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Tuesday Morning Brews (9/9/14)

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The Candidacy

Tracy Wolfson is a Michigan Woman. Mike Wallace, who was one of the most influential men of the 20th century, was a Michigan Man. There's a certain pride attached to that, as there should be. Heck... even Darth Vader, for all his considerable faults, was a Michigan Man before serving as Supreme Commander in Chief of a lot of places.

The Michigan family is a large, dysfunctional one, with plenty of new family members all the time - cousins and distant relatives and adoptees. Mary Sue Coleman became Michigan's president after leaving Iowa, and she became the face of Michigan. In short, the university has maintained itself on much more than 'Michigan' credentials. And this comes into play in the scenario that Michigan has to find a new head coach.

Among Michigan Men, the list is small and dwindling. Les Miles seems content at Louisiana State, and John Harbaugh has one of the better jobs in the NFL. For a competitive man like him, trying to make a Hall of Fame career at the highest level possible, it would be hard imagining him returning to the Big Ten. Then there's John Harbaugh, who attended Pioneer High School across the street from the Big House; he has even spent some time in Baltimore hiring Michigan Men (Greg Mattison served as the Ravens' defensive coordinator, with Cam Cameron serving as offensive coordinator before teaming up with Les at LSU). But John also seems unlikely to return.

The question, then, becomes the very first question that should be asked: what is the path to success? Who do you bring in? Who is the best? Part of the value of Michigan Men is that they know the level of expectations, and the program knows what they're getting. In a risk-laden process, having motivated, extremely talented coaches who have a soft spot for Ann Arbor is a tremendous asset. Michigan doesn't have many of those - a far cry from the days of Bo and Gary Moeller. If Michigan is built on the people inside those walls - and it is - the football program has fallen behind the rest of the university. It's something that's catching up to donations, recruiting, wins, and expectations.

Unfortunately, it's in the opinion of many, including this writer, that this dearth goes all the way up to athletic director. In the meantime, however, it is absolutely critical that if a new football coach is chosen, it be a good one. For one, this process is more complicated than paying a hot coach a big salary. It's a process of talent evaluation and fit. And with any large process, it's important to analyze the possible directions forward before making drastic decisions. At this point, this conversation is purely hypothetical - but still necessary.

Talent evaluation is important because as coaches become more successful, it's generally harder to lure them away from their program. Getting Frank Beamer from Virginia Tech, or Bob Stoops from Oklahoma, just isn't going to happen. At the same time, there's an increasing amount of risk in rolling the dice on someone who's been successful at, say, Toledo, Cincinnati, or Northern Illinois and nowhere else. A common middle ground is something like what happened to James Franklin or Charlie Strong, who managed to build something in limited time for a program without a history of success. In this category, there are a few coaches Michigan could and might consider - and even inquire about behind the scenes if they become more serious about doing a coaching search.

One is Kevin Wilson. Indiana's coach has changed expectations in Bloomington, and he brings a level of no-nonsense grit that I think Michigan fans would like. He was a college walk-on at the University of North Carolina, earning a scholarship after two seasons and then staying there after he expired his eligibility to work as a graduate assistant and get a master's degree.

After a number of years in the state, including a year at the high school level, Wilson settled down in Ohio coaching and recruiting for the Miami Redhawks, following by Northwestern, followed by Oklahoma. In his nine seasons at Oklahoma, Wilson won the Broyles Award, the Sooners won an average of 11 games, and the offense produced a top-5 unit four times and a top-20 unit seven times. He is young (52) and not paid very much as coaches go ($1,200,000). If the Hoosiers win 7 or 8 games this year, he'll have earned some attention.

A more sexy name for Michigan fans is UCLA's Jim Mora. After being linked to the Washington vacancy as well as to Texas, Mora turned that into a contract extension last off-season that brought him into a more appropriate salary range of $3.5 million. Mora has a career 21-8 record in a little over two seasons at UCLA, plus a 32-34 mark in the NFL. He has stated a desire to remain at UCLA, and also has heavy West Coast ties. He's been terrific, obviously, though just like any other candidate, he would also have to interview well and outline what schemes and philosophy he would execute, and how he could win right away.

Another possibility is Mississippi's Hugh Freeze. Everywhere he's gone, his programs have spiked their production and win totals, and now he's shown the ability to compete in the SEC (remember, the year before he showed up in Oxford, Ole Miss was a 2-10 team in 2011). Freeze is also just 44 years old.

Another vein of thought is to look among the NFL's ranks, which tends to produce a splashy hire and sustained success on the recruiting trail. There are a couple names that jump out - Jim Schwartz, New England's DC Matt Patricia, Seattle's DC Dan Quinn, and Arizona's OC Harold Goodwin - but it's unknown what these people's interest would be. It would be one of many stones to overturn.

A popular pick is Doug Nussmeier. I've been impressed with his rise through the ranks as a coordinator, and obviously he'd deserve an interview. But he is an unknown. Some of the many questions that would have to be asked would be - who would his coordinators be? What network has he built up during his short career? What would he do on defense? He has a good resume, at least on one side of the ball, but it's the cover letter, so to speak, that actually matters. He has to have answers to all those questions, and even then it's a risky choice. On the other hand, risky choices are sometimes the only good ones, and he has gotten a great chance to see inside the program. Where coaches and question marks are concerned, someone gets the benefit of the doubt if they have shown to be smart problem-solvers. Nussmeier seems like a smart guy.... but that's a short cover letter.

To repeat, this conversation is about preparation, not vengeance after a dispiriting loss. It's also a window into what the process could be like and what some names would be that might interest Michigan. With that said, it's a long season ahead (hopefully not painfully long), and much can happen. It's also a possibility that if Brady Hoke is sitting on the bubble after 2014, and no other coaches seem to be the right fit, Michigan's athletic department could roll with Hoke for one more year if they feel it's worth the wait for someone after 2015. What they certainly can't do is pick a yes-man (not necessarily accusing Hoke of that), or allow whatever politics have gone on behind closed doors among Michigan's upper echelon to affect a potential hire.

Hitting the Links Wins Against Its Rivals

OSU's Underperforming Wide Receivers

This was both a good read and a bit cathartic. Michael Thomas shined for the Buckeyes, but he was the only to catch more than a pass. Buckeye fans aren't too happy with OC Tom Herman, either.

Michigan Players: 'We're Going to Continue to Fight'

I was shaking my head reading them saying that Michigan was just one game, but perhaps it's the attitude the team needs to take.

Michigan vs. Notre Dame Awards

This was a great read from Touch the Banner.

Promises, and Adversity

As user 05fastford points out, Michigan has won only 3 of its last 10 games.

Week 2 Inside Read

Pete Thamel and Thayer Evans discuss UCLA's frightening early performances and a key adjustment that helped change the fate of the Michigan State-Oregon game. Oregon also certainly benefited from its ability to be more efficient than MSU.

Minnesota and TCU Series Done 'Reluctantly'

This looks at some matchups but also the relationship between the two programs, which has been very warm in the past. Their staffs have collaborated, and Patterson and Kill are friends with each other.

Miami (OH), By The Numbers

This gives you an early preview of exactly how bad the Redhawks' losing streak is, and what they can actually do well.

Pac-12, Week 2: The Good, The Bad, & The Unknown

The Big Ten gets an honorable mention. September 6th, 2014 is now "the day the Big Ten died." Gee, thanks.

Penn State Sanctions Lifted

This also has a big effect on 2015 recruiting, both in terms of what the staff can tell recruits and the number of recruits they can add.

Iowa vs. Ball State: The Takeaways

This was a good read, insightful and critical of some of Iowa's shortcomings.

B1G Bowl Projections

Most of the Big Ten sites do a week recap, but the Crimson Quarry spins it more into a bowl projection. Bowls are too far off, obviously, but this does actually go deeper than that and is smart-alecky in a way that makes it a more enjoyable read. The best of the Big Ten's recaps (until Peter's later today).

Kiy Hester Transfers to Rutgers

The four-star Miami safety is coming home.

Chad Lindsay Leaves the Buckeyes

This comes after news that fellow lineman Evan Lisle injured his knee and could miss the 2014 season. Best of luck to both men.

Recruiting Struggles for Northwestern?

Northwestern has lost 9 of its last 10 games, and has had six de-commits over the last 10 months.

Florida State Loses 3 D-Linemen In Citadel Game

The world of college football is never as it seems. After Clemson went down to Georgia, Florida State was supposed to be in firm command of their matchup, but it's possible they may not. That game was supposed to decide the ACC Atlantic, but Louisville may be pretty good.

The B1G Movie

A creative reinvention of a horror classic. Sad face.