When Jim Harbaugh accepted the Michigan head coaching job in December of 2014 he tweeted out, “attack each day with enthusiasm unknown to mankind.”
Oh, has he ever.
Whether it was climbing trees, having sleepovers or sending birthday cakes to high school players, Harbaugh has gone to every measure to bring top talent to Ann Arbor and it’s finally paying dividends.
In his first full recruiting cycle at Michigan, Harbaugh pulled in the No. 5 overall recruiting class according to 247sports.com. The class not only fills many future holes on the roster, but features a trait the team desperately needs — speed.
From top to bottom, the class is loaded with some absolute burners. Players like Dylan Crawford, Eddie McDoom and Nate Johnson are wide receivers that can take the top off the defense. Crawford and McDoom were both top targets of Oregon — an offense predicated on speed.
Meanwhile, Johnson is one of the most underrated recruits in the country. The three-star recruit from Thompson’s Station, Tennessee caught 44 touchdowns in his high school career and ran a 4.4 40-yard dash as a senior.
On defense, the team had an obvious need for speed and athleticism at linebacker. Against Indiana and Ohio State this past season, it was clear that players like Joe Bolden and Desmond Morgan — while solid tacklers — were not fast enough to play against spread offenses. Harbaugh addressed this problem by bringing in Devin Bush Jr. and Elysee Mbem-Bosse. Bush Jr. enrolled in January and is expected to make an instant impact next season with the lack of linebacker depth.
Harbaugh’s biggest coup yet came on National Signing Day when all eyes were on Rashan Gary, the No. 1 player in the country. The hearts of Michigan fans pounded as they watched the SportsCenter announcement with flashbacks of Da’Shawn Hand running through their minds. While Clemson made a late run at the five-star defensive tackle, it was the Wolverines hat he chose in the end.
At 6-foot-4 290 pounds, Gary towers over offensive lineman. The Paramus Catholic behemoth uses his power and hands to overpower offensive lineman, along with his speed to get around them. Gary ran a 4.74 40-yard dash and 4.38 shuttle time at The Opening last July. To put those numbers in perspective, the average defensive lineman at the 2015 NFL Combine ran a 4.96 40-yard dash and a 4.5 shuttle time.
Gary collected 27.5 sacks his final two seasons as a Paladin. Not only is he the top ranked recruit in Michigan history, but he is the first ever player to be ranked No. 1 overall by all four major recruiting websites (Rivals, 247, ESPN, Scout).
“He is two years ahead of almost any high school lineman in the country when it comes to technique,” said Gary’s personal trainer Peter Kafaf. “That technique builds of itself, so I expect him to be perfecting it these next few seasons while others are attempting to learn it.”
Harbaugh has already started working on his 2017 class. On Feb. 15, Michigan received a verbal commitment from Littleton, Colorado quarterback Dylan McCaffrey. McCaffrey is the younger brother of Stanford All-American running back Christian McCaffrey and son of ex-NFL wide receiver Ed McCaffrey.
McCaffrey is the No. 1 pocket-passer in the 2017 class and the No. 17 player overall. The signal caller stands at 6-foot-5 200 pounds and has a rocket of an arm. McCaffrey can throw accurately to all three levels and can escape pressure when he needs to.
“He never looks rattled and is an extremely bright quarterback with a high football IQ, which isn’t surprising considering the family he comes from,” said Scout recruiting analyst Greg Biggins. “When you throw in the intangibles he has, like leadership, toughness, compete level, and work ethic off the field, it’s obvious what a bright future McCaffrey has ahead of him.”
Now that Harbaugh verbally has his quarterback, he will now turn his attention to other top prospects, including Dylan Moses, Donovan Peoples-Jones and Isaiah Wilson.
Moses is the top athlete in 2017 and plays at IMG Academy in Florida, where Harbaugh has planned for Michigan to have its infamous spring practices. Moses has said that Alabama is his top school, but LSU is also an option for him. Even with the South-Eastern Conference schools making a push for him, Moses has stated he wants to hear from the Maize and Blue.
People-Jones is a more likely target for U-M, considering he plays at Michigan pipeline Detroit Cass Tech. The 6-foot-2 wide receiver possesses all the skills to be a monster at the next level. He is ranked as the No. 6 player in the class and the No. 1 receiver.
McCaffrey will play a big role in his recruitment along with Wilson — the No. 5 offensive tackle in 2017. Wilson looks every bit of an All-American left tackle, something Michigan will desperately need after the 2016 season.
While it remains to be seen what recruiting tactic Harbaugh has up his sleeve for the next cycle, one thing is for sure: the man gets results.
All rankings above are from 247sports.com