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The Michigan Wolverines must replace their defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald, who returns to the Baltimore Ravens to replace Don “Wink” Martindale.

After just one year at Michigan, defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald returns to the Baltimore Ravens to lead their defense.

Macdonald left John Harbaugh’s staff to help his younger brother’s defense in the Big Ten. Michigan’s defense was one of the main reasons the Wolverines had their best season under Jim Harbaugh last year. Although Baltimore firing Don “Wink” Martindale was a bit strange, bringing Macdonald back makes a lot of sense here. As for who replaces him in Ann Arbor, that’s a different story.

Here are some options for replacing Macdonald as the leader of Michigan’s defense going forward.

Mike Macdonald goes to Baltimore Ravens: Who replaces him as Michigan DC?

There are three avenues to potentially replace Macdonald in Ann Arbor: promote a candidate from within, steal a coordinator from somewhere else, or venture into the NFL to get a man, just as Michigan did previously to get Macdonald. It really comes down to what Harbaugh wants to do, but this is infinitely better work than it was a year ago for the Michigan program.

If Michigan were to promote from within, the Wolverines have two candidates in defensive passing games coordinator/defensive backs coach Steve Clinkscale and new defensive line coach Mike Elston. Harbaugh was able to get Clinkscale out of Kentucky last offseason and may be in line for a promotion. Elston is an alumnus from Michigan, but he missed the Notre Dame concert.

If Michigan were to sneak a search for a senior coordinator to replace Macdonald, Jon Heacock at Iowa State is the most likely candidate. Heacock is a former Michigan graduate assistant but is best known for working alongside Matt Campbell at Iowa State and Toledo before that. Heacock makes sense, but that could muddy the water a bit, as Campbell is one of the leading candidates to replace Harbaugh if he were to leave.

And if Michigan were to go to the NFL, these two names would make sense: Ravens defensive line coach/running game coordinator Anthony Weaver and Tampa Bay Buccaneers outside line coach Larry Foote. The Ravens’ connection to Weaver is obvious. As for Foote, he is a former Michigan star and Super Bowl champion during his career with the Pittsburgh Steelers as a player for them.

Of the three avenues, promotion from within makes the most sense. Clinkscale was a hot commodity that Harbaugh prioritized landing last offseason. As for Elston, not getting Notre Dame’s defensive coordinator job when Marcus Freeman was promoted from the inside could be to Michigan’s advantage. Heacock feels like a pipe dream, but maybe he’s an NFL guy like Foote or Weaver?

Macdonald leaves Michigan’s defense in much better shape than it was just a season ago.

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