Jim Harbaugh talks about how Barrett could be both a wide receiver and a running back David Guralnick, The Detroit News


Ann Arbor – There was no fanfare, no “Signing of the Stars” on Wednesday.

That mostly was because of the addition of an early signing period in December for high school seniors to sign their national letters of intent.

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh launched “Signing of the Stars,” with tremendous hoopla and guests like Tom Brady and Ric Flair, in 2016. Last year, there was a scaled-down version at the Crisler Center and fewer celebrities.

This year, Harbaugh simply met with media to discuss his 19-player class that added three on National Signing Day – the first day of the second signing period. Michigan lost out on its highest-rated commitment, Otis Reese, who had been pledged to the Wolverines since 2016, when he announced Wednesday morning he would stay in-state and play for Georgia.

Shortly before Reese’s announcement, Nicholas Petit-Frere, the nation’s No. 1 tackle, chose Ohio State. Michigan was in the mix for and heavily pursued the five-star offensive lineman. Michigan held its Outback Bowl practices at Berkley Prep, Petit-Frere’s high school.


"Love all his athletic ability," Harbaugh remarks about wide receiver Ronnie Bell David Guralnick, The Detroit News

Michigan’s recruiting class, absent a five-star prospect, is ranked No. 21 by 247Sports.

The Wolverines, who also added graduate-transfers quarterback Shea Patterson and defensive back Casey Hughes, signed 16 players in December.

“There was a priority for the youngsters to sign during the first signing period,” Harbaugh said Wednesday, when asked his opinion of the changes to the recruiting calendar. “That was the biggest takeaway.

“Understand it and feel good about it. A lot of the families felt really good about it. Those that didn’t had the ability to wait and make their decision and make more visits. I feel like I understand it and understand the motivations for it.”

When Reese did not sign in December, it became more clear that Georgia was making inroads with the linebacker. Harbaugh said he and his staff were informed Wednesday that Reese was flipping to Georgia. He said they always understood, as is the case with every commitment, that was a possibility.

Harbaugh spoke about Dan Enos, who signed a contract with Michigan in December to join the staff to coach receivers only to leave last month for a position on Alabama’s staff. Harbaugh compared the Enos situation to losing Reese.

“It’s really the same situation,” he said. “As one person closes a door, that opens a door for somebody else, and it’s our job to make sure that whoever turns the nob on that is what’s right for Michigan.”

Harbaugh highlighted a few of Michigan’s new additions, particularly those who offer versatility in terms of where they might play. What he likes about Hughes, a Utah transfer, is his versatility.

“He has ability to be a corner, also has the ability by what makes our best secondary to be a nickel or a safety,” Harbaugh said. “He has the ability to play all three of those. We’ll determine that when he gets here. Coverage ability plus tackling ability. He’s a strong tackler.”

Ryan Hayes of Traverse City, who signed in December, is a 6-foot-7, 262-pounder who could play offensive tackle or tight end.

“He’s got the ability to see where mother nature goes with his physical development,” Harbaugh said. “There’s a possibility of playing tackle and also tight end.”

Michael Barrett, listed as an athlete, along with receiver Ronnie Bell and defensive back Vincent Gray, all signed Wednesday.

Barrett also offers versatility.

“(I) envision him getting the ball in his hands, wide receiver, slot receiver, running back,” Harbaugh said of Barrett. “Those two areas primarily for him. Somebody who can get the ball and can make yards after the catch or yards after contact. A receiver who can run like a running back and also he’ll have the ability to be a running back. A lot of different areas Michael could get the football, including quarterback.”

An advantage of the early signing period is that coaches had an opportunity to spend more time pursuing recruits for the next several classes.

“It gave us an opportunity to do more recruiting for 2019 to 2020 and 2021,” Harbaugh said.

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