The Wolverine

June/July 2017

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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58 THE WOLVERINE JUNE/JULY 2017 BY BRANDON BROWN J im Harbaugh just put a bow on spring football heading into his third season as Michigan's head football coach and everything is running like a well-oiled machine around Schem- bechler Hall. The young but talented football team is starting to jell, the coaching staff is oozing NFL experience, more former Wolverines will be playing on Sundays next fall than in recent mem- ory and U-M has stacked back-to-back 10-win seasons on top of each other in Harbaugh's first two campaigns. In order for all of that to continue, Har- baugh and his staff will need to recruit at an extremely high level and, so far, they've been able to do exactly that. Harbaugh was introduced as Michi- gan's head coach on Dec. 30, 2014, giv- ing him just over a month to assemble a staff and try to put together a recruit- ing class. He and his assistants signed just 14 players that cycle and came in at No. 50 according to Rivals.com's team rankings. He inked 29 players in 2016, includ- ing the nation's top prospect in five- star defensive lineman Rashan Gary, and finished at No. 4 in the country. It was like déja vu in 2017, with the Wol- verines finishing at No. 4 nationally after signing 30 prospects. The 2018 class is likely going to be somewhere in the Nos. 16-20 range based on where the roster is in early May. It may not have the quantity of the past two classes, but the quality should be just fine. It's a team effort for college football programs to recruit at a high level these days. From the top to the bottom, everyone on the staff has to be on their game. Coaches have to be innovators and programs are constantly trying to outdo one another. Harbaugh has been able to separate himself from the pack as the most po- larizing head coach in the country and prospective student-athletes are defi- nitely taking notice. THE TRIP TO ROME IS RESONATING WITH RECRUITS Harbaugh and his team were all over the news during late April when they tore through the city of Rome. Whether it was team paintball, trips to the Vatican to meet the Pope or bond- ing with refugees in the Borghese Garden, Harbaugh and his boys were living it up in Italy and a lot of people were paying attention. ESPN took notice, sending an en- tire team overseas spearheaded by on-camera personality Marty Smith to tag along and chronicle the trip. Recruits were zeroed in overseas as well. Targets and commits alike had great things to say about Harbaugh and Michigan's unprecedented trip abroad. Dearborn (Mich.) Divine Child three-star weakside defensive end Aidan Hutchinson and Indianapolis Cathedral four-star offensive guard Emil Ekiyor have both been commit- ted to Michigan for some time, and neither could believe what their future team got to experience. "It just looks like a fun experience and a great opportunity to see the world," Ekiyor said. Hutchinson, who spent time in Dubai with his family earlier this year, was beyond impressed with what the football team was able to do in Rome. "I absolutely love how Michigan goes on a trip in the spring," Hutchin- son said. "Especially how they go out of the country, which interests me even more. That definitely is a major benefit when I arrive at Michigan." Columbus (Ohio) St. Francis DeSales three-star athlete Brian Asamoah was watching Michigan closely on Twitter and ESPN, and he is looking forward to getting a first-hand recap of the trip the next time he's in Ann Arbor. "I think it's a great way to give back to the athletes," he said. "The amount they are going to learn about history is tremendous. I'm looking forward to talking to some of the athletes about their experience when they get back." Another big-time recruit out of Ohio, Toledo St. John's four-star out- side linebacker Dallas Gant, sees a trip like that as on opportunity to do something you might not otherwise get to do. "That's incredible getting to go on a trip like that, probably an outstanding experience for both the players and coaches," Gant said. "It's a big oppor- tunity to explore and see a lot of new things for people that have not been to Rome or even out of the country." Missouri City (Texas) Ridge Point four-star tight end Mustapha Muham- mad, another potential future Wolver- ine, seemed almost jealous of the fun he witnessed from afar. "It's awesome," Muhammad said. "There's nothing like it — meeting the Pope, playing paintball as a team over there — it makes Michigan very unique and really shows Harbaugh's personality." It hasn't been just Harbaugh selling the idea to recruits though. Assistant head coach and passing game coor- dinator Pep Hamilton sees the value in such a trip and pitched the idea to Chandler (Ariz.) Hamilton three-star pro-style quarterback Tyler Shough. The pitch may have just worked. "It is amazing," Shough said. "I want to travel the world as well so it is encouraging. Coach Pep [Hamilton] talked with me about future destina- tions."   FOOTBALL RECRUITING Jim Harbaugh's Michigan Machine Is Humming Along Toledo (Ohio) St. John's four-star outside linebacker Dallas Gant was among the big-time recruits that took notice of U-M's spring trip to Italy. PHOTO COURTESY RIVALS.COM

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