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Michigan Coach Profile: Jay Harbaugh

The special teams coordinator and safeties coach is here for more than just his name.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 04 Big Ten Championship Game - Michigan v Iowa Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Jay Harbaugh has almost become as synonymous with the Michigan Wolverines coaching staff as his father, head coach Jim Harbaugh. Entering his eighth season as an assistant in Ann Arbor, Jay did not become the longest tenured assistant on the Michigan coaching staff solely by nepotism. He earned it.

While most coaches were former players, Harbaugh began his coaching career at the age of 18. Harbaugh went to Oregon State University to receive a degree in coaching under then Beavers head coach Mike Riley and never looked back.

Oregon State (2008-2011), Undergraduate Assistant

During his time in Corvallis, Harbaugh primarily worked with the special teams units, while performing several other smaller duties for Riley’s staff. The Beavers were 25-25 while Harbaugh was a low-level assistant, including 1-1 in bowl games.

Before his final season at Oregon State, Harbaugh also interned with the 49ers as an assistant in the scouting department for the summer of 2011 with their new head coach —his father— Jim Harbaugh.

Baltimore Ravens (2012-2014), Video Staff, Weight Room Staff, Offensive Quality Control Coach

Freshly graduated with a degree in coaching (and sociology for what it’s worth) and an NFL internship under his belt, Harbaugh joined his uncle John’s coaching staff as an assistant coach with the Baltimore Ravens in 2012.

I imagine Jim’s call to his brother John went something like this:

*polishing off a glass of milk*

“Ahh, John, it’s Jim. Do you have anything open for your nephew? The York’s will look at me crazy if I bring him on full-time.”

“I don’t know, Jim. Maybe something in the film room, but it won’t be much.”

“That sounds gritty. It’s perfect.”

That season, John Harbaugh’s Ravens would defeat Jim Harbaugh’s San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl. Jay Harbaugh won a Super Bowl at the age of 23 in his first year of full-time coaching.

Jay’s first two years in Baltimore can best be described as “earning his stripes.” Much like any young coach breaking into the business, Harbaugh worked with the video and weight room staff essentially doing anything and everything to make an impact as a bottom-rung assistant.

His work did not go unnoticed and in his third year, Jay was promoted to an offensive quality control coach. A 26-year old intern by the name of Mike Macdonald also joined the staff this season.

However, by the end of the 2014 season, Jay left the Ravens to join his father at the University of Michigan.

Michigan (2015-Present), Tight Ends, Assistant Special Teams Coach, Running Backs, Special Teams Coordinator, Safeties

Jay has enjoyed immense success as an assistant coach in Ann Arbor no matter which position group he has worked with. Some of the names under Harbaugh’s direct guidance include: two-time All-American tight end Jake Butt, running backs Karan Higdon, Chris Evans, Zach Charbonnet, Hassan Haskins, and tight ends Erick All and Luke Schoonmaker.

While his positional work includes a ‘who’s who’ of impactful players over the last eight seasons, nothing has been more impressive than his work on special teams. During his time at Michigan, Jay Harbaugh has worked with the following:

  • Returners: Jabrill Peppers (Heisman finalist, All-American), Donovan Peoples-Jones (freshman All-American), Giles Jackson (tied Michigan record for kick-off return touchdowns through two seasons)
  • Punt Block Specialist: Khaleke Hudson (set a Michigan record by blocking five punts during his career)
  • Punter: Will Hart (second team All-American)
  • Kicker: Jake Moody (the first kicker to win the Lou Groza Award in UM history)

In 2021, Jay Harbaugh was recognized by FootballScoop as the Special Teams Coordinator of the Year.

Entering the 2022 season, Jay Harbaugh will take over the safeties as well as serving as the team’s special teams coordinator. This will be the first time he has worked with a defensive positional group, but given his track record, expect success.