Drake Harris has been full of surprises during a wild ride down the recruiting trail.
First, the Grand Rapids Christian star commits to Michigan State's 2014 class. Then, just over a month later, he again made an early-stage commitment to the University of Michigan.
Harris wanted to focus solely on football while in college, so choosing Michigan makes sense for him in a number of ways.
Despite the fact that Michigan State has been known as a wide receiver-friendly team, Michigan is on the cusp of a resurgence after a sub-par three-year tilt with the wrong coach.
Harris probably recognized that an 8-5 Michigan team, coupled with elite-level recruiting classes in 2012 and 2013, has more potential to reach national contention than a 7-6 Michigan State team that has greatly regressed since winning a share of the Big Ten title in 2011.
If Michigan wants to make a statement, then landing the best talent in the state is a convenient way of doing so. As the No. 3 overall wideout of the 2014 class, seeing Harris escape into the hands of Ohio State, Alabama or Florida would have been devastating.
In hindsight, going to Michigan was the logical choice for Harris, whose football coach, Don Fellows, said as much during an interview with the HUGE Show, a popular syndicated program in the area (via MLive.com’s Kyle Meinke):
He's still in high school, and he's been under enormous pressure since he was in eighth grade...One of the biggest reasons he committed (to Michigan State) last summer, and I encouraged him, it just seems sometimes he's bigger than life, and everybody makes a big deal out of it.
Fellows later said this about Harris’ decision:
When he committed to Michigan State, I thought it was a great gain for him because it took a lot of pressure off him. You could just see him enjoying his summer and almost being back to being a kid. Once he decommitted from there, and he wanted to get out and see just from a football perspective -- I think it was really, really wearing on him again.
I think he kind of settled that, 'Man, if I'm just looking at a football program, my heart was really at the University of Michigan.'
Note: In the same interview, Fellows says that he’d be shocked if Harris looked elsewhere—the commitment is solid.
Harris could end up being the first 5-star rated (since grade’s inception in early 2000s) wideout in Michigan history. Those are lofty, lofty expectations considering the fact that Mario Manningham and Jason Avant weren’t as highly touted as high schoolers.
Needless to say, securing Harris was a monumental success for Michigan.
But there are others worthy of fighting for, too; there are other high-end prospects—two of the 2015 class in particular—that have both Michigan State and Ohio State’s interest. Getting Harris could kick-start Michigan’s recruiting dominance in its home state.
If head coach Brady Hoke and athletic director Dave Brandon want to see Michigan football skyrocket, they’ll have to make sure the coaching staff has the resources in order to attract the best-of-the-best. In turn, those players cycle through and re-strengthen Wolverines football.
It’s a win-win, a proven formula that Michigan relied upon in the past. It’ll work from this point forward.
Cole and Alabi Should Be Priorities
Brian Cole (Saginaw Heritage WR—6’2”, 190)
Cole recently received an offer from Ohio State but has warm interest from Michigan State and Michigan as well.
Cole not only fits Michigan’s physical prototype at wide receiver (see 2013 recruit JaRon Dukes, etc.), but the fact that he’s from Saginaw has to factor in Hoke’s decision-making process—the Wolverines have had great experiences with Saginaw-area players.
The Saginaw Valley League hosts a vast amount of defensive talent to contend Cole, who rushed for 688 yards and four touchdowns as a running back and caught 15 passes for 309 yards and four touchdowns at wide receiver in 2012 (stats via MLive.com’s Cory Butzin).
Cole unofficially visited the Wolverines during Sunday’s 2013 spring game. He was offered during a visit on Jan. 25. Ohio State offered March 23.
Josh Alabi (Detroit Cass Tech DE—6’4”, 260)
Alabi is similar in size to Taco Charlton, a 2013 defensive end commit who was 6’6” and 249 pounds when he pledged Michigan.
Like Cole, Alabi could see a 4-star ranking once he reaches his senior year of high school. Regardless of rank, Alabi, like Cole, projects to be one of Michigan’s top 2015 prospects. It’s only natural for Michigan to come calling and solidify a verbal pledge.
Ohio State offered Alabi on April 6. Alabi visited Michigan thrice from March 3-17, unofficially, and was offered Jan. 22. Michigan State offered Jan. 30.
Alabi told Tim Sullivan of TheWolverine.com the following about his March 10 visit to Ann Arbor:
I talked to a lot of the coaches. We went up to the suite [club level in Michigan Stadium], we had some food, talked a little bit. I talked to the coaches and stuff, saw all the recruits. It was a nice time.
They just told me they really want me, and to make the right decision. They'd really love for me and Mikey [Weber] to be a part of their team. A lot of the recruits, when we were at the table we were just talking. I saw Drake Harris, Lawrence Marshall, and Malik McDowell. There were also couple of players of others who I didn't know.
OK. Now reread the final part of Alabi’s comment. He saw three of the state’s elite players on the same day. Michigan coaches want the upper-echelon targets to get acquainted. Harris committed just weeks after that March 10 visit.
Others could quickly follow.
Wolverines Must-Gets Who Could Soon Commit
Lawrence Marshall (Southfield DE – 6’3”, 225)
Marshall was given a rating of 91 by 247Sports.com on March 21. That figures to be a 4-star by other recruiting services’ standards.
Visit his 247 profile here.
Malik McDowell (Detroit Loyola DE – 6’7”, 290)
McDowell carries a rating of 97—4-star ranking, essentially—from 247Sports. He reportedly has warmer interest in Michigan since visiting March 10.
And as with the rest, running backs coach Fred Jackson is on the hunt. Jackson is a great recruiter, and the in-state talents have really taken a liking to him over the past 20 years.
Visit his 247 profile here.
Follow Bleacher Report’s Michigan Wolverines lead football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81