The Wolverine

March 2018

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 97 of 99

98 THE WOLVERINE MARCH 2018 W hen Jim Harbaugh's third recruiting class finished No. 24 nation- ally in the recruiting rankings for 2018, it sent many Michigan fans close to the ledge. Some of the tweets, etc., were more dramatic than an episode of "Keeping Up With the Kardashians." "We'll never be good again." "How are we supposed to catch Urban Meyer and Nick Saban like this?" And our favorite … "Just shut down the pro- gram." The Wolverines lost out on their two biggest remaining tar- gets in the late signing period in five-star Tampa offensive tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere and four- star Georgia linebacker Otis Reese, who flipped to the home state Bulldogs … and yeah, it hurt. Petit-Frere was a double whammy in that he could have possibly pro- vided immediate help at a major po- sition of need, but instead pledged to Ohio State, of all places, a late en- try into the mix for his signature. "Not only is the honeymoon over at Michigan for Jim Harbaugh, the marriage could be veering toward 'we should meet with a counselor' territory," The New York Post wrote in a National Signing Day piece. "The ride to this point has gotten bumpier than expected … Harbaugh has climbed trees and held sleepovers and taken his team all over the globe, but if he doesn't win more games, beat some rivals and recruit better players, his time as coach might not last longer than [Brady] Hoke's." Which is sensationalism at its fin- est (i.e., worst). First off, no one class will make or break a program. There's still only room for 11 guys on the field per team at one time, and there are four classes (five, including red- shirts) with which to work. And while there will always be recruiting mistakes — former Michigan head coach Bo Schembechler always used to say one third of a class will start, another third would contribute on some level and the last third would flame out — filling positional needs is the most important aspect. Some would argue U-M could have used another offensive line- man or two in this class, and they'd probably be right. Play up front has been an issue for too long now, dat- ing back to 2008, and Michigan is still looking at graduate transfer depth in year four of Harbaugh's regime. For the most part, though, Michi- gan addressed its needs at each posi- tion, including five defensive backs. But for those who refuse to look beyond the stars and the rankings, here's some food for thought before you jump. First, in the three full years Har- baugh's has had to build his recruit- ing classes (he pieced one together in 2015 after taking over in late Decem- ber), his prospects rank behind only Georgia, Alabama and Ohio State, respectively, in the composite rank- ings (an average of the listings done by Rivals, 247Sports and ESPN). Yes, U-M is ahead of Notre Dame and several others — even perennial national contender Clemson — in that time frame. On the flip side, Wisconsin fin- ished 35th, 35th and 39th in the Rivals rankings during the same three seasons, which followed classes of 57th, 33rd and 37th with which the Badgers com- peted annually for Big Ten titles. So yeah, recruiting is great. Coaching helps, too, and Har- baugh's got a great track re- cord there, as well. "That Wisconsin program reminds me of what Michigan was in the early 1990s," former Michigan All-Big Ten offensive lineman Doug Skene said. "That team with Paul Chryst as head coach reminds me of what our program looked like 25 or 30 years ago. It's almost eerie to see it. "They may not get the best athlete who runs the best 40 time and looks the best on the shorts and t-shirt summertime tour when they bring all these kids into camp. They have found a way to recruit football players. They may not be the sexiest athletes, but dammit they can play football, and they find a way to develop them." That's what Harbaugh was known for at Stanford. The hope was that he would continue to find those types while also bringing in elite athletes at the skill positions to help compete both at the Big Ten and national levels. It's hard to argue that he hasn't. This year he brings in former five- star Ole Miss quarterback Shea Patterson, who will have a former five-star sophomore wide receiver in Donovan Peoples-Jones to throw to, in addition to redshirt freshman four-star Tarik Black and others. The defense is loaded with elite young talent, and it's coached by one of the best in the game in coor- dinator Don Brown. So if you're one of those in a panic … breathe a bit. It's not nearly as bad as you think. ❏ Chris Balas has been with The Wolver- ine since 1997, working part time for five years before joining the staff full time in 2002. Contact him at cbalas@ and follow him on Twitter @Balas_Wolverine. INSIDE MICHIGAN   CHRIS BALAS The Sky Is Not Falling Over the past three years, Jim Harbaugh's recruiting classes are behind only Alabama, Ohio State and Georgia in the com- posite rankings (an average of the listings done by Rivals, 247Sports and ESPN). PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of The Wolverine - March 2018