Unofficial visits, led by BBQ, bolster U-M

Unofficial visits are important for any team that has already secured 23 commitments before the first game of the season, and that holds true for Michigan. Since the recruiting process has accelerated across the board, unofficial visits have in a sense become more important for the Wolverines than official visits.

In years past the official visit was when prospects were given the opportunity to learn all about the program, the players and the coaches. Prospects waited to announce their list of official visits and would make a decision after all the visits were completed.

Since recruits aren’t allowed to take official visits before their senior season starts, programs like Michigan have gotten a lot more creative with unofficial visits and getting families on campus.

The Big House BBQ is probably the most notable event the Michigan coaching staff holds. There is no camp involved; it’s simply a BBQ and a fun event for prospects and their families to get to know the coaching staff.

The event has no pressure to compete and gives one-on-one time for the parents and coaches to interact. It also gives the prospects time to interact with committed players and find out why they chose Michigan. It’s an easy way for the Wolverines to accelerate how comfortable a prospect feels about their program.

That event was a factor in speeding up the decision of 2014 linebacker Michael Ferns (St. Clairsvile, Ohio/St. Clairsville), who initially was going to wait until after his junior season to commit.

“I wanted to commit at the BBQ, but we had a few things to figure out first,” he said. “The first visit was great but then the BBQ was sort of where I knew I felt comfortable. My family agrees with everything and they enjoyed the trips up there, so it made it very easy [to decide now].”

Ferns committed to Michigan just a few days after the BBQ and immediately started recruiting for Michigan.

Emphasizing unofficial visits also gives a program like Michigan the opportunity to get a prospect on campus more than once, and if the visits are scheduled correctly the coaches can make it a very personal atmosphere.

Michigan has filled up its 2013 class very quickly, and it did the same in 2012. In fact, the 2012 class was already so close and had been committed for so long that they all decided to use their official visit to Michigan on the same weekend to have the opportunity to strengthen their bond.

It’s looking like that might carry over into the 2013 class as well, as the commitments in this most recent class have talked about taking their official visit to Ann Arbor on the same weekend, when Michigan takes on Michigan State.