5-star safety Leon McQuay III has some of the biggest names in college football after his commitment, but, eventually, one of these programs is going to have to find an edge.
I believe that program can be the Michigan Wolverines.
According to his 247Sports interest list, McQuay III has a top five of Vanderbilt, USC, Oregon, Michigan and Florida State, and it appears to be a very close recruiting battle between all of these programs. McQuay III doesn't have a favorite listed yet, and he still has visits coming up to Florida State and USC.
All that said, McQuay III took a visit to Michigan last weekend and watched the Wolverines' epic 38-31 overtime win over Northwestern. According to quotes from McQuay III's father via Kynon Codrington of Rivals.com, Michigan was prepared with a great pitch:
"All of the schools have a lot to offer and things are starting to look the same to me." McQuay Jr. said. "However, when we arrived, Michigan had his courses laid out, so that was a plus. I haven't seen that anywhere else. They knew he is coming in early, so the music director give him two different options to major in."
In addition to the first-class academic treatment, McQuay III spent time with defensive coordinator Greg Mattison. Mattison went over NFL-style defenses and concepts and how McQuay would fit into the Wolverines scheme.
"They showed him clips of Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed and how he is used on blitzes and making the calls." McQuay Jr. said. "Mattison was basically putting Leon in that position. Coach was basically doing a compare and contrast with Leon and Reed."
This was a brilliant recruiting strategy by Michigan, and it's yet another glimpse into why the Wolverines have been so successful in the realm of recruiting under head coach Brady Hoke.
There's a very personal feel to this recruiting pitch, and it obviously made a pretty big impression with McQuay Jr, which could go a long ways towards making a great impression with his son.
With programs like Oregon, USC, Florida State and even SEC school Vanderbilt on McQuay III's list, though, how can Michigan get the edge in this recruiting battle?
I believe academics will have a lot to do with it.
McQuay III seems to be very focused on academics, especially as a music major, and you're not going to find many schools with better academics than the University of Michigan. It is a top-notch academic school first and foremost, so that's something that Hoke and his staff will really have to make sure is at the forefront of McQuay III's recruitment.
It's easy as a football coach to really start harping on the X's and O's and how a player can fit into the system. While I do think it's brilliant to bring up Mattison's time coaching Ed Reed, all signs point to academia being a major factor here.
If it came down to football, Oregon, FSU and USC can pitch just as much, if not more, to McQuay III. They all have phenomenal programs, and one could argue that their national championship aspirations in the future are more realistic than Michigan's.
The Wolverines are not quite 100 percent "back" yet, so that could end up hurting them—especially when compared to Oregon or Florida State.
If Hoke and his staff keep pitching academics first, though, I believe they can really draw an advantage for the talented 5-star safety.
Mind you, Oregon doesn't yet have an audio engineering major in place for McQuay III, and the Ducks are trying to make up courses on the fly for him, according to Codrington's report. Right there is a great example of the equalizer that Michigan has in its academics, as it essentially puts it in a better standing than the No. 2 overall team in the BCS.
Recruiting is a mufti-faceted process, so Michigan would be wise to focus on its strong points.
Academia could very well give the Wolverines the edge here, and then they can supplement that edge with the football program. The comparisons to Ed Reed will be a huge selling point, as will the fact that Michigan's defense is currently ranked 17th in the nation and is only giving up 18.2 points per game.
Hokes 2013 class is very strong—ranked No. 4 in the nation by Rivals—so Michigan's chances for more success in the future are very high. Those odds would be even better with McQuay III patrolling the defensive secondary, and therein lies the final point to the 5-star safety.
You won't find many schools with better academics than Michigan, and when you consider that the football program is just as prolific, the Wolverines become a recruiting power that will be very hard to beat if you're Oregon, USC, FSU or Vanderbilt.
If the Wolverines pitch academics first and then follow that up with what their future has to offer on the football field, I believe they can gain the edge for McQuay III.