ANN ARBOR – J. Ira and Nicki Harris Family Head Football Coach Jim Harbaugh announced today (Wednesday, May 12) the hiring of Steve Clinkscale as the program’s defensive passing game coordinator and defensive backs coach. Clinkscale replaces Maurice “Mo” Linguist who was named the head coach at the University of Buffalo on Friday (May 7).
“Steve is a highly-respected and talented football coach who has developed outstanding defensive secondaries at each of his coaching stops,” said Harbaugh. “I have followed and admired Steve’s coaching for years, tried to hire him a few times, and I’m glad that it all came together where we could bring Steve to Michigan. He will be a great addition to our coaching staff, and our student-athletes will benefit from Steve’s experience and instruction. Michigan Football welcomes Steve, his fiancé Elaine and his children to the Michigan Football family and university community.”
“Coach Harbaugh and I have developed a relationship over the years and this will be a great opportunity to work together,” Clinkscale said. “I look forward to meeting our players and working with them to develop their skills on and off the field. I wish to further the tradition of excellence here at Michigan and look forward to helping make a difference in these young men’s lives. Go Blue!”
Clinkscale joins the Wolverines’ staff after spending the past five seasons (2016-20) at the University of Kentucky under head coach Mark Stoops in the Southeastern Conference (SEC). Clinkscale mentored the defensive backs during the entirety of his tenure and added the title of defensive pass game coordinator in 2021. The Wildcats intercepted 57 passes in his five seasons and Clinkscale’s secondary was responsible for 43 of them (75.4 percent).
UK was top-four in the SEC in pass defense for Clinkscale’s final three seasons, leading the league in 2019 and 2020. The team also led the conference with 16 interceptions in 2020, which ranked third nationally.
Clinkscale arrived at Kentucky in 2016 and began molding a secondary that delivered all 13 of the team’s interceptions in his first year. All-SEC safety Mike Edwards, a Super Bowl Champion with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, led the secondary with 100 tackles and was part of a trio of Wildcats who each intercepted three passes. In 2017, Clinkscale helped lead UK to a bowl game for the first time in eight seasons as the secondary made nine interceptions and Edwards was all-conference once again.
The 2018 season was one of the best in UK history as the team posted a 10-3 record and finished No. 12 in the final AP Poll, both program-bests since 1977. Edwards picked up his third All-SEC recognition and became the second defensive back in program history to record 300-plus tackles in his career, totaling 10 interceptions with two returned for touchdowns. He was selected in the third round of the 2019 draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, joining teammate Lonnie Johnson (second round, Houston Texans), Derrick Baity, and Chris Westry (UFA) as Wildcats with NFL opportunities.
The 2019 secondary replaced its top six producers from the 2018 season and still ranked second nationally in fewest touchdown passes allowed (nine) and third in passing yards allowed per game (167.8).
Clinkscale was the secondary coach at the University of Cincinnati for three seasons (2013-15) during which the team played in three consecutive bowl games. He was defensive coordinator during his final year when the Bearcats ranked third in the American Athletic Conference (AAC) in pass yards allowed.
Clinkscale worked at Illinois for one season (2012) after three years at Toledo (2009-11) where he was special teams coordinator and cornerbacks coach. UT had top-20 kickoff return (11th in 2010) and punt return (17th in 2011) units under his direction and he mentored Eric Page into one of the top return men in the country. Page was first-team All-MAC at three positions (kick returner, punt returner, wide receiver) and was the only FBS player to return three kickoffs for touchdowns in 2010. Page was a first- and third-team All-American in his final two years and was a finalist for the Paul Hornung Award given to the nation’s most versatile player.
Toledo improved defensively in each of Clinkscale’s three years, dropping points allowed by nearly 10 points per game from 2009 to 2010 while upping turnovers by 61 percent (34 from 21). Under his direction, the Rockets consistently ranked among the nation’s best in turnovers (No. 5 in 2010) and interceptions (tied-8 in 2010, No. 16 in 2011).
Clinkscale joined the coaching staff at his alma mater Ashland after graduation and coached the defensive backs for seven years (2001-07), adding linebacker duties in his final season, while also serving as the team’s academic liaison. Two players (Devin Conwell, Toure Carter) became All-Americans and Cactus Bowl participants during Clinkscale’s tenure, with Conwell earning 2015 GLIAC Defensive Back of the Year honors. He spent the 2008 season as defensive backs coach at Western Carolina before heading to Toledo.
A Youngstown, Ohio, native, Clinkscale was a four-year starter and team captain at Ashland University. He played in the 2000 Snow Bowl, the Division II All-Star Game that was the predecessor to the Cactus Bowl. He earned his bachelor’s degree in sports science with a concentration in therapeutic recreation in 2000.
Clinkscale has four sons: Isaiah, Elijah, and twins, Zion and Zivon.
Clinkscale’s Coaching Experience
Year School Position
2001-07 Ashland Defensive Backs
2008 Western Carolina Defensive Backs
2009-11 Toledo Special Teams Coordinator/Cornerbacks
2012 Illinois Cornerbacks
2013-14 Cincinnati Defensive Backs
2015 Cincinnati Defensive Coordinator/Defensive Backs
2016-20 Kentucky Defensive Backs
2021 Kentucky Defensive Passing Game Coordinator/Defensive Backs
Clinkscale’s Bowl History
Ashland: 2000 Snow Bowl Division II All-Star Game
Toledo: 2010 Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, 2011 Military Bowl
Cincinnati: 2013 Belk Bowl, 2014 Military Bowl, 2015 Hawaii Bowl
Kentucky: 2016 TaxSlayer Bowl, 2017 Music City Bowl, 2018 Citrus Bowl, 2019 Belk Bowl, 2020 TaxSlayer Gator Bowl
Clinkscale has coached bowl games in eight consecutive seasons (2013-20).