Once upon a time, Damien Harris was committed to Michigan's 2015 class. By verbally pledging to the Wolverines, the 5'11," 205-pound Berea Madison Southern (Kentucky) running back served as a shot of adrenaline to the arm of a program in need of 5-star services in the backfield.
And then he changed his mind, causing a rift that hit fans like a ton of bricks.
Freed of his ties, Harris unofficially visited Florida, Florida State, Ohio State and Kentucky. According to 247Sports, he has "warm" interest in Alabama and Auburn, which complicates matters.
However, as of early June, Harris remains as a possibility for coach Brady Hoke, whose talent-laden recruiting hauls continually quench the thirst of an extraordinarily dedicated fanbase. In essence, Hoke's success on the trail overshadows otherwise miserable seasons by Michigan standards.
The 2012 and 2013 classes were more than kind to Hoke, finishing as the No. 6- and No. 4-ranked collections, respectively, per 247Sports. Without Harris, Michigan's 2015 class dwells at No. 33. But if he were to commit and sign, the Wolverines could finish among the top 15 come national signing day in February.
On May 22, Fred Jackson, running backs coach, paid an in-home visit to the Harris household. When it's all said and done, the veteran's communication with Harris could prove as a difference-maker in the process.
Now it's time to review what else Michigan has done, should do and could do to get Harris in a winged helmet.
He Was Michigan's, First!
It was mentioned just moments ago, but it bears repeating: Michigan was Harris' original choice. The firing of Al Borges, the former OC, rattled him a bit.
Michigan commit Damien Harris, No. 17 in ESPN Junior 300, was "closer to Coach Borges than anyone," his HS coach says http://t.co/TiMHO3TQFE— Jared Shanker (@JShankerESPN) January 9, 2014
Damien Harris' mom said it was sad and a shock to hear about Borges, but right now they are letting it sink and aren't talking about it.— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) January 8, 2014
But Harris has kept in close contact, keeping the door open and Maize and Blue fans eagerly anticipating the latest news.
Damien Harris update: "I don't have a leader." http://t.co/ah0dV3rEgq— Tom Beaver (@TomBeaverGBW) June 1, 2014
While at Alabama, Doug Nussmeier coached some of the best talent that recruiting could recruit. He's not a national name, but a well-known entity nonetheless. During a recent interview with SB Nation, Harris admitted that he wasn't overly familiar with Michigan's new OC but is working on changing that, per Luke Zimmerman:
"The coaches at Ohio State — Coach Meyer, Coach Hinton, Coach Drayton — I've talked to them for a long time. But you know Coach Nussmeier at Michigan, he hasn't been there for very long. I'm just now starting to build a relationship with him."
Nussmeier is best known for his work with quarterbacks. But he's also known for forming bonds with his athletes, and that'll come into play while Harris mulls over his options. Players should want to play for coaches who can advance them in life, on the field and in the classroom.
Doug is a highly respected offensive coordinator and has earned a reputation as being a great mentor to quarterbacks, specifically, where he's coached Pro Bowlers, top NFL draft choices and Heisman Trophy finalists. Doug has been successful at every coaching stop with his balanced and explosive offenses, and he brings national championship experience. He is an excellent addition to our coaching staff and football program...(goes on to welcome Nussmeier family)
Doug did an outstanding job for us during his time at the University of Alabama and I'm sure he will do a great job at the University of Michigan. He is a bright coach who works hard and brings a lot of energy and enthusiasm to work each and every day. Our production and balance the last two years has been very good and he also brought a lot to the table in terms of coaching the quarterbacks...(goes on to thank Nussmeier family)
The Tide's past under and Michigan potential with Nussmeier could also be a deciding factor for Harris.
Wolverines RB Tradition
In all likelihood, Jackson and the rest of the staff have recruiting down to a science. They should. Regardless of how smooth one is, it's often helpful to put the prospect in the mood. By doing so, it generates emotion—and in some cases, it can encourage desired results, which, in this scenario, would be a commitment.
As the No. 1-ranked athlete at his position, Harris has his pick of the litter. But for fun, let's say that the Wolverines have hit him with something similar to the following narrative:
Damien, it's a brisk Saturday in late November at The Big House, and more than 110,000 loyal supporters are chanting your name—oh, and it's 4th-and-goal from Ohio State's 3-yard line with one tick remaining on the clock. And then it happens: Everything becomes a blur, and the ball is thrust toward your abdomen by the quarterback—seconds later, you find yourself being mobbed by teammates who are celebrating your game-winning touchdown.
Doesn't that sound like something you'd like to do? Don't you want to be a major part of one of the game's most storied rivalries? Michigan is for you, Damien.
Will UM win Harris?
OK, so it's not perfect, but the wooing technique is certainly an important part of the sales pitch. Again, for fun, let's assume that Jackson also has that part nailed. After all, in 2013, he convinced Derrick Green, who was once thought to be the top back of the class, and De'Veon Smith, a consensus top-20er, to look past the others and head to Ann Arbor.
However, it's mandatory to tread lightly when using the tradition speech. Old stories don't win today's games, and Harris probably couldn't care less about being a featured back on a team that's spinning its wheels in the mud. But Michigan has to do much more than serenade the Bluegrass State's prized ball-carrier; it has to prove that it's worthy of rejecting the rest of college football.
Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81