The Michigan Wolverines finally won a national title after falling short in two consecutive College Football Playoff semifinals, and the coach who led them there is on his way out the door. Jim Harbaugh, who took over at Michigan in 2015, is headed out west to become the next head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Harbaugh and the Michigan program faced cheating accusations throughout the 2023 season, and more NCAA sanctions and penalties are likely to appear at some point in the next few years. Harbaugh will finish on top and avoid the repercussions as he heads back to the NFL for his second head coaching stint in the pros.
We take a look at some potential candidates to replace Harbaugh as Michigan’s head coach. While they won’t need to do a full rebuild, we can expect Harbaugh’s departure to trigger some transfer portal entries out of Michigan. The program is also losing quarterback JJ McCarthy, running back Blake Corum, and several key defensive players to the 2024 NFL Draft.
Sherrone Moore, Michigan offensive coordinator
Moore appears to be the heir apparent to the Michigan head coaching role. He took over as the Wolverines’ interim head coach during Harbaugh’s suspension and coached the team through the two biggest games of the regular season, defeating both Penn State and Ohio State. While Michigan’s defense has been the more vaunted weapon over the past several years, Moore’s offenses have exceeded expectations, and his leadership role is already carved out. Michigan risks losing Moore, who has been with the team since 2018, if they bring in an outside head coach.
Lance Leipold, Kansas head coach
Leipold has put new life into the Kansas football program over the past few years, and his name pops up again and again in these coaching candidates list. The Michigan job could just be the perfect fit for Leipold, who turned Kansas from a 2-10 team to a 9-4 team in just two seasons. While he won’t need to do the full makeover at Michigan, his track record speaks for itself, and although Leipold has never coached in Ann Arbor, he came up through the Big Ten in his early coaching career and would be a good fit in the program.
Mike MacDonald, Ravens defensive coordinator
MacDonald’s name has been tossed around in NFL head coaching talks, but if he doesn’t land a pro job, Baltimore’s DC would be a likely target for Michigan. MacDonald was the Wolverines’ defensive coordinator during the 2021 season, and led the team to a Big Ten championship and a College Football Playoff appearance.
Jesse Minter, Michigan defensive coordinator
Minter has been with Michigan since 2022 and has been enormously successful, producing some of the best defenses in recent school history and leading the Wolverines to a national title. However, Moore seems like the more logical promotion if Michigan decides to keep this hire in the family. Minter previously worked with the Ravens as a DB coach.