clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

What new Michigan assistant Steve Clinkscale brings to the program

A look at Clinkscale’s background and what it might mean for Michigan.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 03 Georgia at Kentucky Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Per multiple reports, Michigan is hiring Kentucky defensive backs coach Steve Clinkscale as passing game coordinator and defensive backs coach. The terms are believed to be a three-year contract for Clinkscale, with an opportunity to receive a promotion to co-defensive coordinator in the second and third year of the agreement.

247Sports Sam Webb reported that Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh was in contact with Clinkscale previously about joining the staff the past two years, but never received an offer. The prior familiarity and conversations the two had surely played a part in how quickly Michigan was able to get Clinkscale on the staff.

Here’s a look at who Steve Clinkscale is and what he brings to Michigan.

Clinkscale’s Coaching History

  • 2001-07: Ashland- Defensive Backs
  • 2008: Western Carolina- Defensive Backs
  • 2009-11: Toledo- Special Teams Coordinator, Cornerbacks
  • 2012: Illinois- Cornerbacks
  • 2013-14: Cincinnati- Defensive Backs
  • 2015: Cincinnati- Defensive Coordinator, Defensive Backs
  • 2016-2020: Kentucky- Defensive Backs
  • 2021: Kentucky- Passing Game Coordinator/DBs

Recruiting background

  • Has experience recruiting in Michigan. Had Kentucky in the mix for Michigan commit, safety Makari Paige. Gained the commitment of Oak Park, MI 2020 five-star OL Justin Rogers, and landed Beecher WR Earnest Sanders. Has a relationship with Michigan commit, 2022 CB Will Johnson (Gross Pointe, MI)
  • The first coach who offered Michigan CB target, three-star CB Myles Pollard.
  • Lead recruiter at Kentucky for four-star 2022 CB Marquis Groves-Killebrew, who will be visiting Michigan in June.
  • A Youngstown, Ohio native. Michigan needs to strengthen recruiting in Ohio.
  • Lead recruiter for four of Kentucky’s top six ranked players in 2020.

Coaching highlights

  • Experience as a defensive coordinator in 2015, which makes a potential promotion to co-DC next season not the least bit surprising. The Bearcats ranked third in the American Athletic Conference in passing yards allowed per game (217).
  • Has had success developing players, turning them into NFL talent. In 2019 CB Lonnie Johnson was drafted in the second round, safety Mike Edwards in the third. In 2021 CB Kelvin Joseph was drafted in the second round, CB Brandin Echols in the sixth.
  • As cornerbacks coach at Illinois, the Fighting Illini ranked in the top 20 in pass defense.
  • As special teams coordinator at Toledo the punt return unit ranked No. 17 in 2011, the kickoff return team was ranked No. 11 in 2010.
  • Part of a coaching staff at Kentucky in 2018 that went 10-3 and ranked 12th in the final AP Poll, which was the most wins and highest final poll slot for the Wildcats since 1977.
  • Kentucky’s defense ranked second in the fewest touchdown passes allowed with 9, and No. 3 in passing yards allowed per game with just 167.8. Kentucky led the SEC in passing defense and this in pass efficiency defense.
  • Has been to ten bowl games as an assistant coach.


Michigan is getting a seasoned coach with connections to Michigan coaches like Ron Bellamy, and recruits like Will Johnson. Clinkscale has experience recruiting the midwest, has a track record of being a good recruiter. and a good coach that can develop talent. Clinkscale is a big reason why Kentucky turned into a competitive team in the SEC.

Seeing as it is the middle of May and Michigan was in a pinch to find an adequate replacement for the departed Mo Linguist, Michigan did quite a good job turning a bad situation into a fairly positive one quickly. With Clinkscale now in the fold Michigan can get back to work on the recruiting trail and craft their path forward knowing they have a new assistant who embraces the recruiting side of his job.

What makes the hire all the more intriguing is Clinkscale receiving passing game coordinator duties on top of being defensive backs coach. Clinkscale’s first time being a passing game coordinator came just a season ago, but his production as a DBs coach is indicative of his ability to see the moving parts on both sides of the chess battle which is receiver vs. defensive back.

Only time will tell how this hire will pan out, but his units have had success on the field — the numbers don’t lie in that regard.