Michigan and Wisconsin are finding success on the field this season in different ways and the two programs are also finding success on the recruiting trail in similarly contrasting fashions.
A quick Twitter search will yield multiple results showing flashy edits for recruits from Michigan’s graphic designer, Aaron Bills. Pictures with the Jumpan logo, a recruit in the Big House holding a Michigan flag and everything in between.
— Alex Leatherwood (@Alskee_) September 26, 2016
The same Twitter search for Wisconsin and you won’t find anything close to that. Even the official scholarship offer sent out by the Badgers’ coaches were pretty simple.
My official scholarship offer from Wisconsin pic.twitter.com/SJN64iOWZd
— Tyler Beach (@venomt57) August 2, 2016
Michigan has more ESPN 300 commitments in its 2017 class alone than Wisconsin does in its recruiting classes from 2010 to 2017 combined.
The two strategies are opposite in every way, but neither is right or wrong and both are doing what fits their teams and culture. Michigan is targeting a certain type of recruit that fits the zany Jim Harbaugh and Wisconsin is going after players who want to play for coach Paul Chryst.
One Big Ten coach applauded Wisconsin in its efforts as it is sometimes difficult to stick to that type of plan in today’s climate. Fans want the flashy, big-name recruit and the No. 1-ranked recruiting class and that can be difficult not to fall into.
“They recruit fit and have pockets to go get some other skill guys from,” the coach said. “They know their identity and culture and recruit to it. It’s not sexy or flashy, but it works.”
Drama free signing days are the goal at Wisconsin and it has gotten the program to the No. 8 ranking in the AP Top 25 poll with wins over LSU and Michigan State.
On the contrary, Michigan is all for drama on signing day as Wolverines fans saw in the 2016 class with No. 1 ranked prospect Rashan Gary. The defensive lineman brought things down to the wire, choosing between Michigan and Clemson on signing day live on SportsCenter.
Harbaugh and his staff have been everywhere, ruffling feathers, making statements and turning the heads of elite level prospects, some of which will be visiting Ann Arbor for this matchup.
ESPN 300 offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood, the No. 9-ranked prospect overall, is one of those recruits who has been intrigued by Harbaugh and the Wolverines. Committed to Alabama, and from Florida, Leatherwood is not the typical prospect interested in Michigan in the past.
Much of his interest has to do with the way Harbaugh and his staff recruit and the way the program has been in the lights under this regime.
“He’s an entertainer is how I see him,” Leatherwood said. “He’s a really good coach and I like the direction he’s taking the program, his mindset, his goals. I like him.”
If both strategies work then neither is wrong. If they fit with the culture and the team each coach is trying to build, then they’re both right.
While the two programs are being built in very different ways, they are both headed in similar directions.