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.
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.
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).
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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The dream finish won't happen, but Texas should still expect some great news on national signing day from four of its top targets.
Kyler Murray's decision to shut down his recruitment prevents Texas from hitting the home run and hauling in as many as seven of the state's top 15 players.
It's a tough loss for the quarterback-needy Horns, but they've have moved on just fine so far. Top cornerbacks Kris Boyd and Holton Hill each committed to the program on Friday, giving Charlie Strong one of the best defensive classes in the country.
Now it's mostly a waiting game for the targets left on the board. DaMarkus Lodge is off the board with Murray gone, while Deandre Baker and new offer PJ Locke are expected to stay committed to their current programs.
That leaves Chris Warren, Daylon Mack, Kai Locksley and Soso Jamabo as the predictive favorites to commit on signing day.
Fresh off their national championship victory, Urban Meyer and the Ohio State Buckeyes are primed to sign another Top 10 recruiting class.
When national signing day rolls around on Wednesday, years of hard work will come to a head as the Buckeyes' 2015 recruiting class will be solidified. Ohio State already has 24 commitments in the fold, four of whom enrolled early, but there are sure to be a few surprises on signing day.
Will the Buckeyes be able to hold on to their current commits? Will they be able to add to their already impressive class?
Here's a prediction of how Ohio State will close things out on Wednesday.
Note: * indicates a player who enrolled early.