Ann Arbor — Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh and his staff got a late start on recruiting for the upcoming class, but he is happy with the players they were able to secure.
Michigan signed 14 players on Wednesday, the first day of the national signing period, and that total included two late additions — Tyrone Wheatley Jr., the son of former Michigan running back great Tyrone Wheatley, now the running backs coach — and Shelton Johnson, a defensive end from Florida. Both players are rated four stars and were considering top programs..
Michigan's class includes nine offensive players, including two quarterbacks, Zach Gentry, who decommitted from Texas, and early enrollee Alex Malzone. The Wolverines' offense was ranked among the nation's worst last season.
Harbaugh was formally introduced Dec. 30 and replaces Brady Hoke, fired after four seasons.
UM coach Jim Harbaugh talks about some highlights of the 2015 recruiting class at Schembechler Hall in Ann Arbor. Elizabeth Conley
"We're very pleased with our class," Harbaugh said Wednesday at a news conference. "Very proud, really. Everybody who loves Michigan is going to be proud to call these youngsters their own."
Brian Cole joins Malzone as an early enrollee who will be able to participate in spring practice that begins Feb. 24, but kicker Andrew David was the first to send in his signed letter of intent Wednesday at 7:02 a.m., followed by offensive lineman Jon Runyan Jr., the son of former Michigan All-American lineman, making him the second legacy in the class.
Harbaugh spent the last four seasons coaching the San Francisco 49ers, and his last college stop before that was Stanford. He admitted to some recruiting rust.
"Someone asked, did I go right into it and pick up right where I left off back when I coached at Stanford," Harbaugh said. "No, I didn't. I picked up two days after an NFL season and had to familiarize yourself with who the players are, high school coaches again. It took some time."
To shape this class, Harbaugh had to pursue recruits who already had committed to other programs. He was successful flipping several of the recruits.
"You make a call, you ask somebody if they're interested in talking about Michigan," Harbaugh said. "If somebody says no, it's no, but if it's yes, I want to show them Michigan. Karan Higdon (a running back who had been committed to Iowa is) is a great example. There was time enough to make a decision, about a week.
"He flew up here for an official visit. Didn't make it on the first day, he didn't make it through security. He came back the next morning and caught a 5:20 flight to come up to Ann Arbor. That was the night we had the snow — he had to get up at 2 in the morning. That spoke volumes to me. He is an excellent example of somebody who competes at the highest level in the classroom and on the football field. He wants to go to medical school."
Harbaugh spoke glowingly of three-star recruit Keith Washington, an Alabama native who had originally been committed to Cal. While Washington played quarterback in high school, he will be a cornerback at Michigan.
Washington was the example Harbaugh used when asked about recruiting "toughness."
"There's several ways to gauge that, Harbaugh said. "Keith Washington, one of my very favorite players in this class. He hurt his MCL the first round of the (high school) playoffs and took his team to the state championship. He's a very humble person but a winner, another theme with this entire recruiting class.
"He went to Prattville only one year, and when he showed up he told them he was going to take them to the state championship, and he did just that on an MCL he hurt the first round of the playoffs."
Harbaugh was asked if any of the recruits will make an immediate impact.
"I like to think they have the license and ability to do that," he said. "It will be earned on the field. There are no guarantees, only opportunities."
In fact, as Harbaugh said at his first news conference when he was introduced, he is approaching the returning players and the incoming recruits the same way. There are no preconceived notions, no starting spots already taken, and he does not plan to review much film, if any, of last season.
Although he has spent the bulk of his time at Michigan hiring a staff and recruiting, Harbaugh said he has started to get to know the returning players.
"The current team, I've been getting to know them and I recognize a lot more faces and a lot more names now," he said. "Haven't studied a lot of tape on the current team, because I want to put a fresh eye on it for them to know it's time to make a first impression again, and they've got the ability to do that.
"You don't know what somebody's been coached, you don't know what they were told, so I think it's better to go in with a fresh eye and let everyone know everyone starts the same. They've got that first chance to make a great first impression."