FootballScoop is proud to announce that Jay Harbaugh (Michigan) is the 2021 FootballScoop Special Teams Coordinators of the Year presented by AstroTurf as selected by prior winners.
From a 2-4 disappointment to a Big Ten championship and an inaugural College Football Playoff berth, Michigan was one of the best stories of 2021. Such a turnaround requires excellence in all three phases. Indeed, the Wolverines were quite good on offense and defense, and their special teams unit was the best in the nation.
For starters, Michigan boasted the best kickoff coverage unit in the nation. Over 99 kickoffs, Michigan permitted just 14 returns and allowed 170 total yards on those returns -- one return per game for 12.1 yards. Knowing how the maize and blue blanketed the field, it's now wonder why opposing returners brought out just 14 percent of their opportunities. Ohio State, a top-15 unit nationally averaging more than 25 yards per return, mustered just 11 yards on two returns in the Wolverines' 42-27 Big Ten East-clinching victory. Iowa, a top-20 unit in the country, did not register a return yard in Michigan's 42-3 Big Ten Championship blowout.
In the punting game, Michigan permitted nine returns for 35 yards all season, tied for 14th fewest nationally.
Kickoffs were just half the equation for Michigan's outstanding kicker, Jake Moody. The senior converted 23-of-25 field goals and all 56 extra points, making him the first Wolverine to win the Lou Groza Award as the nation's top placekicker.
In the return game, Michigan was a top-40 unit nationally, averaging 10.1 yards per return, despite losing starter Ronnie Bell in the season opener. The Wolverines were also one of 47 teams to take a kickoff back for a touchdown.
Michigan also executed a fake punt against Washington, converting a 4th-and-1 from their own 30 in a 3-0 game. Running back Blake Corum raced 67 yards for a touchdown on the next play in U-M's eventual 31-10 win.
“That was huge,” head coach Jim Harbaugh said. “Glad they got it. They weren’t going to be denied. And that was big, pivotal.”
“Coach Jay (Harbaugh) put that in the game plan all week,” Corum said. “We knew going into the game we were going to run this fake punt. It just happened to be perfect timing. Great play, great call, and we knew it was going to catch them off guard.”
Michigan also tied for eighth nationally with four blocked kicks or punts.
In addition to winning the Groza Award, Moody was a consensus All-American, the Big Ten's Bakken-Anderson Kicker of the Year, and the First Team All-Big Ten kicker. Returner AJ Henning was a Third Team All-Big Ten honoree.
The only original member of his father's staff still at Michigan, Harbaugh has worked with the Wolverines special teams all seven seasons in Ann Arbor, and has been the program's sole special teams coordinator since 2020. He also coaches the team's tight ends. An Oregon State graduate, he worked with the coaching staff all four years as an undergraduate, then in 2012 began a three-year stint as a quality control coach with the Baltimore Ravens, coached by Jay's uncle John.
The FootballScoop Coaches of the Year awards presented by AstroTurf are the only set of awards that recognize the most outstanding position coaches in college football. The finalists (Todd Goebbel [NC State], Brian Mason [Cincinnati] and Harbaugh) were selected based off of nominations by coaches, athletic directors, and athletic department personnel. The prior winners selected this year's winner.
Previous winners of the Special Teams Coordinator of the Year award are James Shibest (Ole Miss, 2008 and Virginia Tech, 2017), Mike Tolleson (Texas, 2009), Joe Robinson (LSU, 2010), John Baxter (USC, 2011), D.J. Durkin (Florida, 2012), Jeff Ulbrich (UCLA, 2013), Robby Discher (Oklahoma State, 2014), Sean Snyder (Kansas State, 2015), Andre Powell (Pittsburgh, 2016), Jeff Banks (Alabama, 2018), Blake Gideon (Houston, 2019), and Zac Alley/Winston Venable (Boise State, 2020).
1st Nationally -- Kickoff Coverage
Lou Groza Award winner
t-8th Nationally -- Blocked Punts/Kicks
Big Ten Champions
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