Michigan finished up hiring the coaching staff on the defensive side of the ball yesterday with the hiring of defensive line coach Shaun Nua. As with all of Michigan’s coaching changes this offseason, I’m here to break down the move from a recruiting perspective.
Like Josh Gattis and Anthony Campanile, Nua checks off a lot of boxes on what I’d look for in a good recruiting hire. Nua is the oldest of the three new hires, but he’s only 37 years old. He’s steadily moved up the ladder, going from a great stretch at Navy to a lower Power 5 job at Arizona State. Nua had an earlier offer to coach for his former defensive coordinator and boss Bronco Mendenhall at Virginia, but turned it down, showing he isn’t one to bolt without serious consideration (and a big pay bump).
Service academy recruiting is weird, so there’s not much to gleam about his recruiting prowess from there. So we’ll have to go on his one season at Arizona State. While it’s a small sample size, it is promising and indicative of his recruiting strengths.
The Sun Devils only have two recruits rated as 4-stars in their class, quarterback Jayden Daniels and defensive end Stephon Wright. Nua was the secondary recruiter for Wright. I don’t know how Herm Edwards runs his recruiting, but considering Wright and his primary recruiter are both from Los Angeles, I believe regional connection is why Nua was not the point man. He still played a large role in landing the 4-star.
What’s interesting is Nua also played a large part in Daniels’ recruitment, despite their disparate positions. The reputation on Nua is that he’s extremely amiable, forming deep bonds with his players and coworkers. That relationship building apparently was a big draw for Daniels, the No. 2 dual-threat quarterback in the country.
Having a coach who can connect with anyone will be an extremely valuable skill for Michigan to take advantage of. The longer Nua stays in Ann Arbor, the more rewards this trait will reap.
A more specific connection Nua will have with potential recruits is his Polynesian heritage. Considering Michigan is smack dab in the Midwest, they’ve never really been involved in Samoan and Hawaiian players, who generally stick to the West Coast.
Nua will help open up that connection for Michigan. It won’t be easy or immediate since you’re still convincing players to go across the country — 12 hours by plane if you’re flying from Hawaii. But it widens the pool of players that will have interest in the Wolverines, and that can’t be overstated.
Geographically, I think Nua’s hire included a bit of a short-term strategy by Jim Harbaugh. The state of Arizona is abnormally loaded for the 2020 cycle, and Michigan has been quick to jump in and press its luck. It’s already paid off with a commitment from JD Johnson, but there are plenty of other targets in the state. Having a coach who spent the last year forming relationships with these guys puts another feather in Michigan’s cap.
In a broader sense, areas like Southern California, Hawaii and Utah could be more in play with Nua’s hiring. The three recruits Nua was listed as being the recruiter for on 247Sports are from either Los Angeles or Hawaii. Michigan has Jay Harbaugh tasked with recruiting basically everywhere past the Rockies right now, so adding another coach who has connections in the area will be a great help.
Overall, Nua’s hire isn’t quite as big of a splash as Gattis or Campanile’s. He doesn’t have the track record in recruiting like the others do, but in time I think he can replace the efforts of Greg Mattison, especially that from his later years. Like most coaches, going to Michigan opens a whole new swath of resources and caliber of player they’ve never had access to. If Nua’s magnetic personality is as advertised, that makes just the right mix for recruiting.
This offseason, Michigan has upgraded its West Coast, New Jersey and Pennsylvania recruiting, while losing some foothold in Ohio. That’s a trade I’d take.