Michigan National Signing Day 2015: 5 Takeaways from Wolverines' Class
Jim Harbaugh has spent the last three weeks storming across the country, scrambling to complete his first recruiting class.
Harbaugh, who was forced to stew at Schembechler Hall in “…a three-point stance waiting to get out” until the recruiting dead period ended, made a big impression once he was able to meet with recruits.
He enjoyed getting back on the recruiting trail and getting to know his new players, noting: "...it was not difficult. It was a real joy. It was a real pleasure. Just the things that I learned about some of the players that were already committed under Coach Hoke and his regime, and they did a tremendous job."
With this recruiting class all but complete, he knows which players he'll have to work with for next season and declared that "...practice will be a meritocracy at its best."
Harbaugh refused to project whether his class would make an immediate impact, saying: "All things will be earned on the field. There are no guarantees, only opportunities, and they will have a great opportunity here at the University of Michigan to compete at the highest level academically and at the highest level athletically."
But he didn't get every player he wanted. Harbaugh’s barnstorming put Michigan in position to swipe three additional top recruits who announced their decision on national signing day.
Unfortunately, he was disappointed when the following highly rated players failed to join his first recruiting class:
- 5-star cornerback Iman Marshall (USC)
- 4-star linebacker Roquan Smith (UCLA)
- 4-star running back Michael Weber (Ohio State)
What takeaways can we glean from Jim Harbaugh's first recruiting class?
The Quarterback Battle Is On
Harbaugh needs a new starting quarterback to replace Devin Gardner. Fans frustrated with Gardner’s turnovers might think this will be an easy task, but there is no obvious choice on the roster. Shane Morris has two unspectacular starts under his belt, and Wilton Speight redshirted last season. Russell Bellomy, another player with limited game experience, has decided to transfer.
Malzone committed under Brady Hoke and maintained his allegiance throughout the coaching search that resulted in Harbaugh’s hiring. Harbaugh praised Malzone: "[He's] a winner. Everything he does, he wins. Excellent thrower of the football. He has a real savvy in the pocket. I think his accuracy is outstanding."
Harbaugh flipped Gentry from Texas, where, according to Angelique S. Chengelis of The Detroit News, he was projected to be the starter next season. Harbaugh described the traits Gentry brings to the table: "He is very fast, he has some real physical attributes that not every quarterback has, and he is somebody that works extremely hard at the game, especially during the offseason."
No More Gentlemen’s Agreement
In the past there allegedly was an agreement that Big Ten coaches wouldn’t attempt to flip each other’s recruits.
Harbaugh explained how he targeted players to flip: "We were trying to build a recruiting base, and that is kind of the way the pickle squirted this year. I do not see that happening going forward."
Harbaugh Is Relentless
Harbaugh targeted linebacker Roquan Smith and showed up everywhere trying to bring him to Michigan.
Nick Baumgardner of MLive.com cited a report from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution which showed how badly Harbaugh wanted Smith: “(Harbaugh) visited her (Roquan's mother) at work, and he also visited with Roquan’s aunt and uncle.”
Smith’s recruitment is an example of why Harbaugh has earned a reputation as a tireless recruiter.
He is also building a recruiting infrastructure to mimic Alabama that should help Michigan identify and court players from all across the country. Harbaugh is building a recruiting machine using all the resources at his disposal. It might not have paid off for this class, but given a full cycle to recruit he and his staff will be a major force this time next year.
Michigan Family Affair
Former Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez caused dissension in the Michigan football family by not recruiting the son of a former Wolverine football player. The Boren family saga was an unneeded distraction for Rodriguez, who had more than his share of drama while at Michigan.
Harbaugh will not make the same mistake. According to NFL.com's Mike Huguenin, offensive tackle Jon Runyan Jr. and tight end Tyrone Wheatley Jr. have both signed with Michigan. Both are key elements of this first recruiting class. Wheatley joins his father, who is on Harbaugh's coaching staff.
Harbaugh wins by signing two talented players and strengthening his ties to the Michigan football family.
Time to Mend Fences
Running back Michael Weber originally committed to Michigan before backing out after last season’s collapse. He then committed to Michigan’s archrival, Ohio State.
Harbaugh made it his mission to flip Weber back, but he was unsuccessful.
It's a testament to Harbaugh's stature that he can recruit nationally, but he needs to protect his home turf. Michigan already has to compete with Michigan State and can't afford to have Ohio State pulling top recruits away.
If Harbaugh had been hired sooner, then Weber would probably have stayed with Michigan. But now he'll be a constant reminder of the one who got away.
Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations obtained firsthand. Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.