How Jim Harbaugh Has Handled First Month as Michigan Head Coach

Phil Callihan@umgoblogContributor IFebruary 2, 2015

Dec 30, 2014; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines head football coach Jim Harbaugh address the crowd during halftime of the game against the Illinois Fighting Illini at Crisler Center. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
USA TODAY Sports

Jim Harbaugh has dazzled fans during his first month as head coach and is now poised to deliver a quality recruiting class on national signing day.

Iman Marshall
Iman Marshall247sports.com

Harbaugh is still hoping to add one or more of the following highly coveted players to his first recruiting class: 5-star cornerback Iman Marshall, 4-star linebacker Roquan Smith, 4-star running back Mike Weber or 4-star receiver Van Jefferson.

Michigan football had languished in the month between Hoke’s dismissal and Harbaugh’s hire but has become a force to be reckoned with under Harbaugh’s leadership. Already he has made good on his promise to hire top assistants while wreaking havoc on the recruiting classes of opposing schools.

Dec 30, 2014; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Fans hold up a sign for new Michigan Wolverines head football coach Jim Harbaugh during halftime of the basketball game against the Illinois Fighting Illini at Crisler Center. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sp
USA TODAY Sports

After the media crush at his opening press conference, followed by the adulation of fans at a Michigan basketball game, Harbaugh found himself in a deserted Schembechler Hall working the phones to assemble a staff and prepare for recruiting visits.

“A three-point stance waiting to get out,” is how he described his first few weeks on the job, according to the Detroit Free Press.

He began his tenure during a recruiting “dead” period, when no meetings are allowed between coaches and recruits. He could text, email or call recruits and their families, but that was it.

He faced two distinct recruiting efforts during his first month—hiring his coaching staff and completing his first recruiting class.

One effort focused on convincing seasoned coaches, many of whom had known Harbaugh for years, to join him in Ann Arbor. As a former player who grew up in Ann Arbor, the job had a special attraction for him, but he needed to convince other coaches that the opportunity was too good to pass up.

Harbaugh reached out to former colleagues and even his own son to join his staff. He assembled a group of coaches with experience at the collegiate and professional levels with national connections in areas that are hotbeds for producing professional football talent.

His other task depended on quickly planning and executing a recruiting strategy. Opposing coaches had been talking to many of these players for over a year. Harbaugh and his staff needed to evaluate players and build a rapport with recruits and their families in only three weeks. Every recruit may have known of Jim Harbaugh as a professional coach, but visits are crucial to build relationships and trust.

With most top players committed to other programs and only a handful of commitments, Harbaugh targeted players to flip from other programs. Former Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez had been criticized for poaching a recruit from a fellow Big Ten program, but Harbaugh declared open season on any recruit, Big Ten or not. He flipped a player from Nebraska (Reuben Jones) and is working to grab one from Ohio State (Mike Weber).

He also claimed quarterback Zach Gentry from Texas and offensive lineman Nolan Ulizio from Connecticut.

This week, he will find out how successful his pitch has been to a few remaining high-profile recruiting targets. No matter how many recruits he flips, the small size of Michigan’s recruiting class will keep it from being highly rated. But former coach Brady Hoke had stocked the roster with talented, if underdeveloped, players. Harbaugh only needs to fill out a few positions, most notably at quarterback, to field a competitive team.

With his coaching staff in place and first recruiting class almost complete, Harbaugh can start preparing for spring practice.

If his first month is any indication, the Big Ten is in for a shock when games begin.

Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations obtained firsthand.

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