Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh is eyeing an NFL return for the second consecutive offseason. As the Wolverines once again stare down the possibility of losing their leader, it’s time to start evaluating Michigan coaching candidates.
This is familiar territory for this athletic department. Harbaugh flirted with NFL teams during the 2022 offseason, emerging as a finalist for the Minnesota Vikings head-coaching vacancy. Ultimately, Minnesota went in another direction and Harbaugh landed a contract extension.
After Michigan made Harbaugh one of the highest-paid coaches in college football, he stated the 2022 pursuit would be the last time he chased a return to the NFL. He left the door open to taking an NFL coaching job in September before stating in December he was committed to the Wolverines, with a caveat.
Michigan now finds itself in a holding pattern, again after the college football coaching carousel came to a stop. As Harbaugh interviews with multiple NFL teams, the Wolverines are left to decide if they should extend his contract for the second consecutive year or start a coaching search.
Let’s dive into the top Michigan coaching candidates in 2023.
Shane Beamer, South Carolina Gamecocks coach
Head-coaching experience will definitely be preferred by Michigan. However, it’s also imperative to avoid hiring a retreat coach whose best days are behind them. Shane Beamer, one of the rising top coaches in college football, could be the ideal option to replace Harbaugh.
While the 46-year-old South Carolina native likely enjoys coaching close to home, the Gamecocks’ football program has a ceiling that can’t be overcome in the SEC. Leaving for Michigan wouldn’t just provide a raise, it allows Beamer a shot to compete for the College Football Playoff.
Taking over a team that went 6-16 in its final two seasons under Will Muschamp, Beamer’s Gamecocks went 7-6 in his first year with a Duke’s Mayo Bowl victory. He made effective use of the transfer portal, landing impact players who helped South Carolina go 8-5 in 2022 with victories over Tennesse and on the road in Clemson.
Beamer helped South Carolina finish 16th in 247 Sports’ 2023 recruiting rankings, landing 14 four-star players. He’d also bring a great offense to Michigan, putting quarterback JJ McCarthy and running back Blake Corum in the best position for success.
Matt Campbell, Iowa State Cyclones head coach
Speaking of programs that have hit their ceiling, look no further than the Iowa State Cyclones under Matt Campbell. Max Olson of The Athletic perfectly captured so many of the qualities that make Campbell a great football coach, including his leadership, communication and his ability to get the best out of his players all while doing what it takes to make them successful.
Unfortunately for Campbell, Iowa State doesn’t have a lot of room for improvement. The 4-8 season in 2022 dropped his winning percentage (.523), but that’s the result of the Big 12 losing some of its weight with recruits. Needless to say, that won’t be a problem at Michigan.
Replacing Harbaugh doesn’t necessarily mean hiring a great play-caller. The Wolverines need a CEO-like figure who can build out a strong coaching staff that recruits, supports the student-athletes and helps Michigan’s football program maintain its identity. Plus, Campbell loves recruiting in Ohio and that’s just another added benefit for the Wolverines.