You won’t find Jim Harbaugh riding go-karts and climbing trees to land Michigan’s top targets on the recruiting trail this time around.
The Wolverines aren’t struggling in recruiting, currently holding the No. 13-ranked class, but that is a drop from their past two classes -- both ranked No. 6 overall. The 2016 and 2017 recruiting classes had a combined 33 ESPN 300 commitments, while the current 2018 class has five and won’t have Ric Flair and Tom Brady celebrating its arrival.
After going 8-5 this past season, with another loss to Ohio State, the Wolverines have reasons to stay quiet. But that hasn’t stopped Harbaugh from trying to re-energize the staff. In this offseason, Harbaugh added Al Washington and Sherrone Moore to strengthen the on-field product and the recruiting that goes with it.
“I know that working with those guys the last couple weeks, I’m really excited,” Michigan safeties coach Chris Partridge said. “They have a heck of an energy, they take pride in recruiting. It’s important to them, and I feel energized by those guys. Recruiting is what I love to do and what I’m passionate about, and they’re even giving me a jolt.”
While Michigan's current class isn't ranked as highly as in recent years, according to some recruits, that could be attributed to the product on the field.
“Recruits go to the mainstream schools that are having a lot of success in the moment, if you look at Georgia and how they’re doing,” said ESPN 300 tight end Mustapha Muhammad, a Michigan commit. “In Michigan’s case, we didn’t have the best year and that’s why we missed on a few guys.”
Muhammad is one of the top tight ends in the class and was pursued by quite a few programs. He felt confident with what Michigan had to offer, but still acknowledges that the new hires are already bringing more energy to the recruiting trail for the Wolverines.
The No. 44-ranked prospect out of Texas already has met with Moore, who will be his new tight ends coach. And although the meeting was for only a short period of time, Muhammad already recognized the appeal that Moore will bring for future targets.
“I feel like recruits tend to go places that have coaches that are more exciting than the average recruiter,” Muhammad said. “… And with Coach Moore, he’s a younger guy and he played in college. He went to a big-time university in Oklahoma and I feel like any other tight end, once they meet him, they would love to play for him.”
Michigan has seen some coaching turnover in the past few years, losing running backs coach Tyrone Wheatley, defensive coordinator DJ Durkin, passing game coordinator Jedd Fisch and recruiting director Matt Doherty, among others. The problem, at least when it comes to recruiting, has come with hiring coaches from the NFL. Adding coaches with college experience has allowed the new arrivals to immediately start recruiting for their new team.
The new coaches won’t just need to help re-energize recruiting, they’ll also need to make an impact on the field. Harbaugh is nowhere near the hot seat, but it seemed almost necessary that changes be made to move the program forward after what happened in 2017.
If their impact on the field matches their impact in recruiting, Michigan could help quiet the questions instead of the recruiting. It’s not like Michigan is asking them to do a sleepover or make a rap video. The Wolverines still have Harbaugh if it’s needed again in recruiting.
“I think these guys came in with the right attitude,” Partridge said. “They’re young, they’re hungry and they love the relationships of the recruiting game. With that, and how they coach, I think this is going to take us to a whole new level.”