The Wolverine

April 2020

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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58 THE WOLVERINE APRIL 2020 BY EJ HOLLAND M ichigan is making Chicago a top priority. Known nationally as a basketball mecca, the Windy City is seeing a boom in football recruiting talent. During the contact period, col- lege coaches from around the country flocked to Chicago to check out the growing number of Football Bowl Subdivision prospects in the area. Chicago could soon become — if it isn't already — a must-stop for col- lege football's best. Michigan is ahead of the curve here. The Wolverines landed the best Chicagoland had to offer in Frankfort (Ill.) Lincoln Way East wide receiver A.J. Henning last cycle. This cycle, the Wolverines already hold a com- mitment from Rivals100 La Grange Park (Ill.) Nazareth Academy quar- terback J.J. McCarthy. It's clear Michigan is and will be a recruiting staple in Chicago. "They hit a grand slam getting J.J.,"" Nazareth Academy head coach Tim Racki said. "He's the best kind of commit because he's the best re- cruiter. What guys wouldn't want to play with this kid? Getting a five-star in the Chicago area is big. We have another national recruit in [2022 wide receiver] Tyler Morris, and he's been really impressed. "Everyone also knows it's a high academic institution. It's also here in the Midwest. It's a school where you're not only going to get a great education, but you're also going to be part of a great football program. They're killing it. It's not hard to sell Michigan football." "I think Michigan has a great staff," Country Club Hills (Ill.) Hillcrest head coach Mo Weaver added. "Ob- viously, they have [head coach Jim] Harbaugh. To me, he's a legend. He's a great coach. I like what he's doing with Michigan. Actually, Michigan is one of my favorite schools. "They are getting the athletes they need. They have J.J. McCarthy and A.J. Henning committed. They are making an effort to get great athletes in there and progress forward." Just before the contact period came to an end, Harbaugh made sure to swing through Chicago, making stops at several high schools, includ- ing Winnetka (Ill.) New Trier, which is home to 2021 Rivals250 offensive line target David Davidkov. Harbaugh made a huge impression on New Trier head coach Brian Doll. In fact, Harbaugh's personal engage- ment is what's really driving Michi- gan's recruiting success in Chicago. "He talked to me for quite a while," Doll said. "It was great to hear about his plans for the team moving for- ward. It's interesting because you see everything on TV and read about him. I had never met him before. But he was low key and was pretty easy to have a conversation with. "We talked about the '85 Bears a little bit, and his time with the Bears. I grew up a Michigan fan, and my grandfather went there, so I kind of knew some of the history from when he played." Harbaugh also met with Chicago Simeon head coach Dante Culbreath, who shared similar sentiments. "Harbaugh is a household name in Chicago," Culbreath said. "Obviously, he was a Chicago Bears quarterback. To have him in our school was great. He's just like one of the guys. He's very down to earth. We talked football. "He's not just a coach. He was a football player. Football is a lan- guage. He speaks it." As mentioned, Harbaugh is widely known in Chicago from his time with the Bears in the NFL. The Bears se- lected him in the first round of the 1987 NFL Draft, and he went on to spend seven seasons with the team, guiding them to a pair of playoff appearances. Harbaugh resonates in Chicago. And he even has an important connection from his playing days — Bolingbrook (Ill.) High head coach John Ivlow, a for- mer Chicago Bears running back that played with Harbaugh in 1993. "Remember, Jim is a Chicago Bear first and foremost," Ivlow said. "I ac- tually played with Jim in '93 in Chi- cago. We know each other. I know what he's all about. He's a fierce competitor. He's all about winning. In this day and age, everybody has to have this drive. It was great to see him again here at the school." But it's more than just Harbaugh's iconic status in the city that is leading the recruiting charge in Chicago. Area recruiter Sherrone Moore is constantly making the rounds there. Offensive coordinator Josh Gattis has rolled through, and offensive line coach Ed Warinner also made a trip there. U-M has made it a point for a lot of the coaching staff to make its way to Chicago and bond with the high school coaches and players in the area. "Michigan has been around a lot," Marist head coach Ron Dawczak said. "They've had a lot of different coaches come through. Their offen- sive line coach [Warinner] came in for the first time recently. "Michigan has a rich history and tradition. It's exciting for me to talk to them as a coach. It's exciting to get [2021 offensive tackle] Pat [Coogan] in front of them. When you get an elite program showing interest in our play- ers, it's a great thing for our school."   FOOTBALL RECRUITING U-M Is Placing An Emphasis On Landing Windy City Talent The Wolverines scored a big commitment by landing La Grange Park (Ill.) Nazareth Academy product J.J. McCarthy, who is rated as the top recruit in Illinois, and the No. 5 pro-style quarterback and No. 31 over- all player nationally. PHOTO COURTESY RIVALS.COM

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