Recruiting can provide drama and, sometimes, fireworks, as Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh promised this week on his podcast.
Daxton Hill’s recruitment provided both and elevated the Wolverines class, which currently has 24 signees, to a No. 7 ranking nationally by 247Sports Composite. The class has been considered the top in the Big Ten.
The announcement early Wednesday morning of his signing with Michigan completed the flip-flip drama that recently unfolded when Hill, the nation’s top-ranked safety, de-committed from Michigan to commit to Alabama and then flipped back to Michigan. Harbaugh said Hill could be one of the best safeties Michigan has ever had.
“Great day. Successful class,” Harbaugh said Wednesday night on the Inside Michigan Football radio show. “Wonderful group of players and families. Really happy, really thankful. It’s a group of players who really want to be great for Michigan, also for themselves. They’re not afraid of work. I’d also hang that tag on them These are guys that are self-starters and they’re not allergic to working and they like it.”
Off the top he mentioned Hill and running back Zach Charbonnet as “playmakers” on the defensive and offensive sides, respectively. He said linebacker Charles Thomas will remind Michigan fans of Devin Bush, who on Wednesday announced he will leave for the NFL with a year of eligibility remaining, because of his speed, offensive lineman Nolan Rumler is, Harbaugh said, “arguably” the best player in the class, and quarterback Cade McNamara is a “gunslinger” who “let’s it rip."
Several are expected to enroll early, Harbaugh said, including, Charbonnet, McNamara, Jalen Perry, Gabe Newburg, Mazi Smith, Erick All, Mike Sainristil and David Ojabo.
As if often the case, when there are recruiting highs, there are recruiting disappointments.
Although the various recruiting “crystal balls” had swung from predicting five-star defensive lineman Zach Harrison would attend Michigan to Ohio State, things weren’t crystal clear until he made his announcement at Olentangy Orange in the Columbus area. Harrison did decide to sign with Ohio State.
Hill is the highest-ranked player in Michigan’s recruiting class, which includes, on defense, five linemen, two linebackers, and six defensive backs. The Wolverines also signed a quarterback, Cade McNamara, Charbonnet, six offensive linemen and four receivers.
The drama with Hill was recent. He had been a Michigan commitment from mid-September then recently flipped to Alabama on Dec. 8. But the five-star safety from Oklahoma is now officially a Wolverine, having signed his letter of intent Wednesday, the first day of the signing period.
“From the safety position he’s a hitter. He is not afraid of contact,” Harbaugh said on the Inside Michigan Football radio show. “Maybe the fastest guy on the field. In high school, I didn’t see a game where he wasn’t the fastest guy out there, and he’s going to be that type of player in college.”
Harbaugh described Hill as low key and not seeking attention.
“He’s got the ability to be one of the best safeties Michigan has ever had,” Harbaugh said.
The 6-foot, 186-pound Hill was the Gatorade Player of the Year in Oklahoma in 2018-2019. He had 93 tackles as a senior at Booker T. Washington, including nine tackle for loss, one sack, two interceptions, nine pass breakups, three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.
He also caught 13 passes for 360 yards and seven touchdowns senior year and had a a 55-yard rushing score Hill also had 71 tackles and five interceptions as a junior.
Charbonnet could be a freshman who gets plenty of playing time this fall now that the Michigan running back roster has shrunk — Karan Higdon has exhausted his eligibility, O’Maury Samuels was dismissed last week and Kurt Taylor recently transferred. He played for Oaks Christian in California, a program that has produced college players like Jimmy Clausen and Cassius Marsh.
“He’s a great team player. He’s a smart guy,” Harbaugh said. “There’s no question if you pointed to somebody and said, ‘Offensive side of the ball that’s a real playmaker? That’s Zach Charbonnet.”
The 6-2, 215-pound Charbonnet, who didn’t play organized football until seventh grade, committed to Michigan in June. He told the Los Angeles Times earlier this year he “fell in love” with football as soon as he began playing. He had always played basketball and baseball.
He is gifted with a humble nature and that’s how he plays the game.
“I don’t need to say I have all this,” he told the Times. “I just show it on the field.”
Michigan also made another nice add early Wednesday when four-star Connecticut receiver Cornelius Johnson signed, the fourth receiver in the class. Harbaugh said Johnson had the highest SAT score in the recruiting class (1480).
The 6-foot-3, 195-pound Johnson chose Michigan over Notre Dame, Stanford and Penn State. He had a big senior season for Brunswick School with 826 yards on 50 catches and he had 12 touchdowns. The Bruins were 8-2 and made the Class A championship game.
Johnson made his announcement Wednesday morning at his school. That came shortly after the Wolverines added Hill.
Allen Trieu, 247Sports recruiting analyst and Detroit News contributor, said recently that Johnson would be a boost for the Wolverines’ freshman class.
“He’s another one important for Michigan because they don’t really have a big wide receiver in the class,” Trieu said. “He’s 6-3, 190 pounds and that would give them a missing piece in this really good offensive class.”
Johnson was a co-captain and was the league’s co-offensive Player of the Year. He also was All-New England Class A First Team for the second straight year.
“This year, he really took on his leadership role,” Brunswick coach Jarrett Shine recently told the Connecticut Post. “He worked hard in practice, led by example and showed the younger players how to play the game the right way. He was a true leader to the team and was also more vocal than he had been in the past.”
Johnson also had a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and has been invited to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.