to be overqualified to be just a position coach, meaning he would be a short-term hire.
  • Cato June (Howard University safeties coach/recruiting coordinator): June is from Washington, D.C., and played college ball at Michigan before spending time in the NFL with the Colts, Buccaneers, Texans, and Bears. He has since been a high school coach before coaching running backs and safeties at Howard. Aside from being a Michigan alumnus, he lacks the track record and seemingly lacks the desired relationships to make him a big-time coach/recruiter at this juncture.
  • Roy Manning (UCLA special teams coordinator): Manning is a former Michigan outside linebacker who spent some time with various NFL teams in the mid-2000s before retiring. He has coached running backs, linebackers, cornerbacks, and special teams at various stops, including Michigan (LB/CB), Cincinnati, and Washington State. Manning is from Saginaw, Michigan, so he would seemingly have some in-state contacts for recruiting purposes, but he was not retained by Jim Harbaugh in the transition from Brady Hoke, so that too might cause some awkward feelings.
  • Jerry Montgomery (Green Bay Packers defensive line coach): Montgomery has had a bit of an odd coaching career. After playing at Iowa and getting a cup of coffee in the NFL, he has since coached at Iowa, Northern Iowa, Wyoming, Michigan, Oklahoma, and with the Green Bay Packers. He left the Packers for two weeks at one point to take a job with Texas A&M, but when the Packers came back and offered him more responsibility, he ditched TAMU to go back to Green Bay. His two years at Michigan (2011-2012) were cut short when he was lured away by the Sooners. Known as a good recruiter and solid coach, he reportedly wants to be a coordinator or be in the NFL. If he were lured away from Green Bay, my guess is he would be a one-year rental, and Michigan could find itself in another awkward position when he ditches defensive line responsibilities for another gig in the NFL right in the middle of recruiting the 2020 class. UPDATE: Montgomery has been retained by the Packers.
  • Shaun Nua (Arizona State defensive line coach): Nua, who is from American Samoa, played college football at BYU and then spent a couple years on the Pittsburgh Steelers roster. Since then he has coached at BYU and Navy, and he spent the 2018 season with the Arizona State Sun Devils. Arizona State was #49 in sacks in 2018 (29) and #36 in tackles for loss (87).
  • Sean Spencer (Penn State defensive line coach): Spencer has been Penn State’s defensive line coach for the past five seasons, with previous stops at UMass, Bowling Green, and Vanderbilt, among others. He’s a James Franklin guy and was with him at Vanderbilt. Spencer has a good resume and has coached some quality players at PSU, but he would probably need a significant pay bump to leave the Nittany Lions. Penn State is paying him $700,000 a year and the newly hired offensive coordinator, Josh Gattis, is making $900,000, so there’s not much room between DL coach and coordinator money.

Given the aforementioned pool of candidates, here’s the ideal situation, in my opinion:

If the awkwardness can be overcome, hire Brady Hoke to coach the defensive line. He would be able to recruit Ohio, and the mending of fences there might make up for the black eye of Greg Mattison booking it for OSU. Meanwhile, hire Anthony Campanile to coach Michigan’s safeties, and bump Chris Partridge back to being the Vipers coach. Khaleke Hudson excelled at Viper under Partridge and did not perform as well with Washington as his coach.

The wild card is Devin Bush, Sr., who may or may not be interested in sticking around Ann Arbor now that his son is off to the NFL. If he is interested in coaching, then plug him in with the safeties and still bump Partridge back down to Viper/OLB coach.

Originally posted on January 9, 2019.


  1. Comments: 6285
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Jan 09, 2019 at 12:55 PM

    Great post.

    My 2 cents: I hope they find up-and-comers not on this list. Manning would be fine – people seemed to like him around here but it’s a lateral move. Montgomery seems like a hard sell to take the same job he already has in the NFL. He’s expressed a preference for the NFL even though he was open to a promotion via TAMU. Hoke would be most similar to Mattison, but a big downgrade. The head coaching experience doesn’t seem like a big asset for Michigan and his time here is associated with mediocrity.

    What about Larry Johnson? If Michigan really wants to strike back they can offer him a $1M salary (he makes $750K now) and some other title bump. He has no ties to OSU. Elite coach. It’s just money afterall and OSU has to be coming up on some ceiling after splurging on all these new coaches.

  2. Comments: 1863
    Joined: 1/19/2016
    Jan 09, 2019 at 4:53 PM

    With the money available, we should NOT limit ourselves to UM ties. Get the best recruiter(s) possible. If that’s Devin Bush Sr, great; if not, sorry but we’re aspiring for NC contention

    Go big, Go Blue!

    • Comments: 6285
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Jan 09, 2019 at 7:41 PM

      Yeah that happens every time. Examples where it actually works, beyond grad assistant types, are Harbaugh and uhhhh…..Mattison?

      Wheatley was fine but no clear evidence he’s better than Moore. Manning was well regarded but not retained by Harbaugh. Curt Mallory is now a head coach so he’s moved up.

      In general the alumni tie-in’s are better in theory than in practice. Except for this one, which is perfect:

      Rich Rod for OC!

    • Comments: 3845
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Jan 09, 2019 at 8:48 PM

      I think it’s good to have one or two guys on the staff who bleed maize and blue. Those guys can speak from experience about the classes, campus life, traditions, what it’s like to run out of the tunnel, etc. Harbaugh can fill that role to an extent, but he graduated over 30 years ago and he’s not on the recruiting trail as much as some of the assistants. That’s why I like having someone on staff like Wheatley, Manning, etc. But you don’t need a staff full of those guys.

      • Comments: 6285
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Jan 10, 2019 at 8:44 AM

        Great point. I think you can have that with supporting staff like Bryant and Roundtree cover most of that though.

  3. Comments: 1357
    Joined: 8/13/2015
    Jan 09, 2019 at 7:00 PM

    Nicely done on the who/whom thing.

    That would have been an easy one to miss on.

    • Comments: 3845
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Jan 09, 2019 at 8:42 PM

      Without the good looking women, I really need to step up my grammar game!

  4. Comments: 400
    Joined: 12/24/2016
    Jan 09, 2019 at 8:27 PM

    and well while we’re on the topic of hiring asst coaches coupled with getting over ‘awkwardness’……….

    Lets bring in Mike Hart to coach running backs.
    I’m Serious…………INTJohn

    • Comments: 3845
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Jan 09, 2019 at 8:50 PM

      If there were an open coaching spot on offense or a reason to think Jay Harbaugh is doing a subpar job, then I might agree. Hart has done a good job with the running backs at Indiana. But I don’t think there’s any reason to force him onto the staff right now, and that’s if Harbaugh/Hart can get over the little verbal spat from a dozen or so years ago.

  5. Comments: 523
    Joined: 8/12/2015
    Jan 09, 2019 at 10:49 PM

    What are your thoughts on guys coming from the NFL back to the college game? I guess football skills are transferrable, but I sometimes wonder if the NFL guys bring too many expectations with them. Maybe coaching a team like Alabama, which is loaded with NFL talent. I’m not enough an X’s and O’s person to articulate it better, so I’m wondering what your thoughts are. NFL guys — good, bad, or “it depends?”

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