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What Does Michigan Get With Pep Hamilton?

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The former Harbaugh assistant brings plenty of NFL experience.

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Buffalo Bills Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Monday that Pep Hamilton will be heading to Ann Arbor to complete Michigan’s staff, after several days of speculation that Hamilton would replace Jedd Fisch, now UCLA’s offensive coordinator.

This is an interesting move, and a very good hire, that Harbaugh has done once before. In 2010, when Pep Hamilton already had extensive NFL coaching experience under his belt, Harbaugh brought him on as Stanford’s wide receivers coach, a move that brought him a promotion within a year. David Shaw, who was Harbaugh’s offensive coordinator and Stanford’s replacement head coach after 2010, promoted Pep to be his own offensive coordinator for the next two seasons.

Pep ultimately skipped town when the NFL came calling with an offer of their own: to be the offensive coordinator for Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts. That lasted for two and a half years before Pep was fired, possibly the scapegoat of a floundering ship that is still floundering, but not yet sinking, to this day.

Still, Pep managed to land on his feet - serving as the assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach for Cleveland in 2016. But that’s just the resume of Pep Hamilton. What does all this mean, and what does it do for the Wolverines in 2017 and beyond?

The first thing to know about Pep Hamilton is he’s a mature, stoic type of coach with a big pedigree. He’s worked for ‘calmer’ NFL coaches like Lovie Smith, Hue Jackson, and Chuck Pagano; he’s also worked for more fiery types like Harbaugh and Herm Edwards.

"He's very energetic, always trying to learn," said Herm Edwards. (And, in fact, that’s why he got the nickname ‘Pep’ as a kid.) "He would go to meetings with the defensive coaches, and I'd say, 'You're just ... finding out what the defense is keying on.' "

Back when Pep was a college quarterback, he was already more of a coach than he was a player, and interned for the Kansas City Chiefs, Washington Redskins, and Baltimore Ravens - before turning into a quarterbacks coach the year he graduated. He was credited with coaching his quarterback teammates into stars at the Division 1-AA level.

“He's got great experience,” said David Shaw, who admitted, “there are a lot of times I lean on his experience.”

“He and I were raised very similarly,” said Shaw. “He was raised by a cop; I was raised by a football coach. There wasn't a lot of wiggle room. You learn how to prepare. You learn how to be systematic. You learn how to, when you open your mouth, know what you're talking about.”

NCAA Football: Stanford at Notre Dame
Shaw and Pep Hamilton have known each other since 2002, when Shaw was the Ravens’ quarterback coach.
Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

One thing Pep definitely knows about is pro-style offense. His Indianapolis offense was like a pro version of Stanford, with Andrew Luck and tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen. He’s coached Andrew Luck, Alex Smith, Matt Hasselbeck, and Jay Cutler, as well as Reggie Wayne, Frank Gore, and T.Y. Hilton. And for Cleveland, he was a valued part of a veteran staff - not just coaching, but evaluating talent and the direction of the team.

“We’re ultimately going to do whatever it takes to feature our playmakers,” Hamilton said. “We consider offensive linemen to be playmakers as well.”

As for quarterbacks: “I do feel like every quarterback is different,” he said. “The plan for... whoever it is we have at quarterback, be it a veteran quarterback or a young quarterback if we draft a quarterback - you have to have a plan that’s specific for that quarterback.”

Pep will also be an asset in recruiting up and down the East Coast. He was born in Charlotte, North Carolina and grew up a Tar Heels fan when Michael Jordan was there. He went to Howard University in Washington D.C., and fell in love with the entire city. It was because of Hamilton that Stanford got Kevin Hogan, a Virginia native.

“I’m grounded in the D.C. area. Just the culture of the town and the cultural diversity is what makes it a special place in my opinion,” Hamilton said. “D.C. has a special place in my heart.”

Now, his job will be to turn Michigan’s passing game around with execution - and the eye of a highly regarded NFL coach.