When Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh vowed to do a serious self-scout on his staff after a disappointing 8-5 season, he wasn’t kidding around.
Tim Drevno is now coaching running backs at USC. Greg Frey is tutoring the offensive line at Florida State. Former Florida coach Jim McElwain is now on the offensive side of the ball for the Wolverines, along with former Ohio State offensive coordinator Ed Warinner. Kevin Tolbert is out as strength and conditioning coach; former Arkansas strength and conditioning coach Ben Herbert is in.
Of all the new additions to the Wolverines’ staff, which one figures to help Michigan the most this fall? Former Wolverines and NFL running back Chris Howard and Land of 10 writer-columnist Sean Keeler pulled up the bios and made their picks …
Q: WHICH MICHIGAN OFFSEASON HIRE WILL SHOOT THE WOLVERINES BACK INTO THE BIG TEN EAST RACE IN 2018?
CHRIS HOWARD: ED WARINNER, OFFENSIVE LINE COACH
The offseason is the time for coaches to not only evaluate their team’s performance but also their staff. After a pitiful offensive showing in 2017, it’s no secret that the Wolverines offensive staff was due for a shakeup.
Jim Harbaugh’s first signature offensive staff hire appeared for a moment to be a good one when it was announced that former University of Arkansas offensive coordinator Dan Enos was headed to Michigan. However, Enos was in Ann Arbor just long enough to enjoy a cup of clam chowder from Cottage Inn before departing for a much more lucrative position with the Alabama Crimson Tide, the 2017 national champions.
Probably the most surprising hire of the season was that of former Florida Gators football coach Jim McElwain. Harbaugh and McElwain had a very public exchange over sharing updated team rosters that ended up becoming a national story heading into their matchup to kick off the 2017 season at AT&T Stadium. But as the saying goes, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. McElwain will coach the wide receivers and have some input on play calling.
The McElwain hire is a good one — and the underperforming wide receiver group should benefit greatly from having a designated position coach — but, in my opinion, not the most important one.
The offensive change I followed the closest was focused on the offensive line. Who was going to replace Greg Frey and what did the future hold for embattled offensive coordinator Tim Drevno? The most important question on my mind was, Who is going to be the guy who can finally get the offensive line to perform a high level?
Now that Drevno has left the staff, that distinction falls on the shoulders of former Ohio State offensive coordinator and newly hired offensive line coach Ed Warinner.
I went straight to YouTube to watch videos of him speaking at coaching clinics to understand his offensive style and philosophy.
Warinner lectured about the inside zone, the importance of double teams and leverage. I liked what I heard, and seeing the results he produced at Ohio State is promising.
My favorite line from the video is where he says, “If you can’t displace them, then you better space them.” What Warinner means by that is, if you can’t knock guys off the ball, then you need wider splits to help create running lanes.
While I have all the confidence in the world that new strength coach Ben Herbert is turning these guys into monsters, I’m not sure the physical strength will be significant enough to push around good teams.
Warinner’s description of leverage wasn’t about physical strength but more about recognizing when you have the advantage — and when you don’t have it, be smart enough not to force it. He wants to be able to put a hat on a hat or have a plus-1 in his favor.
Too many times, I saw Michigan stubbornly run into 8- or 9-man fronts over and over again with the same results. Watching Warinner explain the concept while reviewing plays with those in attendance of the clinic, you can see why Ohio State was so successful. Rarely was the offense in a disadvantage, and when the Buckeyes were, they checked out of the play and into something more favorable.
That strategy speaks for itself. Under Ed Warinner, Ohio State averaged 39.4 points per game. His offenses set dozens of Big Ten school records — twice for points and touchdowns — and conference records for rushing (4,321 yards), passing (3,707 yards) and for passing touchdowns (42). You don’t get that kind of production if the big boys up front don’t do their job.
If Warinner can get half of the production he got from his group at Ohio State out of his newly inherited players at Michigan, then the Wolverines should have a successful 2018 season. Ed Warinner is the most important new addition to Harbaugh’s staff.