Expert: Harbaugh gets pass on first class

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh won't sign the biggest recruiting class Wednesday, but ESPN recruiting analyst Tom Luginbill believes he is setting the table for the future.

Harbaugh was formally introduced as Michigan's head coach Dec. 30 and only recently he and his staff hit the recruiting road after the recruiting dead period. There currently are nine commitments to the class.

Luginbill had a chance to catch up with Harbaugh a few weeks ago and got a feel for the program's direction in terms of recruiting.

"The one thing I do know, he is going to recruit toughness even if it means that at some spots the talent might not be quite what he wants it to be," Luginbill said Monday on an ESPN conference call. "But he's going to recruit things you can't teach and you can't coach. I know a staple and hallmark of his teams has been toughness, so whoever signs in this class will have an element of that."

Harbaugh spent the last four seasons coaching the San Francisco 49ers before returning to his alma mater to take over the program. During that short time he has hired a staff, acquainted himself with the commitments who stuck with Michigan even after previous coach Brady Hoke was fired and has identified players he wants in the 2015 class.

"Certainly, nobody is going to wave a magic wand in Ann Arbor," Luginbill said. "(Harbaugh is) somebody that I think — and this is important when I say this — somebody who I think can truly challenge Urban Meyer in work ethic, evaluation tools and creating a very competitive recruiting landscape within those two (rivals) but within the conference overall."

With the small window in which Harbaugh and his staff have worked, Luginbill said expectations for Michigan's upcoming recruiting class must be realistic.

"I didn't expect in the position Michigan was currently in with their roster, considering how late in the game they made the hire, I didn't expect Jim Harbaugh to just come right in and light the world on fire," Luginbill said. "I think that going forward is what we need to track and gauge as far as his approach and where he's going in his recruiting efforts, because right now, they're just scrambling. He's coming out of professional football for several years, getting acclimated. Heck, I'm sure he had to take the NCAA recruiting test before he could go out on the road. I think it's a unique and difficult set of circumstances, and ones he's going to try to weather now, get a couple of components in and then worry about the long-term side of things after signing day."

One advantage to the timing of Harbaugh's hire was the recruiting dead period, so no program could be out recruiting with the exception of phone calls. That, Luginbill said, gave Harbaugh some time to evaluate the players committed to Michigan and those he might have interest.

"The downside is when you come off that dead period, you're hitting the ground running," Luginbill said. "You're talking to kids, but you're not dealing with kids you have an established relationship with and so in a very short period of time it can be very difficult to sway."

Ultimately, it's about the bigger picture.

"Listen, I don't think Jim Harbaugh is going to be judged upon this class," Luginbill said. "He's going to do the best he can and get it solidified so this coming Thursday he and his staff can lay down the blueprint of what's going to be Michigan's future three, four, five, seven years down the line and not put too much stock into what this class effects, because they're not going to be able control all that. If they didn't sign another guy from what they have right now, I don't think it will be any different than whoever it is they do sign on signing day, because it's going to be a little drop in the bucket compared to the bigger picture."