Before the Ohio State game, rumors started running rampant that Michigan’s defensive coordinator, DJ Durkin, had interviewed for the open Maryland job and was considered a “strong candidate”. Well, it looks like things are escalating quickly as The Wolverine’s Michael Spath is hearing that he will accept the job, if offered ($).
Yes, losing Durkin would be a blow to Michigan but this is bound to happen sooner or later. Harbaugh brought in several elite level assistant/positional coaches that were very close to taking the next step in their careers. Durkin looks to be the first to move on but very likely won’t be the last.
As for who Harbaugh could hire as his next defensive coordinator, here are 5 names that look like possibilities:
1. Scott Shafer
When Harbaugh hired Shafer in 2007 to run his defense at Stanford, he called him “one of the most creative and innovative defensive minds in college football.” Though his time as the DC of the Cardinal was short and sweet (one season but beat heavily favorited USC), he made the move all Michigan fans hope every top candidate would do and accepted a job at UM in 2008 under Rich Rod. Well, that didn’t go too well as he resigned after the season and ended up at Syracuse where he was the DC for 4 years until being named head coach in 2013 when Doug Marrone left.
2. Vic Fangio
Would the longtime NFL coordinator and assistant come to the college game? Maybe, if Jim Harbaugh came calling. Fangio, though still under contract with the Chicago Bears, is the hottest name to replace Durkin since he was Harbaugh’s defensive coordinator for all four years in San Francisco and one year at Stanford. And we all remember how amazing that defense happened to be. This would be an amazing hire for Michigan though it looks like it could be a bit of a long shot to get him out of his contract and to return to college after only one year of experience there.
3. Greg Mattison
Mattison is (IMO) the safe, fall back plan if Michigan misses on the bigger fish out there. While he is a great coordinator and would likely keep the Wolverines among the nation’s top ranked defenses, Harbaugh may be looking for an even bigger impact hire. Either way, as long as Mattison is on staff, it’s a win for UM.
4. Lance Anderson
Anderson was a very popular name to take over Harbaugh’s Michigan defense last year before UM hired Durkin thanks to being the defensive tackles coach and recruiting coordinator under Harbaugh at Stanford. Well, that didn’t happen and Anderson is now in his 2nd season as the DC for Shaw’s Cardinal. So, why would he leave? Well, Michigan will very likely pay much more than Stanford and may give him even more opportunity to grow.
5. Jeremy Pruitt
While Fangio may be the best defensive coordinator on the list, Pruitt may be the biggest impact hire. He was loved by his players at Georgia and his top recruiting targets, including Michigan’s top athlete target, Mecole Hardman Jr. Only problem, most reports have already pegged Pruitt as Kirby Smart’s replacement at Alabama. That, on top of not having any real ties to Michigan or Harbaugh, makes him a big time long shot.
Former Michigan defensive assistant and current Detroit Lions defensive coordinator is another long shot thanks to the likelihood of him landing an NFL head coaching gig or remaining the DC of the Lions, depending on what happens with Jim Caldwell. Even if he somehow gets let go and doesn’t land a head coaching job, taking a college DC job isn’t the best way to be in the running for a head coaching job next year.
The longtime defensive assistant and coordinator is likely to be on the open market in the near future after Ken Whisenhunt was fired in Tennessee. While he doesn’t even direct ties to Harbaugh or Michigan, besides being the Lions DB coach in 2002, going back to the NFL well could be a good move for UM if they miss out on some other top names.