Who Is Steve Clinkscale? Getting To Know Jim Harbaugh's New Assistant Coach
Michigan Wolverines football coach Jim Harbaugh acted fast to replace former co-defensive coordinator/defensive backs coach Mo Linguist, hiring Kentucky's Steve Clinkscale this afternoon.
Linguist left U-M to become Buffalo's head coach May 7, meaning it took Harbaugh just slightly over three full days to find his replacement. Clinkscale is viewed as an outstanding recruiter and did some exceptional work on the prep trail at Kentucky, but has a coaching acumen that runs deep in the defensive backfield as well.
He has coached in the defensive backfield at six different schools, four of which have come at the FBS level — Kentucky (2016-20), Cincinnati (2013-15), Illinois (2012) and Toledo (2009-11).
Clinkscale's coaching career got started at his alma mater of Ashland University in Ohio from 2001-07, before spending one year at Western Carolina of the FCS level in 2008. He coached defensive backs at both schools.
Assistant coaching resumes of any length often entail a plethora of different positions having been mentored, but Clinkscale has worked almost solely with defensive backs his entire career.
The lone exceptions were at Toledo and Cincinnati, when he also led the Rockets' special teams from 2009-11 and served as the Bearcats' defensive coordinator in 2015. Clinkscale coached Toledo's cornerbacks — in addition to his aforementioned special teams role — each of his three years there, and the results weren't pretty from a defensive standpoint.
The Rockets' secondary finished 95th (in 2009), 86th and 106th, respectively, in passing yards allowed per game, though it's worth noting the gig was Clinkscale's first at the FBS level.
The results improved immensely at his next stop in Champaign, Ill., in 2012. Clinkscale served as the Fighting Illini's cornerbacks coach that season under then-head man Tim Beckman, and helped lead the club's secondary to a No. 19 national finish (only allowed 193.7 passing yards per game).
His success carried over into 2013 at his next stop of Cincinnati, when he helped guide the Bearcats' defensive backfield to an impressive No. 29 national finish during his first year on the job.
UC's pass defense slipped to No. 100 in 2014, before rebounding nicely to jump back up to 57th in 2015. The 2015 campaign was Clinkscale's final one at Cincinnati, before departing for Lexington, Ken., to lead the Kentucky Wildcats' secondary.
His overall tenure at Kentucky was a smashing success. He hit the ground running during his first year, leading the Wildcats' pass defense to a No. 35 national finish. That number dipped to 103rd in 2017, but bounced back in a big way in 2018.
The Wildcats concluded '18 with the 18th-best pass defense in the country, with safety Mike Edwards landing on the SEC's all-conference second-team unit for the second time in his career.
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