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J.J. McCarthy has 'it factor'; Jim Harbaugh raves about Michigan's recruiting haul

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh gushed about five-star quarterback J.J. McCarthy saying he has the “it factor” and sounded energized while discussing the players who signed on Wednesday, the first day of the early signing period.

Harbaugh, appearing Wednesday night on the “In the Trenches” podcast with host Jon Jansen, discussed all the players who signed with the Wolverines and said nearly a dozen will enroll early. The class is ranked No. 11 nationally by 247Sports Composite. They’re not done building for the 2021 season, and Harbaugh said they will sign more players in February during the traditional signing period and also are open to grad transfers.

Jim Harbaugh

“Guys like (Central Michigan transfer defensive end) Mike Danna, guys like (Iowa transfer quarterback) Jake Rudock who came in here and added to our football team, we’ll be looking and searching there and very much open to that,” Harbaugh said on the podcast. “There’s also players who aren’t signing in this first initial period we can’t talk about now but we are recruiting.”

Michigan went 2-4 this season and canceled the final three games because of COVID-19-related issues. There’s also been ongoing speculation regarding Harbaugh’s future at Michigan since his contract expires after the 2021 season. He and athletic director Warde Manuel said they would meet after the season to discuss what’s next.

But he sounded invested in this class while discussing them with Jansen. He said he is thrilled with these incoming freshmen and expects a number of them to enroll early and participate in spring practice: McCarthy, Donovan Edwards, Giovanni El-Hadi, Xavier Worthy, Junior Colson, Raheem Anderson, Cristian Dixon, Greg Crippen, Tavierre Dunlap, Tristan Bounds and Andrel Anthony.

McCarthy quickly emerged as the leader of this class, and he also helped encourage several of the players to sign with the Wolverines.

“You’ve got to term him as a real leader,” Harbaugh said. “Every single guy in the class, I often ask them, ‘Who’s your favorite player in the class,’ and J.J.’s name is always mentioned one or two or three. He’s done a tremendous job connecting with the class and he’s been a real leader.”

More:Cornerstone recruits J.J. McCarthy, Donovan Edwards make it a banner day for Michigan

McCarthy is 6-foot-3, 190 pounds and the highest-rated player in the class as the lone five star. He won a state championship in Illinois in 2018 and played his senior year at IMG Academy in Florida.

"He’s a playmaker,” Harbaugh said. “He’s a very exciting player. A competitor. The first thing I really liked about him, his sophomore year he played in the state championship game, had a broken bone in his left hand, hockey player, (and thought) here’s a tough kid. Won a lot of games. Kept growing as a player, very athletic, throws it extremely well. Plays with a lot of energy.

J.J. McCarthy

“Got that ‘it factor.’ You know when you step into a huddle how important that is for the quarterback to have that, the confidence, the energy and also a guy who makes a lot of really good decisions and plays really good and competes, gives it everything he has. All necessary qualities for a quarterback.”

Harbaugh praised McCarthy’s arm and athleticism.

“He’s also really light on his feet,” he said. “Makes plays. Makes plays when there’s not a play to be made. Maybe the protection broke down a little bit and there was a free runner at the quarterback and he’s got the ability to side-step it. He’s got really good vision. Sometimes it looks like he’s got eyes in the back of his head. And then makes that sharp crisp throw, finds the open guy, moves the chains, gets the team in the end zone, has the ability to rally people.

“Just has it where people want to follow him. He’s not one of those big man on campus kind of guys where it’s all about him. He’s always talking about his teammates. Just really all good. And competitive. There’s the word that sums up what you’re looking for in a quarterback the most and J.J.’s got that.”

Here are highlights from Harbaugh’s conversation with Jansen on the “In the Trenches” podcast:

►On West Bloomfield running back Donovan Edwards: “First time I met him was when he was a sophomore at West Bloomfield. He had broken his ankle that year, but (coach) Ron Bellamy said, ‘Coach, this is the guy right here. He’s a great player.’ One word to sum him up would be competitor. Love that about him. Really, everybody that Ron Bellamy coaches, that’s the stamp I would put on them — they’re great competitors. Love Donovan; there’s a guy who’s a real go-getter and leader tremendous football player.”

Andrel Anthony

►On East Lansing receiver Andrel Anthony: "First met him my first year here at Michigan, we were doing a youth camp. Also a great competitor. Love watching him play basketball and see him develop from young kid to tremendous football player. He has great length, great catch radius. Definitely one of my favorites, if not my very favorite, just the connection, the friendship. Tremendous, tremendous player. He lights up the room with his enthusiasm. Whether it’s on the basketball court or on the football field, I really see the energy, the enthusiasm and the athletic ability just pops.”

►On offensive linemen Raheem Anderson and Giovanni El-Hadi: “They’re tough guys, I would say that. Both guys really like football, played on both sides of the ball, too. They’ve got all the size and stature and athleticism you want from young offensive linemen. They both love Michigan a lot. It’s really personal to them that Michigan be good. Gio was the first person to commit in the class and he was one that also had that kind of leadership role talking to other recruits and built momentum for this class. The two of them are really serious about football. They want to come here for academics and football. That’s something that’s so important these days. It’s not about what number they’re going to wear, or all the different stars or hype. These are two guys who are football-type guys.”

►On offensive linemen Tristan Bounds and Greg Crippen: “One is a prototypical tackle, Tristan Bounds, really long, athletic, basketball player. Had his senior season canceled due to COVID. He’s another guy that likes the weight room a lot. Greg Crippen has been playing at IMG. They were national champions this year. Didn’t allow a sack as a junior or a senior. He was a two-year captain. Very smart. He’s going to be a center most likely, directing the run game, directing protections. Very capable of doing that and has been doing that at a high level in high school

More:Four-star wide receiver Xavier Worthy sticks with Michigan football

►On receivers Cristian Dixon and Xavier Worthy: “They’re really going to thrive here at Michigan. Cristian, another tall, rangy, big catch radius, 35 receptions, 611 yards, six touchdowns as a junior. Really good guy. The level of competition he played at in high school is arguably the best in the country. Xavier, he’s also the same type of player. He is explosive, a lot of yards per catch, nearly 1,000 yards as a junior. Caught 55 balls, 992 yards, top-100 player. Very, very dynamic football player.”

►On tight end Louis Hansen: “He’ll be really good. He’s 6-5, 240 pounds already. He’s not even shaving every day. Still got some growing to do, some filling out to do. Top-five rated tight end in the country. He’s one of those four-year starters in high school. He’s the type of tight end that you project can be an in-line blocker but also stretch the field. Big catch radius. Can go up and get a ball in traffic. All really good things. Tough kid and excited to have him.”

►On Tavierre Dunlap: “This is another very competitive explosive running back. Really athletic. Very much reminds me of Hassan Haskins. Tough type of runner. But also has the breakaway type of speed. He was a top-15 running back in the country. Outstanding football player and a really good student. These are two tremendous running backs (with Edwards) for our program.”

More:Michigan loses a pair of four-star defensive recruits on Early Signing Day

►On the three linebackers: “(Junior Colson is) one of those linebackers that can cover. He can come downhill in the gap, he rushes the quarterback extremely well. High energy, pursuing the football. He’s never out of a play — one of the real things about a linebacker that I love. He’s 6-2, 230 so really good size. Tyler McLaurin is a long, athletic type of linebacker. I think he’s still got some growing to do, too. He’s got one of those GPAs that’s over a 4.0. I asked him where he got his brains from. Grandma told me it’s a family of geniuses. He was ranked the No. 1 kindergartener in the Unities States of America. Good guy. Probably a SAM linebacker in a 4-3 system. Looking forward to what he can do. Also a basketball player so very athletic. Jaydon Hood coming from St. Thomas Aquinas is a true inside linebacker, 6-1, 215. He wrestled, he ran track, three-sport athlete. Been a starter for at least three years.”

►On cornerback Ja’Den McBurrows: “McBurrows is a 5-10, 165-pound cornerback. He’s a part of that 15-0 class his junior year (at Aquinas). Going to run track again. Gets PBUs and interceptions but also tackles people."

►On safety Rod Moore: “He’s a physical, athletic safety. He can cover when you ask him to cover a slot receiver or a tight end but somebody who has a physical presence. People don’t like coming over the middle, he’ll come downhill, he’ll tackle, he’ll get backs on the ground and come with some thump. I’m really looking forward to that. Especially like the physicality he brings. He’s 5-11, 180 and he’s gonna get in the weight room. He’s got the athleticism, the toughness, the grit, (and) he’ll put on a little more muscle.”

►On defensive linemen TJ Guy, Dominic Guidice, Kechaun Bennett: “Kechaun, you like the length, 6-4, 220. Also has started since his freshman year. Pass rush, getting to the quarterback, 48 tackles and 12 of those were for loss, and he had seven sacks his junior year. Kechaun looking forward to him beefing up the defensive line. TJ brings even more size. We’ll see how he develops whether he’s going to be an inside player or an outside player as a defensive end. Very athletic a guy who can go up and dunk a basketball. Two-year captain. (Guidice is) another guy who’s just developed. Was able to play this season. Gets to the quarterback. Had 42 quarterback pressures, 46 tackles. He’s a high-energy, high-motor player. At 6-4, 265, project him to be an inside guy. Of all the guys, I thought he really benefited from having a senior season. Really played well.”

►On punter Tommy Doman: “Punter, kicker, kickoff guy, he really does it all. We thought he was one of the best kickers, punters, all-around to be able to do all three things as good as anybody in the country, if not the best. You’ve gotta be real good to be offered a scholarship as a punter or kicker and he can do both at a really high level.”


Twitter: @chengelis