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Jim Harbaugh is banking on a youthful revolution to boost recruiting

This offseason’s hires signal a clear philosophy shift in the program.

NCAA Football: Michigan at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Jim Harbaugh isn’t dumb. He knows after the poor showing last season and severe pay cut that he is on a short leash as Michigan’s head coach. To salvage his tenure in Ann Arbor, Harbaugh had to make big changes in his coaching staff on both sides of the ball.

It’s pretty clear based on the hires made so far that Harbaugh has decided to take his staff in a new direction — away from X’s and O’s experience and development and toward youthful energy and recruiting.

Take a look at the ages of the coaches he has replaced compared to the ones he hired:

Age of Michigan’s coaching staff

2020 Staff 2021 Staff
2020 Staff 2021 Staff
Don Brown - 65 Mike MacDonald - 33
Mike Zordich - 57 Mo Linguist - 36
Bob Shoop - 54 George Helow - 34
Ben McDaniels - 40 Mike Hart - 34
Average age - 54 Average age - 34.25

On average, a new coach Harbaugh has hired is 20 years younger than last year’s counterpart.

It seems Harbaugh has finally recognized to compete with the elite programs in today’s college football landscape, all 11 on-field coaches have to be recruiters. Having a handful of purely developmental coaches just won’t cut it when you’re trying to close the talent gap with Ohio State.

Now, being older doesn’t necessarily mean you aren’t an energetic recruiter. Kerry Coombs and Larry Johnson at Ohio State are 59 and 69 years old respectively. They’re also the 10th and 22nd best recruiters in the country according to 247Sports’ rankings.

But being young definitely does help as you have more energy and are driven to put in the effort required on the recruiting trail. From day one of these hires, you can already see the difference in the number of scholarships offered.

In the last five days (at the time of this writing), Michigan has offered 23 prospects. That is the same number of prospects Michigan offered in the span of time between Sept.15, 2020 and Jan. 18, 2021.

Co-defensive coordinator/cornerbacks coach Maurice Linguist was the first one to really make a splash. His first day on the job, he offered a slew of defensive backs in Texas, his main recruiting territory. He also connected with top cornerback targets in 2022, five-stars Domani Jackson and Will Johnson, and four-star Jaeden Gould.

Running backs coach Mike Hart also hit the ground running, contacting several of Michigan’s targets, such as five-star Gavin Sawchuk and four-stars George Pettaway and Gi’Bran Payne. He also sent out a new offer of his own to Texas three-star Ollie Gordon. Keep an eye on Gordon, as he’s poised for a big move up the recruiting rankings after a 2,000-yard season and a stunning performance in the playoffs.

In the last couple days, Michigan has also been dishing out plenty of offers in Florida, specifically in and around Jacksonville. That’d be safeties coach George Helow’s territory, as he grew up there. He offered a couple prospects from Bartram Trail, Micah Pollard and Sharif Denson, as well as 2023 top 100 athlete Treyaun Webb. Michigan’s offer to 2022 three-star defensive end Aaron Hester already has him pushing back his scheduled commitment date.

There haven’t been many offers that have Mike MacDonald’s fingerprints clearly on them yet, but given the large majority of new offers have been to defensive prospects, he has been a part of the process.

Hiring young coaches without as much experience is definitely a risky move, but it’s the type of move to make when you don’t have anything to lose. Naming Derek Mason or Lance Anderson as defensive coordinator probably would’ve improved the defense, but wouldn’t have done enough to reshape the program. By taking a chance on rising stars in the industry and injecting some life into the recruiting operation, Harbaugh is hoping to hit big and turn the ship around.