Ann Arbor — When Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh and his staff launched the “Swarm Tour” earlier this year and traveled to many of the nation’s high school football hotbeds to host one-day camps, it was a strong message he intends to recruit anywhere and everywhere.
And that’s what Harbaugh has done, extending Michigan’s recruiting reach far beyond the Midwest.
The Wolverines, coming off their final official visit weekend during which they picked up a 2016 commitment from Tennessee receiver Nate Johnson and a 2017 commitment from receiver J.J. Holloman, have 22 commitments from 12 states for next year’s freshman class. There is only one player from Michigan and none from Ohio.
“(Harbaugh’s) philosophy has been a little different,” said Scout.com recruiting guru Allen Trieu. “Not everyone he has a commitment from has been a world-renowned, highly-recruited guy. Some have popped up at satellite camps and had no other offers. He’s shown he’s going to trust his (recruiters), and they’ve gone all over.
“Harbaugh has been all over the place and when you’re at Michigan and have the resources you do, they’ve opened it up. They’ve offered 10 juniors in the state (Michigan) for next year. I don’t think they’re ignoring (the state of) Michigan. They’re going to go after them wherever they are.”
Michigan is waiting on some top recruits, including a few who will announce their decisions this week, but the overall sense is that the upcoming class will address the Wolverines’ position needs, particularly offensive line and linebacker.
“Harbaugh’s name has definitely made a difference nationally,” said Steve Lorenz, editor and publisher of Wolverine247. “This class is going to have more of a national feel.”
Wolverine247 and Scout currently have Michigan’s recruiting class ranked No. 6 nationally, while Rivals ranks Michigan No. 5, and that certainly can change with some key additions.
But this class starts with a solid commit in 6-foot-5 pro-style quarterback Brandon Peters, rated four stars out of Avon, Indiana.
“Peters is not the highest ranked, but he’s your crown jewel because he’s your quarterback,” Trieu said. “He had an outstanding season. He already knows he’s going to be redshirted — (Harbaugh) did that with Andrew Luck. The offensive line class is good. They have Ben Bredeson from Wisconsin, and he’s a top player in the Midwest and had offers from the entire country.”
Michigan will learn this week if its efforts to land linebacker Devin Bush and running back Kareem Walker will come to fruition.
Bush, a four-star linebacker from Pembroke Pines, Florida, is announcing on Wednesday, and Walker, a 6-foot-1, 210-pound running back from New Jersey, announces on Thursday. Bush isn’t the only linebacker — a position of need for Michigan — Harbaugh and his staff want to sign. They’re also actively recruiting Dontavious Jackson from Houston and Jonathan Jones from Orlando, Florida.
“Bush and Jones are key targets, and that is the position Michigan fans are most curious about,” Trieu said. “Both would enroll early, and there’s a very good shot a freshman linebacker could play. There’s an outside shot one would challenge to start. If they miss out on one or both, they would have to go back to the drawing board.
“Michigan is in the final two for both, at least the final three. Most thought they’d get Bush all along, but (defensive coordinator D.J.) Durkin leaving (to be the head coach at Maryland) affects him. His father went to (Florida State) and FSU has offered. A month ago, both seemed certain (to commit to UM). There’s cautious optimism on both guys.”
Lorenz pointed out that Florida State is Michigan’s biggest competitor for Bush and Walker.
“They’re both very quiet, and their camps are keeping quiet, too,” Lorenz said. “Michigan believes they’re going to get both guys. They’ve put a ton of effort into (recruiting Bush). That would be a huge loss even though he’s a Florida State legacy. Michigan need linebackers really, really bad, and they would get a shot to play, too. Florida State needs linebackers really bad, also, so they’re in a similar situation.”
Of course landing five-star defensive tackle Rashan Gary from Paramus Catholic in New Jersey, where current Michigan safety Jabrill Peppers went to school, would be an enormous boost. The 6-foot-5, 293-pound Gary has been recruited hard by Michigan, and the Wolverines have the added advantage with Chris Partridge, Gary’s former high school coach, on staff as director of player personnel. Partridge will coach the linebackers in Michigan’s upcoming bowl game.
“Gary is the top dog across the board and not just because of the position he plays,” Lorenz said. “I think they’re in a good spot with him. If I was saying today, Michigan is in really good shape with him.”
Lorenz said to stay tuned on Michigan’s recruitment of top tight end Isaac Nauta, a 6-4, 237-pound five-star from the IMG Academy and the nation’s top at his position. It has been well-noted Harbaugh emphasizes the tight end in his offense.
“He’s probably the biggest tight end prospect in the last 10 years,” said Lorenz, adding that Harbaugh was expected to pay an in-home visit Sunday. “He’s by far the best fit from a schematic standpoint. He’s going to be good wherever he goes. He was committed to Florida State, and Georgia is still the favorite, but Michigan is right there. He’s not a must-get, but he has star written all over him if he commits to Michigan.”