Top Coaching Candidates if Jim Harbaugh Leaves Michigan Football

Rumors continue to swirl about Jim Harbaugh looking at head coaching jobs in the NFL and leaving the Michigan football program. That naturally makes us wonder who would could be the next head football coach of the University of Michigan.

Harbaugh has completely flipped this Michigan program around the last few seasons. I put together a list of a some candidates who could fit in with this Michigan program and keep it trending in the right direction. Here are some of the candidates the Michigan should consider (in no particular order):

Jim Leonhard – Former Wisconsin DC

Jim Leonhard was one of the first names that popped in my head when I thought about replacing Jim Harbaugh. Leonhard has been one of the top coordinators in College Football for the last six seasons. He served as the interim head coach for Wisconsin this season, and it was shocking the Badgers chose to not give him the job permanently.

Michigan fans may want a more offensive minded coach to come in and adapt to modern college football. But we all know one of the strengths of this Michigan program has been the defensive side of the ball. Bringing in a coach like Jim Leonhard would elevate that side of the ball even more. Especially if they are able to keep an offensive coordinator like Sherrone Moore. Right now Leonhard is getting interviews for NFL defensive coordinator positions.

Garrett Riley – TCU OC

You all may think I am crazy for putting a coach who has only been a coordinator for three seasons on this list. But we all know what Garrett Riley’s TCU offense did this season on the national stage. He helped lead a TCU team that was 5-7 last season to a 13-2 year and a spot in the national championship game. It’s also no secret he is the brother of USC head coach Lincoln Riley.

If you want to talk about the future of college football with regard to recruiting and high-scoring offenses, this is your guy. Like his brother, Garrett Riley played at Texas Tech under legendary coach Mike Leach. It’s obvious the Riley brothers learned the air raid offense from Leach. One thing Michigan fans have wanted for years is modern offense. This may just be the guy to get that done.

Bill O’Brien – Alabama OC

I don’t have to go into complete detail on Bill O ‘Brien. I am sure everyone is very familiar with him. He was with the Patriots under Bill Belichick for five seasons. Then he was head coach at Penn State before returning the NFL as the head coach for the Houston Texans for seven seasons. Right now he is the offensive coordinator under Nick Saban at Alabama. It would not be surprising that if the Michigan job opens up that Bill O’Brien will get looked at. His resume that speaks for itself. On top of that, he has had success as a college head coach. This would be a safe bet for Michigan to take if Bill O’Brien wanted the job.

Kliff Kingsbury – Arizona Cardinals Head Coach

This would be an interesting hire for Michigan. As with Garrett Riley, Kingsbury would be a coach to come in and implement the exciting offense Michigan fans have desired. Of all the available coaches, Kingsbury may be the one who can recruit at a highest level and keep the Michigan success rolling. He may end up being the best available coaches after the coaching cycle ends. Yes, he does have a sub-.500 coaching record both in the NFL and in college. But he has proven he can recruit and put together a team that can compete. And in the college football world today, with the transfer portal and NIL, Michigan may look into a coach like Kingsbury who has found talent in the past.

Tommy Reese – Notre Dame OC

This would be a shocking hire from Michigan, but to me it seems like a legitimate option. Last season, when Brian Kelly left Notre Dame, Tommy Reese was being considered to take over that Notre Dame program before they hired Marcus Freeman. Reese is an up-and-coming offensive coordinator, and I believe it is only a matter of time before he becomes a head coach. Since he took over as the OC at Notre Dame they have gone 30-8, and they reached the college football playoff in his first season. The top priority for anyone taking over the Michigan job would to maintain the success of the last two seasons. With Tommy Reese having similar success at Notre Dame, I don’t think it’s a stretch to think he will start getting head coaching opportunities soon.

Sherrone Moore – University of Michigan OC

A lot of Michigan fans are going to want to just hire from within the program if Jim Harbaugh leaves. Obviously, with the success over the last few seasons and the culture that has been built up during this run, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to look inside the program to see if there is a coach to promote. If Michigan was going to do so, I would put Sherrone Moore at the top of that list.

I do really believe though, that if Jim Harbaugh were to leave, hiring from within might not be the best option. Moore just took over play calling this season and has been co-OC with Matt Weiss. The experience just might not be there just yet. But he may be the most qualified coach inside of the program to step up and get the job if Harbaugh does head to the NFL.

For more College Football follow Booner on twitter: @boonersports

Photo Credit: © Joe Rondone/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

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By Published On: January 12th, 2023Categories: Michigan, NFL

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