Michigan hires Wink Martindale as defensive coordinator: What it means for Sherrone Moore

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Don “Wink” Martindale, one of the architects of the Baltimore Ravens scheme that has become a staple at Michigan, has agreed to become the Wolverines’ defensive coordinator, a team source confirmed Friday. ESPN first reported the news.

Martindale worked on John Harbaugh’s Ravens staff from 2012 to 2021, the final four years as the defensive coordinator. That coaching tree produced Mike Macdonald and Jesse Minter, both of whom had success as defensive coordinators at Michigan before returning to the NFL.
Martindale and the Ravens parted ways in 2022 to make room for Macdonald’s return to Baltimore. Martindale spent the past two seasons as the defensive coordinator with the New York Giants before an acrimonious departure last month.

Martindale is known for an aggressive, blitz-heavy style that differs from the version of the Ravens defense Michigan ran with Macdonald and Minter. Martindale coordinated one of the top defenses in the NFL during his run with the Ravens but wasn’t able to replicate that success with the Giants in 2023.

Hiring Martindale is a bold move for Michigan coach Sherrone Moore, who was promoted from his role as offensive coordinator after Jim Harbaugh left to coach the Los Angeles Chargers. Minter is joining Harbaugh as the Chargers defensive coordinator after overseeing a defense that led the FBS in multiple categories during Michigan’s run to the national championship, leaving Moore with a significant void to fill on defense.

The Wolverines have multiple openings on their defensive staff after the departures of Minter, defensive line coach Mike Elston and special teams coordinator Jay Harbaugh, who also coached safeties. Drew Wilkins and Kevin Wilkins are former Ravens assistants who worked with Martindale in Baltimore and New York and could be candidates to join him at Michigan.

How will Martindale adapt to college game?

That’s a major question for a 60-year-old defensive coordinator who last coached in college football as the defensive coordinator for Jack Harbaugh at Western Kentucky two decades ago.

Hiring an established defensive coordinator with experience in the Ravens scheme was a priority for Moore, and he certainly found that with Martindale. He will be a commanding presence who can serve as the head coach of Michigan’s defense, allowing Moore to devote more of his time to the offense. Martindale is a veteran playcaller, but it remains to be seen if his aggressive take on the Ravens scheme will yield the same results that Michigan got from Macdonald and Minter the past three years.

Martindale is coming to Michigan at a time when many college coaches, exhausted by the demands of NIL, the transfer portal and a hectic recruiting calendar, are seeking the stability of the NFL. That will be a major adjustment, but Martindale’s experience and coaching acumen will be valuable on a staff with several young coaches. Moore took a big swing by hiring Martindale, and the results will go a long way in setting the tone for Moore’s tenure at Michigan.

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(Photo: Stephen Maturen / Getty Images)

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