On Saturday morning, Jim Harbaugh threw a curveball when he officially announced the hiring of his two new staff members to replace Chris Partridge and Anthony Campanile. One was known and expected for a couple of days in former Tennessee and Mississippi State defensive coordinator Bob Shoop.
The other name, however, came out of left field. Harbaugh tabbed former University of South Florida defensive coordinator Brian Jean-Mary as his new linebackers coach. This came after days of speculation that assistant strength and conditioning coach Tenarius “Tank” Wright would get the role. Wright was even on the road recruiting Friday when the dead period lifted.
Instead, hiring Jean-Mary proved once again Harbaugh does his homework when looking for assistant coaches. A former assistant strength coach himself, Jean-Mary is a Charlie Strong disciple, following him from Louisville to Texas to USF, and proving himself as one of the best recruiters in the country along the way.
While Wright would have probably been a fine hire for recruiting, Jean-Mary is a clear upgrade that will go a long way in replacing the production Partridge and Campanile left. While at Texas, Jean-Mary was Strong’s recruiting coordinator, spearheading back-to-back top 10 classes in 2015 and 2016.
At an individual level, Jean-Mary was also excellent. In 2015, his first full year at Texas, he finished as the No. 1 recruiter in the Big 12 and seventh in the country, according to 247Sports’ recruiter rankings. In 2016, he was fourth in the conference and 28th overall.
He was the primary recruiter for several blue chip recruits, including five-star linebacker Malik Jefferson and a pair of top 100 defensive ends. Besides his collection of four-stars, Jean-Mary also showed an eye for talent, landing three-stars Lil’Jordan Humphrey and Breckyn Hager (No. 1,546 overall), who eventually turned into All-Big 12 players.
This experience at Texas will open up one of the most talent-rich states in the country for Michigan, who has dabbled in the state before but not been a major presence — as say Ohio State has — in the past few years.
Jean-Mary will also open doors in Florida, another major state in terms of football talent. He is a native of Apopka, a hotbed in the state just north of Orlando. While at USF, he gained the defensive coordinator title and his focused definitely shifted from recruiting to X’s and O’s, as he’s only listed as the primary recruiter for three players in the last two years there.
However, at Michigan he’ll be allowed to put most of his efforts on recruiting with Don Brown also coaching linebackers and having Bob Shoop there to help out with game-planning. Linebacker isn’t a very high priority in 2021 because of the Wolverines’ huge class in 2020, so it will be interesting to see what major targets at the top of their board he can pull (*stares at Branden Jennings*).
He’s also been the primary recruiter for a handful of defensive linemen and wide receivers, which are much higher on the priority list for 2021.
Overall, this hire is very welcome news for Michigan fans. The defense needed another strong recruiter to pair up with Shaun Nua after Campanile and Partridge left, and Jean-Mary has a great reputation in that area. He’s built relationships in two strong sources of talent in the country and is a good on-field coach to boot. Hopefully he hits the ground running at Michigan and mends any broken relationships from the coaching transition.