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Harbaugh striking out in trying to fill Michigan Wolverines coaching staff

Michigan’s back baby!

That was the common theme after the Wolverines got their man in Jim Harbaugh this past week. It was hard not to buy in to the fact that Harbaugh has been a proven winner everywhere he went and that his ties to Michigan made him the perfect guy to lead the program back.

However, anyone in coaching circles will tell you that a head coach is generally only as good as the staff he hires around him. That’s especially the case in college football where recruiting is king.

Things started off just fine, with Harbaugh hiring Tim Drevno as his offensive coordinator. Drevno comes to Michigan after being the offensive line coach at USC and having coached alongside Harbaugh at the University of San Diego.

Given USC’s run game prowess and offensive lines over the last few years, that was seen as a great sign around Schembechler Hall. Finally the Wolverines were going to get back to running the football in a nasty, physical way.

You know, the way Michigan football has been built since oh probably before your grandparents were even born.

So, as Harbaugh goes about filling out the rest of his coaching staff one would assume this would be a slam dunk case. After all, things went so smoothly at Stanford with him around, why not get the old gang back together…only at a place where football is king and academics aren’t a hinderance to getting an athlete in to school.

However, recent developments have to make Michigan fans pause a bit. Three times in the past few days the head coach has offered a job to a former assistant and been turned down by the person offered the position.

According to Ivan Maisel of, Harbaugh reached out to Stanford defensive coordinator Lance Andersen and to strength and conditioning coach Shannon Turley to get them on board. However, both have turned him down and the Cardinal have apparently made offers each couldn’t refuse to stay on board.

Today, is reporting that Kentucky tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator Vince Marrow has turned down an offer to become part of Harbaugh’s staff at Michigan. Marrow is the guy credited with being a recruiting genius and helping Kentucky become a serious player for numerous 4-star players out of Ohio and throughout the Southeast.

So, if you’re counting at home that means the combination of Michigan and Harbaugh has lost out to Stanford and lowly Kentucky.

As for the staff, right now that leaves just former defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, who is rumored to be up as a position coach only, to go along with the OC hire of Drevno

It shouldn’t be panic time just yet in Ann Arbor, as the world of college assistant coaches is a fluent one and Harbaugh has plenty of options to choose from. What should be worrying though, is that the combination of Michigan’s money and tradition along with Harbaugh’s pedigree weren’t enough to lure in the top choices for Harbaugh.

Losing out on your first choices at key positions like defensive coordinator and strength and conditioning coach are not good looks. There especially not good looks for a program trying to bring glory back to the proudest college football program in the history of the game.

Money, prestige and upward mobility are all on the table for any coach who wants it. The fact that the program’s name and Harbaugh’s relationships aren’t enough for any coach to just jump at the opportunity speaks volumes of just where this program is at.

Maybe Harbaugh hits a home run by going outside his comfort zone and finds the right hires for the Wolverines, but this is Meeecchhiiggaann we’re talking about. It’s astounding that coaches aren’t saying “how high” when Michigan says “jump.”

Andy Coppens is the Founder and Publisher of Talking10. He's a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college sports in some capacity since 2008. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyOnFootball


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