Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, on the heels of the first day of the early signing period, said he feels “great” about this class, which is heavy on defense and speed on both sides of the ball.
The Wolverines signed 22 players on Wednesday, with the late addition of quarterback Dan Villari, a three-star from Long Island. Receiver A.J. Henning, the No. 1 player in Illinois, is the highest-rated player among the early signees. The class is ranked No. 12 nationally by the 247Sports Composite and No. 2 in the Big Ten.
Harbaugh made his only signing day comments on the “In the Trenches with Jon Jansen” podcast released Thursday. Matt Dudek, Michigan’s recruiting director, also appeared on the show.
In an interesting twist, six of the signees will be able to spend three days of practice with the team, which is preparing for the Citrus Bowl. Dudek said they will practice for the first time on Saturday. The group includes: running back Blake Corum, cornerback Andre Seldon, safety Makari Paige, offensive lineman Zak Zinter, and linebacker Nikhai Hill-Green. Defensive end Braiden McGregor, who is recovering from surgery in October to repair torn knee ligaments, also will be at the facility going through rehab.
“We’re not putting them in team (drills), and they’re not gonna do one-on-ones,” Dudek said on the podcast. “But they’re going to be here to practice with us. You know why? Because they want to come work. That’s it. It’s not about, ‘Oh, yeah, I get to wear the winged helmet, I’ll be on Instagram.’ No, no, no. They’re coming to work.
“We posed this to them when we figured out this rule, and they’re like, ‘Wait, I get to come and get three workouts in with (strength coach Ben Herbert) Herb? I get to come in and do individual period with Jay Harbaugh? Oh my God, sign me up.’ They are coming in this weekend, and we are fired up to see them in the winged helmet. It’s the first time it’s ever happened.”
The loophole in the rules was not explained, but Dudek said the players will get medically cleared and will practice in helmets for two days.
Harbaugh said he likes the talent and enthusiasm of this class.
“A bunch of young guys that are go-getters,” Harbaugh said on the podcast. “They like football. They like hitting the books. It’s also a group that really wants it too, I believe. I really have a good feeling about this class, in particular that they are motivated to take advantage of opportunities put in front of them and also very motivated to create their own opportunities.”
The class is void of a five-star-rated player, but Harbaugh said he’s pleased with the makeup of the class.
“It’s not a group looking to be mediocre,” he said.
Here are some of the highlights of Jansen’s podcast interview with Harbaugh:
► On running back Blake Corum of St. Frances Academy in Baltimore: “He’s a dedicated guy. You watch a lot of high school players and their work ethic, I can’t think of anybody with a higher level of work ethic than Blake Corum. He’s a guy whether it’s football practice, training, he’s very diligent. I could tell you lots of stories of things he done, 5 a.m. workouts. Every time I’ve watched him — and not just a workout guy, either. He’s a workout guy to be a football player, because he likes football and likes playing in the games. He’s a warrior on the field and in the weight room and just about everything he does. He is a highly, highly motivated youngster.”
► On the four linebackers in the class (Nikhai Hill-Green, Kalel Mullings, Osman Savage and Cornell Wheeler): “With linebackers, there’s three starters on every team. A lot of times in the nickel-pass downs, a linebacker can go to a defensive end and be a pass rusher. We definitely have need at that position. Every linebacker we signed, they came to camp, (defensive coordinator) Don Brown got to work with them in the summer camps. We watched them through their whole high school career, guys like Cornell Wheeler from West Bloomfield, the two St. Frances linebackers, Nikhai Hill-Green and Osman Savage, seen them for a long time. Good players and a position of need for our football team who we’ve watched and worked with at camp. Excited about that group coming in and showing what they can do.”
► On the defensive backs (Jordan Morant, R.J. Moten, Andre Seldon, Makari Paige): “It’s a really good athletic group. I really feel like you saw Dax Hill come in and make a big impact as a freshman that there’s going to be all four really with the license and ability to make the same kind of impact in our secondary and very excited about. The other person to mention is William Mohan, who is a type of athlete he could be a corner, he could be a safety, he could be an outside linebacker, sounds a lot like a viper. He’s another youngster who is so versatile and so good and athletic. Another youngster in this group recruited by everybody. He’s really going to be fun to watch. The way he runs and hits, it’s special. It really pops off the screen. Andre is a tough competitor. Watched him at camps, and watched him at Belleville, and watched him run track and lead his team. Those are the kinds of guys you want playing in your secondary. Jordan Morant, he’s a Dax Hill-type of safety. He’s got that kind of special ability. R.J. Moten is another one of them. Big, strong athlete. He’s even got the ability to be a corner, but he’s also got the strength and physicality to be a safety and cover people. It’s a really dynamic group. Defensive heavy — it’s probably 15 or so on defense and eight on offense. And Eamonn Dennis has the ability to be both an offensive player or a defensive player. He could be a corner, could be a receiver. Kind of like a Mike Sainristil, another really good Mike Sainristil.”
► On players like Eamonn Dennis and William Mohan listed as athletes: “Eamonn Dennis is a really good receiver and a really good defensive back. If you think Mike Sainristil, if you watch Eamonn’s tape, you’re going to think a lot of Mike Sainristil. That’s who I first thought of when I first watched Eamonn Dennis play football. He could be a corner, he could be a slot receiver, he could be a return player. And William is a long, really athletic player, that he can cover, and his ability to blitz off the edge is special and track down ball carriers. He loves to hit. He’s very physical and athletic, can get them down and make a lot of big hits. We’ll see exactly what position, but that’s just saying this guy has the ability play safety, corner, viper, and that’s a good thing.
► On how much they pay attention to the star rankings: “It means things. There’s a lot of people evaluating high school football players that know what they’re doing. They’ve got a good a really good eye for football, as well. The thing you look at when it comes to the stars, is a player overrated or is he underrated at whatever star value he’s been given. The thing that determines it is all the layers. You’re watching him yourself. You’re making your own evaluations of their football talent. Then you’re also meeting them, around them, interviewing, talking to their high school coaches, you want to meet the parents, you want to know that dynamic. You gather information, so the stars are not the thing our program or I think any program is really going off of solely.”