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Mike Zordich discusses exit at Michigan, first impressions of CMU squad


CMU defensive backs coach Mike Zordich 

Once seated side-by-side in staff meetings at Michigan, Mike Zordich and Jim McElwain have taken their friendship nearly 130 miles up the road to Mount Pleasant. 

In 2018, Zordich and McElwain struck up a friendship on staff with the Wolverines, with McElwain coaching wide receivers and Zordich coaching defensive backs. The following season, McElwain took the vacant head coaching job at Central Michigan, bidding the 12-year NFL veteran Zordich adieu. 

Zordich remained at Michigan until this past offseason when he and several other defensive assistants, including defensive coordinator Don Brown, were let go by Jim Harbaugh. Upon being let go, Zordich kept in touch with McElwain. 

And when CMU defensive backs coach David Rowe left for Houston, an opportunity to reconnect came available. 

"Jim and I were communicating that whole time, probably the whole month of January," Zordich said. "Just keeping in touch. Certainly he had no idea his guy was gonna leave. Then, when it happened, I called him up and one thing led to another and here I am."

The hire of Zordich is one of great pedigree, for both the staff and the players. The Chippewas are getting a coach who spent 12 years in the NFL across four different organizations before kickstarting a coaching career that is in its 18th year. 

"He brings 12 years of NFL experience as a player as well as four years as a coach in the National Football League," McElwain said. "I think it's really good for (the secondary) to get someone of his caliber to come here and be part of the Chippewa football program."

First impressions

Working with one of CMU's more experienced position groups, Zordich wasted no time establishing relationships with the his players. Among them are First Team All-Mid-American Conference safety Willie Reid, four-year contributor Alonzo McCoy and impressive freshman Donte Kent. 

But before he was able to watch them on the field, Zordich was blown away by the players' character. 

"The day or two after I got here, I tried to get to know them and I was really impressed with all of their personalities," Zordich said. "And then, their eagerness to get better."

As a coach, Zordich says he preaches fundamentals and technique. At Michigan, his defensive backs played primarily bump-and-run, man-to-man coverage as a result of Brown's blitz-heavy scheme. Under his new boss, Robb Akey, it's unlikely the Chippewas will have Zordich preaching as much single coverage. 

The presence of McCoy and fellow senior Gage Kreski, along with guys like Reid who have been in the program for four years, Zordich has plenty of help learning Akey's scheme, while putting his spin on the technique. 

"I enjoy learning the defense that we're working in," Zordich said. "I think it's a very good defense with a lot of different looks. It could be troublesome for some offenses."

On his exit at Michigan

Zordich's exit from the Wolverines came as a result of the 2-4 season in 2020. Many were angry with the result, with a large portion of the responsibility pinned on the defense. 

As a result, Brown and Zordich were out. 

When asked, Zordich reiterated that the moves did not surprise him. 

"After that year? It was crazy for everybody," Zordich said. "That doesn't surprise me at all."

Despite the unceremonious exit, Zordich left a solid impact on the Wolverine program. He worked with a plethora of now-NFL cornerbacks, including Jourdan Lewis, Channing Stribling and Lavert Hill. 

"It was a great six years," Zordich said. "It was a great run, I enjoyed every moment of it. I enjoyed the kids that I coached and the people that I met. It was a wonderful experience but all good things must end."