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Jim Harbaugh's Strong Recruiting Season Should Have Urban Meyer, B1G Worried

Jim Harbaugh has been the head coach at Michigan for 37 days, but that was all it took to turn a rotten six-player recruiting class into a rock-solid group of 14. On national signing day alone, the Wolverines climbed 33 spots on the 247Sports team rankings, finishing No. 36 in the country.

Like all partial classes, Harbaugh's first effort at Michigan looks underwhelming on paper. It does not suggest his ceiling on the recruiting trail. What it does do, however, is strike the fear of God into the rest of the conference—Ohio State included.

This was Harbaugh in 37 days. Imagine him in 365.

Harbaugh didn't make the big splash some fans hoped for. He didn't lure Iman Marshall or Keisean Lucier-South out of Los Angeles. He didn't convince Chris Clark not to travel to Los Angeles. He couldn't sell the Ann Arbor winter over 72 degrees in February.

But for all the near-misses Harbaugh accumulated, there was always a direct hit for balance. And he made those moves despite a limited pool of "availability." Because he joined so late in the cycle, six of the eight players Harbaugh added were flips from another school.

The most important of those flips was quarterback Zach Gentry, the No. 175 overall player in the class who had long been committed to Texas. Gentry is a 6'7" freak whose high school coach claims he ran a 4.6 40-yard dash, per Angelique S. Chengelis of The Detroit News.

"He kind of molded Andrew Luck into what he is today," Gentry told Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press. "When Jim Harbaugh is calling you, you're excited."

Harbaugh created a brand for himself at Stanford and with the San Francisco 49ers. More than that, he created a national brand—one that extends outside of any specific region.

His primary home has been the West Coast, but Harbaugh landed Gentry out of Albuquerque, New Mexico. And three of his other big additions (defensive end Shelton Johnson, running back Karan Higdon and defensive end Reuben Jones) hail from Florida.

How did Brady Hoke fare in the Sunshine State? Per MGoBlog:

Harbaugh stacked his coaching staff with former NFL assistants. The pay cut he took allowed the Wolverines to hire Tim Drevno, Tyrone Wheatley, Greg Jackson and Jedd Fisch. According to Phil Callihan of Bleacher Report, he did this with an eye on recruiting.

"Many coaches can say they have helped develop NFL draft picks, but Harbaugh and his staff have experience on both sides of the NFL pipeline," Callihan wrote. "They can speak firsthand about how NFL coaches evaluate talent."

Ever notice how many prospects commit "for the next three years" instead of four? If you haven't, take my word: It's a lot. The biggest fish on national signing day, 5-star defensive end Byron Cowart, said he was recruited with a "three-year plan" by Auburn.

Harbaugh doesn't have to sell kids on his NFL track record because it's sitting right in front of them. And despite the lack of splashy moves on signing day, it's already paying dividends. He only inked 14 players, but those players' average composite grade (87.82) was No. 20 in the country.

If he wanted to, Harbaugh could have filled this class with lesser recruits. Doing so would have made the numbers look better—would have pushed Michigan near the Top 25—but it also would have cost future scholarships. In short, it would have been myopic.

Harbaugh didn't waste scholarships on players he knows, down the road, will not satisfy Michigan's recruiting standards. If there's one word to describe his first class, it's "confident." It's a confident group of 14 that says: "Just wait and see the village we sign next cycle."

The Wolverines have eyes for some of the top 2016 recruits, most of whom are co-Big Ten targets. Players who might have otherwise committed elsewhere will look hard at playing in Ann Arbor. This brief sampling comes from the top 100 players alone:

Harbaugh is calling, and these kids are excited.

 

Note: All recruiting info refers to the 247Sports composite rankings.

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeigh35

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Recruiting Rankings: Top 2015 Schools Post-National Signing Day

National signing day is finally in the books, and those schools that made the best haul over the 2015 recruiting cycle have bragging rights ahead of them.

There are more than a dozen impressive classes across the landscape of college football, but a couple of star-studded ones stand out. We won't know for sure how the stars translate onto the field for some time, but which schools finish atop the recruiting rankings is often a telling indicator of what's to come.

With that said, let's look at the top 15 schools atop the 247Sports composite team rankings after national signing day.

 

Top Classes

USC

Steve Sarkisian had about a month to assemble his first USC recruiting class, but he hit the ground running for his second class and turned it into one of the best in the land.

The Trojans' 2015 class gained so much steam on national signing day that it even trumped Alabama for No. 1 at one point before the Crimson Tide regained their spot. But it's safe to say they won't be disappointed with their haul.

They built it from the defense up, adding 10 players on the defensive side of the ball who ranked in the top 10 at their position nationally. Among them are three of the top six outside linebackers, adding No. 6 outside linebacker John Houston to the mix on signing day, as per ESPN College Football:

Their defensive haul continued through Wednesday, when they secured No. 5 defensive tackle Rasheem Green and also locked down prized cornerback Iman Marshall. The No. 4 overall recruit revealed his decision with the following music video from Bleacher Report:

While they beefed up the defensive side of the ball considerably, the Trojans obviously didn't forget about offense. And two of the most important players on that side of the ball are already on campus. No. 1 offensive guard Chuma Edoga and No. 6 pro-style quarterback Ricky Town are both enrolled for the spring.

 

Tennessee

Tennessee's 2015 class was all but wrapped up entering national signing day, but Butch Jones and Co. had their sights set on one final flip to complete the class.

The stars seemed to be aligning for a late commitment from No. 3 offensive tackle Drew Richmond, who visited Knoxville over the weekend and followed it up by de-committing from Ole Miss. On Wednesday, he made the switch official, per Tennessee Football:

It'd be hard to deny the Volunteers' place among the top classes of 2015 even without Richmond. But according to Jones and the Tennessee staff, securing one of the top players at a position of need couldn't have been bigger.

"It completed the class," Jones told the Chattanooga Times Free Press' Patrick Brown. "We get back to improving our overall athleticism in the offensive front, and Drew obviously does that. ... I'm excited because he's going to add to the offensive line."

Of course, Tennessee already made quite the haul. It locked down No. 2 defensive tackle Kahlil McKenzie early on, who helped spearhead the peer-recruiting efforts to help make late flips like Richmond's happen.

With 29 total signees and 16 of them boasting 4-star ratings or more, Jones has compiled yet another loaded recruiting class to bolster the talent level in Knoxville.

 

Alabama

Few schools had as quiet of a national signing day as the Alabama Crimson Tide, but nobody finished with a more stacked recruiting class.

Head coach Nick Saban and crew finished atop the recruiting rankings again, and once again, it's a heap of 5-star talent that helped to get them there. They locked down No. 1 receiver Calvin Ridley, No. 4 cornerback Kendall Sheffield and No. 1 running back Damien Harris long before signing day.

While finishing atop the 247Sports rankings is a feat in itself, ESPN's Adam Schefter noted how they dominated the ESPN rankings as well:

It's just another year, another recruiting championship for Alabama, as Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee noted:

Recruiting rankings only mean so much, but they've never been validated more so than at Alabama. Its recruiting dominance has seen a direct correlation with the team's continued on-field prominence, and Saban has seemingly stocked the cupboard again.

What makes Alabama truly great is how it's able to reload. Notice how the Tide cleaned up with the top recruits at receiver and running back, coincidentally at the same time they look to replace star wideout Amari Cooper and running back T.J. Yeldon.

 

All recruiting rankings and info courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

National Signing Day 2015: Highlighting Top Recruits Commitments

The strong, silent type took home national signing day's top class in 2015. 

Alabama and Nick Saban need not say much these days to lure the top talent in the land to Tuscaloosa. If Steve Sarkisian's haul is any indication, neither do the USC Trojans, now free from recruiting shackles.

The biggest splashes feature familiar faces. The most notable, though, are those decisions by prospects that alter the landscape of college football, as one program misses out and must not only compensate on the field but also alter its strategy in future recruiting battles to compensate.

When it comes to those type of program-altering decisions, a few of the most notable 2015 recruits come to mind.

 

Top Impact Commitments 

Iman Marshall, USC

Let's start with the biggest fish in the 2015 pond. 

Iman Marshall, a 5-star cornerback and Long Beach Poly High School product, was the crown jewel of a handful of 2015 classes, but Sarkisian's staff brought home the signature after much ado about nothing—he always seemed destined to stay local.

This is especially the case when one digests a comment he made after the announcement, per Nick Baumgardner of MLive Media Group:

The Trojans are scarier than ever in the defensive secondary. Down the line, Marshall—who comes in at 6'1", 190 pounds with 4.5 40-yard dash speed—will pair with a past top-tier recruit in Adoree' Jackson as well as others.

Also consider how the news impacts the other programs that were in the hunt. UCLA must now avoid throwing his way for years. Florida State does not so easily replace P.J. Williams. Notre Dame will continue to struggle. Ditto for Michigan, where Jim Harbaugh's last-ditch efforts fell flat.

Any talk about the college landscape changing with one signature is not an exaggeration.

 

Porter Gustin, USC

While not the biggest linebacker name in the class, Porter Gustin dashed the future plans of a few notable programs Wednesday as he signed on the dotted line with USC.

A 4-star recruit out of Salem Hills High School in Utah, Urban Meyer's Ohio State Buckeyes were in the running in a big way before the announcement.

Per the recruit himself, Meyer put up a strong fight, as captured by Tim May of The Columbus Dispatch

Ohio State needs more talented linebackers, but it appears Meyer and Co. will need to wait another year to better solidify the position.

In the meantime, USC's defense figures to be an annual power led by its linebacking corps. Gustin is one piece of the puzzle and joins fellow recruits in 4-star linebacker John Houston and 5-star linebacker Osa Masina.

Few offenses around the nation will want to see the Trojans anytime soon.

 

Byron Cowart, Auburn

Wednesday's biggest shocker came rather early in the day, as 5-star defensive end Byron Cowart chose Auburn over a host of other top programs.

Truthfully, Florida only has itself to blame for the egg-on-face scenario.

These sort of recruiting flips happen when coaches who handle the recruiting move on to other endeavors. Cowart, a Seffner, Florida, native, figured to roll with the Florida Gators until Will Muschamp's departure cast a shadow of doubt over his future.

Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports confirms the situation:

Cowart instead lands with Muschamp at Auburn and does much to solidify the unit for the future against powerhouses such as Alabama and LSU.

For Florida, Cowart represents growing pains in the worst possible way as the staff ushers in a new era.

 

Michael Weber, Ohio State

Meyer did not lose every battle on national signing day.

Far from it, actually.

Michael Weber, a 4-star recruit, represents the first recruiting shots exchanged between Meyer and soon-to-be archrival Harbaugh.

The Detroit native initially committed to the Wolverines but changed course as Michigan tanked and Ohio State went on to bigger things this past season.

May captures just how important the recruiting rivalry victory is for the Buckeyes:

Weber will not change the Buckeyes in a major way on the field right out of the gates. The important takeaway, though, is that Meyer can go right into Harbaugh's backyard and steal a top recruit.

The battle lines in the sporting world's best rivalry are set in stone.

 

Player rankings based on 247Sports' composite ranking system. All recruit measurements and stats courtesy of 247Sports.

 

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Isaiah Prince to Ohio State: Recruit Bio and Projected Impact for Buckeyes OT

Big, versatile, athletic offensive tackles are at a premium in today's college football realm, and the Ohio State Buckeyes acquired a great one in Eleanor Roosevelt High School product Isaiah Prince.

Here's a look at Prince's decision, courtesy of The Buckeye Nut:

The 4-star recruit is the seventh-ranked offensive tackle by 247Sports' composite ratings. He also rates as the nation's 105th overall prospect and is considered the top recruit out of Maryland.

Prince boasts some impressive physical measurables, standing at 6'6" and weighing 272 pounds. He has experience anchoring both sides of the offensive line, logging time at right and left tackle.

Since displaying some impressive athleticism on the left side as a sophomore, Prince added some weight and strength, helping him make the switch to a run-blocking force on the right side as a junior. He continued to develop during his senior season, displaying good explosiveness, leg drive and the ability to catch opponents off balance with this quickness.

Roosevelt coach Tom Green summed up his star tackle during an interview with Matt Zenitz of The Baltimore Sun in July:

A lot of people look at his size and the fact that he's close to 6'7" and close to 275 [pounds]. But what makes him special is his flexibility. His hips are really flexible. He can sink in a hole. He can move for a big kid. He can change direction. A lot of kids aren't natural benders, and he's a natural bender.

With that description in mind, take a look at the sheer dominance from the towering tackle during his senior season with the Raiders in this video from hudl.com (which opens up with a massive pancake block):

That prowess earned Prince All-American honors:

We saw what Ohio State is capable of accomplishing when the running game gets going (the answer is a national championship). A big part of the team's success on the ground was due to a solid offensive line that has four starters returning for another season, according to Tim May of The Columbus Dispatch.

During a press conference, via Sebastian Salazar of CSNBaltimore.com, Prince expressed his desire to contribute immediately at Ohio State.

"I want [to play] as a true freshman," he said.

While Barton Simmons of 247Sports loves what Prince brings to the table, he also thinks the tackle may need to develop a bit before playing:

With Prince, he is another kid with a great frame. He is so long. He is 6'6" plus. He has really good feet at that size and length. He has to continue to get stronger and also needs to learn to play with leverage. His tools he has to work with make him another impressive prospect.

He'll be able to work on the edge and keep your quarterback clean. He may be a couple years away from that but he has a chance to be really good.

Prince may still be a bit raw. However, he boasts some impressive power and acceleration off the line. While he does need to improve in pass protection and work on lowering his pad level, he has the length and athleticism to play on either side of the line with the Buckeyes.

With a budding skill set and an ideal frame, Prince may not see some action in a starting role in the immediate future, but he should be expected to become one of Ohio State's standouts down the road. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Top College Football Recruiting Classes: 2015 Rankings and Groups to Watch

It is not an exaggeration to say national championships are won on national signing day.

After all, Ohio State just took home the title on the back of a 2012 class that was ranked No. 5 nationally by 247Sports’ composite rankings, a 2013 class that was ranked No. 2 nationally by 247Sports’ composite rankings and a 2014 class that was ranked No. 3 by 247Sports’ composite rankings.

Landing the best recruits in the country means something, and it is the surest way to secure your place among college football’s elite.

With that in mind, here is a look at the top 10 classes in the 2015 recruiting cycle, per 247Sports’ composite rankings, as well as some specific groups to watch moving forward.

 

USC

USC brought in the No. 2 class in the country with four 5-star players. More importantly, this class represented the first time USC could sign a full 25-member class after NCAA sanctions stemming from Reggie Bush's time on campus.

The Trojans capitalized on the opportunity on signing day by securing Rasheem Green, Iman Marshall and John Houston after landing Porter Gustin on Tuesday. It was one of the strongest finishes to the 2015 recruiting cycle for any program.

Colin Becht of Sports Illustrated painted an enticing picture for USC fans:

With the influx of marquee recruits plus the return of several major contributors, including Jackson and star safety Su’a Cravens, USC should be set for a stellar defense as it seeks to reenter the national title landscape. Quarterback Cody Kessler’s decision to stay for his senior campaign leaves the offense in capable hands, creating plenty of room for excitement.

USC needed a class like this in the resurgent Pac-12. UCLA also landed a highly ranked class, and Oregon is a perennial power that is fresh off an appearance in the national championship game. 

The Trojans finally and officially put their sanction-era issues in the rearview mirror with a dominant national signing day Wednesday. It was a fitting statement, and the Ducks will have company atop the conference standings as soon as this season.

 

Tennessee

Tennessee brought in the No. 4 class in the country with 29 commitments.

Tennessee has one of the richest traditions in college football history, but it has fallen off in recent years. Coach Butch Jones has to rebuild the program in the daunting SEC, which is no easy task, but the Volunteers have plenty of momentum after destroying Iowa in the Gator Bowl to end the 2014 campaign.

Jones parlayed that momentum into a dominant recruiting class Wednesday and took care of a glaring area of need in the process. The Volunteers struggled up front on both sides of the ball last year, but their 2015 class was loaded with both offensive and defensive linemen, including Kahlil McKenzie, Drew Richmond and Kyle Phillips.

Barton Simmons, the director of scouting at 247Sports, discussed Tennessee’s position, via Dustin Dopirak of the Knoxville News Sentinel:

I think there’s a lot of factors in place. One is that Tennessee has been a sleeping giant. They have the facilities, the stadium, the fan base, the resources. Then all it takes is for someone to sort of capture that and realize it. I think Butch Jones understood those advantages and really has been pretty masterful in taking advantage of those. He’s taking advantage of legacies, taking advantage of commitments, using those guys to recruit other players. 

There are plenty of reasons for Tennessee fans to be optimistic after Wednesday’s developments. The right coach is in place, and the players are starting to follow suit. It may only be a matter of time before the Volunteers are once again atop the SEC East.

 

Texas

Let the rebuilding begin in Texas.

Coach Charlie Strong hauled in the No. 11 class in his first full year of recruiting in Austin and set the stage for what promises to be a quick turnaround. After all, you would be hard-pressed to find a school that is better suited for extended recruiting success than Texas.

The Longhorns have the illustrious history, the incredible facilities and the name brand that should appeal to almost any recruit. What’s more, Texas is as good as it gets for high school football, which means there will always be impressive talent ready for the taking in Strong’s backyard.

Strong is a defensive-minded coach, and he brought in a number of linebackers and secondary members, but he recognized Texas’ issues were on the offensive side of the ball last year and recruited accordingly. Between running back Chris Warren, wide receiver John Burt, tight end Devonaire Clarington and wide receiver Ryan Newsome, the Longhorns have plenty of playmakers in this class.

They should help bring Texas back to prominence within a couple of years. 

All recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports.

 

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