Will Jim Harbaugh save Michigan’s 2015 recruiting class?


Now that new Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh’s  feet are firmly on the ground, it’s time to get to work—selecting his staff, beginning winter conditioning, and most of all, salvaging the 2015 recruiting class.

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At Stanford, Harbaugh’s coaching record  (29-21), showed he can recruit players with a keen emphasis on education in addition to finding a path to the National Football League.

And Harbaugh knows what it takes to be successful  in the NFL, too.  Not only did he spend 14 years as a quarterback, primarily for the Chicago Bears and Indianapolis Colts, he just spent the last four seasons as the successful head coach of the San Francisco 49ers.

Harbaugh’s four-year regular season mark was 44-19-1, which included three years with no less than 11 wins. Post-season play included facing his brother John in Super Bowl XLVII.

Excellent resume

And let’s not forget that Harbaugh was Michigan’s starting signal-caller for part of 1984 and all of 1985 and 1986. In those final two seasons, Harbargh had a 23-3-1 mark.

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

With a resume like this, there is absolutely no reason to believe Harbaugh won’t get the job done.

And that’s why the Michigan fans joined the celebration at Tuesday’s (Dec. 30)  Michigan-Illinois basketball game.  Ticket reseller StubHub had less than 100 tickets remaining  in the $125 range an hour before tipoff. The Wolverines took Illinois into overtime, winning 73-65 in the Big Ten opener for both teams.

Currently, Michigan has five verbal commitments for the 2015 class, and because of large hauls in 2012 and 2013, the Wolverines can sign only 16 or 17 players for this year’s class. National Signing Day, the first day prospects can sign binding National Letters of Intent is February 4, 2015,  just five weeks away.

Thus far, the Wolverines have only six commitments for the 2015 class, which is ranked 68th in the nation. Despite Michigan’s tough year (5-7) and uncertainty in the program’s direction, things could be worse.

6 still committed

OT Grant Newsome, QB Alex Malzone,  S Tyree Kinnel, OG John Runyan, WR Brian Cole and kicker Andrew David are still verbally committed,

Decommitted are RB Mike Weber, DE Darian Roseboro,  LB Darren Kirkland, CB Garrett Taylor, TE Chris Clark.

WR George Campbell and RB Darien Harris, also members of the 2015 class, said goodbye to the Wolverines earlier in the year.

Of the seven, it sounds like 5-star Clark has the best chance of returning.

“.. I’d really like to have the opportunity to talk with him and just take it from there,” Clark told MLive . “But, yeah, Michigan would be a school that I’d have a lot of interest in again.”

Will Weber return?

The 6-foot-6, 247-pound Clark is the top-rated tight end in the 2015 class, per Scout.com. He originally committed to Hoke and his staff in June before the 2014 season began. Clark eventually decommitted Dec. 2.

Another prize recruit apparently lost was Detroit Cass Tech running back Mike Weber. ‘“I’m pretty solid on Ohio State,” Weber said.  “I mean, I don’t know. I’m going to respect him and I know he’ll try to recruit me. I’m going to respect him and listen to what he has to say, but I’m pretty solid.”

A long shot for Michigan is UCLA commit Josh Rosen, the No. 1 signal-caller in the nation. Rosen was thought to consider flipping over to Michigan  but it looks like just another recruiting rumor.

But one shouldn’t fret too much. Harbaugh’s reputation as a recruiter is more like Urban Meyer than Hoke and Rich Rodrguez before him.

Hoke started strong

Hoke had no trouble completing the 2011 class, even though he was handicapped by Rich Rodriguez‘ impending departure.

Between the beginning of January and National Signing Day, Hoke landed 11 prospects, six who’ve made solid contributions to the Wolverines. DE Frank Clark, CB Blake Countess, CB Raymon Taylor and K Matt Wile are starters, while TE Keith Heitzman is a regular contributor and RB Thomas Rawls showed promise before transferring to Central Michigan.

Even Rodriguez had a solid recruiting debut when he left West Virginia for Michigan in 2008.

In that similar one-month period, Rodriguez penned WR Martavious Odoms, RB Michael Shaw, WR Roy Roundtree, OG Ricky Barnum, OG Patrick Omameh and CB JT Floyd, all who played on Hoke’s 2011 Sugar Bowl championship team.

Assistants will help

Harbaugh will bring in assistants from all over the nation, making sure all states are covered, not just a region like Michigan, Ohio and Indiana. A few of the assistants will bring one or two players with them.

Even if the Wolverines come a few recruits short, Michigan is practically guaranteed a solid roster through 2016. That’s due to the top-five classes of 2012 and 2013.

The 2012 class which totaled 25 prospects, featured one 5-star and 14 4-star recruits. Scout.com rated it the No. 4 class in the nation. The 27-member 2013 class was rated No. 2 and boasted four 5-star and 15 4-star prospects.

So while there is a solid nucleus already there, it will be up to Harbaugh and his staff to bring in some help—in addition to creating  Big Ten quality players from a group which hasn’t quite lived up to its potential.

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