FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Mike Macdonald is a name familiar to many inside Georgia football. Now Michigan’s defensive coordinator, he got his start in football as a student assistant coach with the Bulldogs under Mark Richt and worked as an assistant coach at Athens’ Cedar Shoals High School.

A Roswell native, now he’s calling the shots for the No. 2-ranked Wolverines’ nationally renowned defense.

“We were doing everything,” Macdonald said of his time with the Bulldogs. “We were setting up tables for dinner, you name it. Back then we didn’t have iPads. So, we had the playbooks, and I remember just having a really rough relationship with the printer. But, yeah, those were great days, man.”

Macdonald credited Richt, defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo for helping him fashion a career in football.

It’s going well. Now in his second year with Jim Harbaugh at Michigan, the Wolverines (12-1) won the Big Ten title and are in the College Football Playoff for the first time in large part because of the Macdonald-designed defense. Michigan leads the Big Ten in points allowed (16.1 pg), is third in yards allowed (316.2 pg) and is fourth against the pass (194.7 ypg).

A summa cum laude graduate of UGA’s Terry College of Business, Macdonald first got on with John Harbaugh and the Baltimore Ravens as a defensive analyst, then was promoted to assistant linebackers coach. John Harbaugh recommended Macdonald to his brother, Jim, for the Wolverines’ defensive coordinator opening in 2020. Now 34, Macdonald has been in that role for two seasons now.

“He’s really smart, a really good teacher, brings a lot of energy, brings a lot of intelligence, a great communicator,” Jim Harbaugh said.

Macdonald credits a lot of his coaching fundamentals to those early years as a student assistant at UGA.

“Just learning what makes an organization tick, how does it go,” Macdonald said. “Just being in on the ground floor doing anything you can to help the team win was really valuable. They are great people in that building, and it was great, great experience for us.”

Record for Orange Bowl tickets

The combination of the first Georgia-Michigan matchup 56 years and it being a College Football Playoff semifinal has made tickets to get into Hard Rock Stadium on Friday the most expensive in Orange Bowl history.

According to TickPick, a no-fee secondary ticket marketplace, this year’s Orange Bowl is 184% more expensive compared with the next closest. TickPick reports that the average purchase price is $570, with a “get-in” price currently at $179.

Additionally, TickPick reports that 23% of purchases made came from Georgia ZIP codes and 17% had a Michigan ZIP code.

Those facts go contrary to the fan-interest narrative coming into the Orange Bowl. The thought has been that the Wolverines’ faithful would make up the majority of the crowd this year. That was based on Michigan coming in off its first Big Ten title in 17 years and Georgia fans possibly holding off on ticket and travel costs until the national championship game Jan. 10 in Indianapolis. The Bulldogs have been posted as a touchdown favorite since this semifinal matchup was announced.

Meanwhile, according to TickPick, their most expensive purchase made so far was for two tickets in the 72 Club, Row 15 for $3,629 a ticket ($7,256 total).

Healthy Dogs

The Bulldogs not only appear to be clearing their COVID-19 hurdles, they’re feet, knees and ankles also are getting well.

Senior offensive tackle Jamaree Salyer admitted that he was far from healed from a foot injury when he started against No. 1 Alabama in the SEC Championship game. He won’t be 100 percent Friday, but it much closer to it.

Salyer started the first four games of the season at left tackle before a foot injury forced him to miss four games in a row. Redshirt freshman Broderick Jones started in his absence. Salyer came back for the SEC Championship game, but wasn’t completely healed.

“I feel really good, actually,” he said Wednesday. “Obviously, we had a lot of time over the break, and we had about a week off like right after the SEC Championship to wrap up finals and stuff. During that time, we really hit rehab hard outside of studying for finals. Body feels really good.”

Senior safety Christopher Smith also came back ahead of schedule against the Crimson Tide and also wasn’t 100 percent in that game. He wouldn’t put on a percentage on it this week but said he can “do everything I need to do at my position.”

Missing for Michigan?

The Wolverines may be without one of their best defensive players for Friday’s game. Daxton Hill, Michigan’s starting nickel back and an All-Big Ten player, has not been spotted in Miami. This comes after his last interview opportunity in Ann Arbor was abruptly scrapped because “something came up” shortly before the Wolverines left for Florida.

Speculation has increased all week that Hill, a potential early-round NFL draft pick, never made the trip to the Orange Bowl. Michigan representatives have dodged the question from the team’s beat reporters this week and instead issued a cryptic statement.

“We will reach out if there is anything to share,” it said.

Meanwhile, coach Jim Harbaugh has not been available for interviews all week and won’t be until the head coaches’ luncheon Thursday in Miami.

Hill, a 6-foot, 192-pound junior from Tulsa, Okla., is the Wolverines’ second-leading tackler with 65 and leads the team in interceptions (2) and pass breakups (7).