Recruiting & Scouting

FOOTBALL RECRUITING: Harbaugh hire changes everything for Michigan, new coach brings back UofM recruiting luster

Football   | Scott Burnstein

FOOTBALL RECRUITING: Harbaugh hire changes everything for Michigan, new coach brings back UofM recruiting luster

Ann Arbor – In terms of recruiting, among a multitude of other things at the University of Michigan, the Wolverines’ hiring of Jim Harbaugh is a complete game-changer.

A ship that was once fading and fading fast into the storm – losing commits as fast as it was losing steam on the field –, is now sailing at full-speed into sunny weather and towards possible glorious horizons in the not-so-distant future.

One week. One hire. And the difference is colossal.

Even the Spartans over in East Lansing have to be envious.

“It’s really big, it’s an instant name kids know,” said Allen Trieu, the head of national recruiting affairs for Scout.com. “Every recruit around the country will pick up the phone to talk to him. He’s been to a Super Bowl and he can take the program to another level.”

Harbaugh, who grew up in Ann Arbor, was a ball-boy for the Wolverines football program in the 1970s and an All-Big Ten quarterback at the school in the 1980s, came back to Michigan after spending the past four years in the NFL as head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, where he led the franchise to three straight NFC Championship Games and appeared in the Super Bowl in 2013.

Detroit Cass Tech All-American tailback Mike Weber, a one-time Michigan-commit, now committed to Ohio State, could also be returning to the fold in Ann Arbor. According to sources close to Harbaugh, Weber was the first recruit Harbaugh contacted after accepting his new position.

Weber reaffirmed his commitment to Ohio State this week at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, however, Birmingham Brother Rice all-state quarterback Alex Malzone isn’t convinced that Webber, one of the most dynamic offensive talents to come out of the Detroit PSL in decades, will be inking with the Buckeyes come Signing Day next month.

“He’ll realize Michigan is the place he wants to be before it’s too late,” said Malzone confidently when asked if he thinks that Weber might reconsider his original de-commitment now that Harbaugh is at the helm.

Malzone has already emerged as a leader of the Wolverines 2015 recruiting class and his politicking with fellow prospects and commits was integral in stabilizing things during the month-long gap between Brady Hoke being fired and Harbaugh concluding his duties with the 49ers and assuming the reins in Ann Arbor earlier this week.

“I told everyone to just stay calm and let’s see what happens and we wound up coming out the other end of it looking pretty good,” he said.

Weber was one of eight de-commitments for the Wolverines, as Hoke lost control of the program in his final season on the sidelines.

Both Malzone and Trieu are of the opinion that Harbaugh’s hire solidifies the commitment of Saginaw Heritage wide receiver Brian Cole, who had begun taking visits to other Big Ten schools the past couple months.

“This keeps him on-board,” Trieu said.

When it comes to the state's top uncommitted talent, Oak Park's Johnny Kelly (RB-CB), - another one of Harbaugh's initial contacts once he grabbed the mantle - Michigan leapfrogs MSU and Minnesota as the frontrunners in the race for his pledge, according to several scouts.

"With Harbaugh there, they become the leader now for Kelly," said Trieu.

The Harbaugh regime will have to get to work quickly: Entering 2015, the Maize and Blue has only six players committed to its incoming recruiting crop.