A linebacker on the Michigan football team who starred at a nearby high school for a newly hired assistant appears ready to transfer.
Cornell Wheeler, a sophomore linebacker from West Bloomfield, Mich., who didn’t play a snap last fall, entered his name into the NCAA transfer portal this week, a team spokesman confirmed to MLive on Wednesday.
A reason for Wheeler’s decision was not immediately known. He has not addressed the move publicly, nor did he return a message seeking comment.
Wheeler was a standout at West Bloomfield High School under Ron Bellamy, who left his job in January to join the Michigan coaching staff. And while Bellamy doesn’t preside over the linebackers, he was brought on to help forge a cohesive culture and help bridge the gap between players and staff.
Instead, his star inside linebacker in high school appears headed elsewhere. The 6-foot, 231-pound Wheeler took part in Michigan’s practice schedule this spring, and figured to be part of a young, inexperienced linebacker group moving forward.
But in a recent interview updating his team for 2021, Harbaugh failed to mention Wheeler — a former three-star recruit — as part of the group of linebackers in the mix for playing time this fall under new defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald.
“Some real good, young linebackers came to the fire,” Harbaugh said in April, after singling out Josh Ross and Michael Barrett, both expected to start. “Nikhai Hill-Green, Kalel Mullings, and then mid-year freshman Junior Colson stood out.”
Wheeler was recruited to Michigan by assistants Sherrone Moore and Chris Partridge, and coached last season by Don Brown. Moore is now co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach, but Partridge has since departed Michigan and Brown was dismissed as defensive coordinator in December, sparking a staff shakeup. In addition to Macdonald taking over defensive coordinator duties, linebacker coach Brian Jean-Mary left and was replaced by a new face, George Helow.
Since then, three Michigan linebackers have entered the transfer portal — paving the way for coaches from other schools to contact the player — and committed elsewhere.
The Wolverines have had 15 scholarship players in total do so since the end of the season. Wheeler makes 16.
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