Michigan’s 2015 recruiting class, the first under coach Jim Harbaugh, isn’t a blow-you-away, stars-for-days collection—as a matter of fact, it’s pretty modest, ranking No. 38 overall and No. 6 in the Big Ten, per 247Sports.
And really, it pales in comparison, at least on paper, to the previous efforts of former coach Brady Hoke, who recruited a pair of top-10 classes before being released in December.
But as Harbaugh said during Wednesday’s national signing day presser, the 2015 class is full of “winners” and has plenty in the “tough/toughness” department.
Harbaugh signed 14 players on signing day, six of the 4-star variety, but he also landed under-the-radar guys who could make impressions come fall, such as 3-star running back Karan Higdon, 3-star wide receiver Grant Perry, 3-star offensive lineman Jon Runyan Jr. and 3-star athlete Keith Washington.
The Wolverines’ running back situation isn’t written in stone, and they could use another receiver to strengthen the stable. The O-line could use an injection of talent, and a return job could be up for grabs. There are openings for Higdon, Perry, Runyan Jr. and Washington—and at least one of them could gain serious ground come fall.
Set Your Alarm for Higdon
Once committed to Iowa, Higdon didn’t receive a lot of play from major programs. That’s not to say they weren’t interested, but they weren’t beating down his door. Higdon had 14 offers, including invites from Arkansas, Tennessee and Arizona.
Florida looked at him. So did Notre Dame. No offer, though.
Harbaugh offered him this past Saturday and signed him Wednesday.
At 5’10” and 190 pounds, Higdon is average-ish—nothing too special, but he’s not a runt. He could hit the weights and enter the season as a 200-pound bruiser. He has the foundation—it’s on Harbaugh to build one of those houses he talked about during his intro on Dec. 30.
Circumstances and timing could easily create a path for Higdon to enter the rotation. He’ll have to fight Derrick Green, De’Veon Smith and Ty Isaac—who were three of the top backs of the 2013 class—for reps, but he could work his way into the mix.
He runs hard and has clocked a 4.5-second 40-yard dash.
And he’s worthy of your attention come 2015.
Taken for Grant-ed?
Having chemistry with non-sleeper Alex Malzone could be a plus for Perry, as Malzone, a 4-star quarterback, is expected to at least challenge this spring and into fall. That instant connection could benefit the both of them, actually. Quarterbacks make receivers look good and vice versa.
At 6’0” and 185 pounds, Perry is another average-ish player. However, the former Northwestern commit has great hands, and those are always in demand.
Within the right system, Perry could be a valuable secondary option or even leapfrog Drake Harris—who redshirted as a freshman due to injury in 2014—Jaron Dukes, Da’Mario Jones or even Maurice Ways, who had a small handful of nice grabs this past season.
Other than Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson, the Wolverines don’t really have an experienced and established corps of wideouts. The story has been the same since 2013—they have depth at the position, but the development...well, you know the rest.
Perry was the only true wide receiver recruited in the 2015 class. Brian Cole, a 4-star athlete, was initially viewed as a running back but is slated to play wide receiver. He could immediately help, and being the No. 73-ranked prospect of his class obviously disqualifies him from “sleeper” status.
However, the next unheralded recruit could also lend a hand in the pass-catching department, among many others.
Washington received interest from home-state programs Alabama and Auburn, and they typically pursue the highest-profile, superbly talented bunch.
But they didn’t offer him. So there’s that.
Missouri and Miami (Fla.) offered, but Washington ended up pledging to Cal...then he executed a last-minute flip to Michigan after being recruited by secondary coach Mike Zordich.
The 6’2”, 170-pounder played cornerback in high school, which is probably why Zordich went after him, but he also played quarterback. He could squeeze into certain sets as a gadget back or even serve as a return man—in addition to playing wide receiver.
His versatility makes him one of the most intriguing signees. He’s a lot like Cole in some regards, and the potential of that tandem is endless. While it’s easy to get carried away while projecting roles of players who are classified as “athletes,” it’s important to remember that they’re tagged as such for a reason: They can do pretty much anything.
Washington is one of them. Punts, kicks and picks—the freshman should get a few opportunities to showcase his talent early this fall.
Being the son of a Michigan great probably carries a level of responsibility. It’s somewhat natural for fans and media to expect a little too much from someone due to his last name.
That’s fine—some of the time. However, it’s not entirely fair to evaluate the kid on what dear old dad did in the 1990s. We’re talking about two different eras and two very different programs.
At 6’4” and 276 pounds, Runyan Jr. ended his prep career as the No. 121-ranked tackle of his class. He was recruited by former offensive coordinator Al Borges and O-line coach Darrell Funk—so yeah, he’s been on board for some time. He was one of six who didn’t bail when the stuff hit the fan for Hoke’s staff.
There are obvious openings up front too. In 2014, true freshman Mason Cole earned the No. 1 left tackle job. He wasn’t a sleeper by definition, but he was the first frosh to start on the line for Michigan on opening day.
Runyan, in essence, could do something similar—not because he’s Jon Runyan’s kid but because he possesses the Harbaugh-approved characteristics of being incredibly strong-minded and dedicated to the idea of team and program.
"The apple doesn't fall far from the tree," Harbaugh said.
Follow Bleacher Report’s Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and references were obtained firsthand by the writer via press conference, press release or other media availability.
Recruiting info via 247Sports.com