Jim Harbaugh and his Michigan staff haven’t landed a 2016 commit yet—the two players committed joined under Brady Hoke—but that’s not stopping them from relentlessly recruiting and sending out offers in waves.
When Harbaugh was forming his coaching staff, a few things were evident. First, they were knowledgeable and experienced. Second, they were great recruiting chips. Harbaugh brought on former Wolverines running back Tyrone Wheatley to coach the same position.
That move was significant because he’s a Detroit legend. During his high school days at Dearborn Heights Robichaud, Wheatley broke several state track records and led his football team to the state championship. Of course he’s also known in the area because of his playing days in Ann Arbor. Harbaugh valued Wheatley for more than his coaching acumen. It is vital that Michigan strengthens its Detroit pipeline, and Wheatley can help do that.
Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes have had a lot of fun pilfering Detroit kids from Cass Tech on a yearly basis. It’s unlikely to halt completely, but Michigan can now be more competitive on that front. It also doesn’t hurt that he can walk into King, Cass Tech and any other Detroit high school and have respect and be relatable.
Harbaugh doesn’t intend to just take care of the home front. He also took into account other recruiting pipelines nationwide. He brought on Greg Jackson as a secondary coach. Jackson has ties in Louisiana, Florida and California. Mike Zordich, also a secondary coach, was born and raised in Youngstown, Ohio. He spent last season coaching the safeties at Youngstown State. Passing game coordinator Jedd Fisch, was born and raised in New Jersey and also has ties to Florida, as he graduated from the University of Florida. Special teams coordinator John Baxter and offensive coordinator Tim Drevno have ties to California. They’ve coached in the golden state for a combined 24 years.
It’s clear that Harbaugh wanted coaches who have ties in all the major recruiting states. Along with that, the coaching staff has eight coaches with an NFL background. That certainly doesn’t hurt on the recruiting trail.
Having a great coaching staff wasn’t enough though. Harbaugh decided to add a few more pieces to the football staff. Wayne Lyons’ mom, Gwendolyn Bush, was added to the staff as the director of player development. Since Lyons is transferring to the Wolverines, she’s now the de facto team mom and a great resource for the parents of recruits. She’s left a positive impression on parents and recruits alike so far.
Chris Partridge, former Paramus Catholic head coach, was also added as a recruiting coordinator. Michigan obviously wanted to address the east coast and specifically the New Jersey and New York areas. The most recent and maybe the most gutsy move was the hiring of former St. Edward head coach, Rick Finotti, as the director of football operations. St. Edward high school is a powerhouse program in Lakewood, Ohio. This will help strengthen recruiting in Ohio. Harbaugh and Meyer are officially playing chess and it’s fun to watch.
Coach Harbaugh had a game plan when he came in. He wanted to assemble a great football staff, and he accomplished that. The staff has done a great job recruiting thus far. They’ve been creative and aggressive. Recruits continue to be blown away on their visits.
The recruiting process was also reshaped to be made easier. Michigan has brought in more film analysts and recruiting coordinators, which brings them up another level. With multiple coordinators and analysts, film is getting to the coaching staff faster, which means more offers are going out at a rapid pace.
As if that wasn’t enough, just to ensure that they re-establish pipelines in Florida, Texas, California and Alabama, the Wolverines are going to run satellite camps in those areas this summer.
When hired it was obvious that Harbaugh would recruit well. He had a master plan in mind and we are now seeing it finally take shape. As relationships continue to forge, the commitments will come. Patience is the key, as it will take time for the staff to land its first commit.
One thing is for sure, though: Recruiting is a competitive battle and we’re lucky to have Harbaugh as our general.
Fatima Harajli is a writer for The Big House Report. Follow her on Twitter @fharajli.