Three most likely replacements for Jim Harbaugh if he leaves for the NFL

Jim Harbaugh has interviewed with the Los Angeles Chargers and the Atlanta Falcons. He could be making a swift exit to the NFL, so the question is, who will be the next head coach at Michigan?
Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh looks on during the second half of the College Football Playoff.
Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh looks on during the second half of the College Football Playoff. / Melanie Maxwell / USA TODAY NETWORK

According to reports, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh is within "striking distance" of finalizing a contract to become the Los Angeles Chargers next head coach. No Michigan fans, this is not official and does not fully mean he is leaving, so don't panic yet.

Michigan is doing all it can to keep Harbaugh. He led the Wolverines to the promised land and helped them hoist the College Football Playoff trophy at the end of the season. Michigan fans would love to keep him around, especially with players leaving for the NFL Draft. Harbaugh can bring in recruits based on his name a reputation alone. So while the Chargers and Falcons are interested, Michigan is still in the mix.

However, it doesn't hurt to look ahead at who could take over if Harbaugh chooses to leave. There are a lot of candidates, both from the Michigan coaching staff and from outside. So who is the best fit? Who can take over this championship program?

Michigan OC Sherrone Moore

Sherrone Moore makes sense as one of the top choices to take over for Harbaugh. Moore already showed he was capable of leading the team to victory when he stepped in as interim head coach while Harbaugh was suspended for three games late in the season.

Moore led the Wolverines to wins over Maryland, Penn State, and No. 2 Ohio State. The biggest win of those three was a 30-24 win over the ranked Buckeyes that sent the Wolverines to the Big 10 championship.

In his third season as the offensive coordinator and his first season as the offensive line coach, Moore seems like the most experienced candidate in Michigan's system to take over. However, Moore was suspended for one game during the season due to his role in the ongoing investigation regarding alleged recruiting violations. That could be one thing that holds him back from getting this position if Harbaugh leaves.

LSU HC Brian Kelly

Brian Kelly has a great resume and could be the perfect replacement for Harbaugh. Kelly was successful at a historical program at Notre Dame and just finished coaching the Heisman Trophy winner at LSU.

Kelly has a lot of upsides, he has been to a BCS National Championship and has made appearances in the College Football Playoff. He can recruit and bring in big names but also develop talent. Typically big programs like Michigan want to replace a big name with a big name. Kelly very well could be that big name.

Kelly has proven he is a winner with a history of winning records moving his way up the coaching ranks. In his time with Cincinnati, he went 34-6 in four seasons. Kelly is most notably known for his time at Notre Dame where he went 92-39 with a BCS Championship appearance and two CFP appearances. Now at LSU, Kelly is 20-7 with wins in the Citrus Bowl and ReliaQuest Bowl.

Michigan has the money to lure Kelly from LSU and bring him back to the north where he has spent the majority of his coaching career.

Kansas State HC Chris Klieman

Chris Klieman might be a surprise on this list but in his five seasons at Kansas State, Klieman is 39-24. In his first season, Kliemna took over for College Football Hall of Fame coach Bill Snyder. The program that Klieman took over was pretty beat down with Snyder struggling in his last few seasons. No one foresaw Klieman taking over and going 8-5 in his first season in the FBS after coming from FCS school North Dakota State.

Klieman has shown he can recruit, but also find diamonds in the rough that can make a difference on the field. He turned walkon Ben Sinnott into a top-ranked tight end going into the 2024 NFL Draft. Klieman was also able to bring in Kansas kid Avery Johnson, a four-star quarterback out of Wichita, Kansas.

Chris Klieman is a quality coach who could sneak up on people as a possible hire at Michigan. I don't see Klieman wanting to leave Kansas State just yet, but I do think he would fit in well at Michigan.