Remember Jim Harbaugh's satellite camp tour across the country last year? You know -- the one that cost Michigan $334,712? Well, national signing is a week away, and the Wolverines currently have a top-five class with a few of their top targets still left on the board.
As one would expect, the class has a diverse group of kids from all over the country. There are commitments from Colorado to New Mexico to Virginia to Connecticut, and there’s even a three-star cornerback from Montreal, Canada. But the one area that Harbaugh has failed to make headway in this 2017 class thus far is down in the Southeast.
It wasn't for a lack of trying. The Michigan coach and his staff held satellite camps in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee. His team spent a week in Florida during the spring, practicing at IMG Academy. And yet, all he has to show for it on the recruiting trail in this current class is a three-star safety from Alabama and a three-star running back from Georgia.
The Wolverines do have a pair of commitments from IMG Academy -- Cesar Ruiz and Jordan Anthony -- but neither kid grew up in the South and both had Michigan on their radar before they ever left to go play down in Florida.
But the big fish -- guys such as Cam Akers or JaCoby Stevens, who both attended satellite camps this past summer -- are staying closer to home. Akers has already signed with Florida State, and Stevens is down at LSU getting ready to go through spring practice.
Some might see Michigan's current class and say that Harbaugh wasted his time making stops in the Southeast last summer. How is a school from up north expected to come down and pull top kids away from powerhouse programs such as Alabama, Georgia, Florida State, LSU, Auburn or Clemson? Hosting a couple satellite camps here and there won't change anything.
The landscape is changing, though. Slowly but surely, Harbaugh is making progress. And all it takes is landing one top recruit in this class to show that.
Obviously, Michigan would love to sign a handful of top recruits from the Southeast next Wednesday. Who wouldn't? But even if Harbaugh steals just one ESPN 300 kid away, it's going to turn some heads.
Solomon, ranked No. 63 in the ESPN 300, is one of the top targets still out there. When the dead period ended at midnight a couple weeks back, he had coaches from both Alabama and Georgia at his school the next morning. Nick Saban and Kirby Smart are both expected to come through and see the 6-foot-3, 300-pound defensive lineman sometime this week.
It's not just a Tide-Dawgs battle, though. The Wolverines are very much in the thick of it for Solomon, who initially committed to Michigan over the summer before later re-opening his recruitment.
"They've got a quality program there at Michigan just like a lot of these other schools here in the South," Solomon's high school coach, Dean Fabrizio, said. "And I just think Coach Harbaugh has been able to recruit on a national level. The success he's had at Stanford, in the NFL, and now at Michigan, has certainly played a huge role in that."
Collins, an ESPN 300 wide receiver from just outside Birmingham, has narrowed his list to four schools -- Alabama, Georgia, LSU and Michigan. He had little to no interest in Michigan before Harbaugh arrived, but after visiting Ann Arbor and meeting the charismatic and sometimes controversial head coach, he now has the Wolverines in his final group.
"When I first met him, he came in making jokes," Collins said. "I was like 'Oh yeah, I like this coach.' But the more I go up there -- I've been up there a couple times -- he just seems more comfortable. Me and him just get along really well. We can just talk about anything."
Collins knows that if he were to spurn Alabama to go to Michigan, it would send shockwaves across the state. It's one thing to leave his home state and go to Georgia or LSU, but to leave and play for Harbaugh at Michigan? He would never hear the end of it.
"It is what it is," Collins said. "I'm pretty sure a lot of people want me to stay in-state because we've got a big-time [program] in Alabama. But really, I'm just going to the place where I can see myself making a big impact and a place where I could see myself going."
The efforts Michigan have put in across the Southeast might not fully come to fruition until the 2018 and 2019 classes -- the Wolverines already have an ESPN Junior 300 recruit from Georgia committed in their 2018 class -- but if Harbaugh can land Solomon or Collins or even Gay, a linebacker from Mississippi who attended a satellite camp in his home state over the summer, it would prove that Michigan can go anywhere and sign a top recruit.