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Jim Harbaugh explains the process behind assistant coach overhaul this offseason

The youth movement has been underway, but that was not the priority in the search for new names.

NCAA Football: Michigan at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

The Michigan Wolverines’ struggles on the football field last fall are well-documented to this point. A 2-4 season that saw the team look lifeless and listless at times necessitated major changes behind the scenes at Schembechler Hall. Head coach Jim Harbaugh was not one of them, but he was given a “prove it” extension and a chance to get back on track with new blood on the coaching staff.

What followed was a breakneck process of reshaping the group of assistants that worked under Harbaugh, which saw them go much younger across the board. A change had to be made as recently as a week ago after linebackers coach Brian Jean-Mary left for Tennessee. Instead of hiring to the defense, Harbaugh moved Ron Bellamy to safeties and hired a quarterbacks coach in Matt Weiss.

Confusing, right? Harbaugh explained what went into that during his first media session of 2021 on Thursday.

“When Brian Jean-Mary left for Tennessee a few days ago, it created an opening on the staff,” Harbaugh said. “And like I did throughout the entire process, it was looking at what coaches would be the best fit for us, the best possible coach available. And there was the opportunity to hire Matt Weiss. It was the best thing for our team. We re-configured. I planned to coach the quarterbacks myself, but that was the way I could configure it. But also hire Coach Weiss, who I know really (well). Been with him at Stanford and been with my brother at the Ravens. Swung for the fences there and that’s how I could make it work.

“Had to also ask Ron Bellamy to go to the secondary, which was part of the original plan way back in December/January. And then George Helow moved from safeties to linebackers. We’re now set, I feel really great about the staff, I really do. And also, just that told me a lot, too. I said, ‘Ron, would you be opposed to moving to safeties?’ He said, ‘No, coach, whatever’s best for the team.’ And talked to George Helow about going from safeties to linebackers, and he had the same response. ‘Coach, whatever’s best for the team.’ I told them that’s music to my ears. And a tune you don’t always hear played that often in today’s world. Just made me know I got the right guys and I got the right guys on board. Working hard, coaching hard. So I feel, as you can tell, I feel really good about where the staff is.”

The plan was simple, according to Harbaugh. He did not feel as if there was a disconnect with the previous staff and simply felt that the hires that were made were what needed to be done.

“(I did) what I felt was best for the team,” he said. “I’m not really gonna go into comparisons or all the reasons why. But gave it a lot of thought (and) put a lot of energy into it. Everything I did, I believe was the best for our program and our players and the Michigan football program.

“Just looking for great coaches, really,” he continued. “That was the thing I was looking for the most. Happens that there’s definitely a... whatever you classify as young. I feel that they’re already accomplished coaches for their age. Definitely coaches that are gonna do great things in this profession.”

The program just kicked off spring football, so it is hard to truly get a grasp on the impact being made on the field so far. Recruiting has seen an uptick in recent weeks, however. The efforts of the younger staff have helped Michigan land a handful of prospects with a potential five-star in Will Johnson potentially being the next to drop.

“It’s been impressive,” Harbaugh said. “Our coaches, they’ve come in and you can tell there’s real love for it. Getting into the trenches and forming those relationships. It’s very much so relationship-based. Been really good. That’s the kind of guys they are and so I’d say, you ask what the philosophy is, that’s what we’ve seen.”