BIG RAPIDS, Mich. — Michigan Wolverines head football coach Jim Harbaugh and his entire staff is at Ferris State University Thursday for the Sound Mind Sound Body sponsored satellite camp featuring top in-state recruiting talent and coaches from dozens of schools across the country.
Harbaugh gave a rousing speech to the campers, then spoke with the media before heading out to the field to coach and evaluate prospects.
The NCAA ended its 14 and a half month-long dead period due to the COVID-19 pandemic this week, and the Michigan coaches have taken full advantage. Harbaugh and staffers made appearances in Atlanta and Memphis Tuesday, before hosting ‘Detroit Day’ in Ann Arbor Wednesday and heading northwest for today’s camp.
An energized Harbaugh has been enjoying his time with recruits and fellow coaches.
“It’s fantastic,” Harbaugh said. “I think you feel it from everybody — coaches you haven’t seen in a long time. Players — meeting new ones. Coming to a camp, it’s been a long time. It’s nice to feel back to normal.
“You like to see guys doing what they do, having at it, going out and competing. All of the drills, you see balance, you see athleticism, you see speed. And you look at their effort, too. Looking for above average talent and above average effort, as well.”
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Harbaugh attended camps like this one when he was a youth football player and high school prospect back in the 1970s and 1980s, and he was attempting to draw on that experience during his speech.
“I was trying to put myself in their shoes,” he explained. “I remember what it was like to go to a camp.
“And just to let them know how lucky they are — how lucky, lucky, lucky they are to be healthy and to be alive, to be able to have this day, to have coaches, the coaches that they have, the coaches that are here, to be pushing them. How many times in life… you go through something in life and you screw it up, but in football you’ve got somebody to be there to tell you, ‘Hey, that’s not good enough. Get back on that line, do it again.’
“What a gift to have somebody who cares enough about you to want to see you be successful, and that’s what I love about all the coaches that are here and the messages that they were delivering.”
Among Michigan’s staff are six new assistant coaches, including defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald, defensive passing game coordinator Steve Clinkscale, safeties coach Ron Bellamy, linebackers coach George Helow, running backs coach Mike Hart and quarterbacks coach Matt Weiss.
Harbaugh hired coaches who have youth — the average age of the assistants is now 36, as opposed to 46 last year — and many who possess a proven track record in recruiting.
“A lot of energy, a lot of football knowledge,” Harbaugh said of his staff. “Young but very, very experienced coaching staff. Guys that are hungry and humble — that’s what I like the most about it. Getting after it — Memorial Day has passed, it’s time for football; we’re in June.
Added Harbaugh, when asked if he’s feeding off their energy: “I was born with it. I just always have it. But yeah, to have the guys, how much it means to them, what we want to do. But also an attitude of gratitude, and also hungry. I feel like when I’m looking at them, I’m looking in the mirror.”
Clinkscale is the replacement for Mo Linguist, who was only in Ann Arbor for a few months as Michigan’s co-defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach, before leaving for the head-coaching job at Buffalo.
Harbaugh moved quickly to hire Clinkscale away from Kentucky, adding him to the staff just four days after Linguist’s departure.
“I’ve been talking to Steve for a long time, many years, and it just meshed up this time around,” Harbaugh said. “Glad he’s finally on the staff, and he’s glad he’s on the staff. He’s been here a couple weeks, and I’m even gladder he’s on the staff. He’s really good; he really knows what he’s doing.”
Harbaugh didn’t just make changes to his on-field staff, he revamped his recruiting department. Michigan brought in Director of Player Personnel Courtney Morgan and a few new staffers, while also shifting around some existing roles.
“Courtney Morgan… I was told by Perry [Porikos] — Perry owns The Brown Jug [restaurant] — he kept telling me about Courtney Morgan, Courtney Morgan. So I called Courtney Morgan, and just like that I said, ‘This guy, this guy right here.’
“Very talented, and loves Michigan. We were just fast friends, I’ll put it that way. Really glad he’s here. He’s doing a heck of a good job.
“And other guys. [Assistant Recruiting Coordinator] Jarrett McElwain is doing a great job, he’s really trusted. He’s doing a super good job. [Recruiting Operations Coordinator] Tony Jones doing really good.
“We brought in two gals. [Director of On-Campus Recruiting and Operations] Christina DeRuyter — talk about energy, talk about positive energy. I love it. I can’t walk past her door without her saying hello.
“[Director of Football Branding and Strategic Communications] Sydney Sims, another really good addition.
“[Director of Recruiting] Coach [Aashon] Lark[ins] is a great coach, he’s a great coach, great person. We’ve been together, he’s not new at all. He’s been here for years. It’s definitely gotten bigger. Tony Jones, [Director of High School Relations] Chris Bryant, we’ve gotten bigger, and I believe, stronger as well.”
Michigan is set to host its own prospect camp Sunday (June 6), before traveling to Wayne State University in Detroit Monday (June 7) for another camp.