Everything went according to plan last fall for Jalen Bates. The Kaplan (La.) standout parlayed his strong summer showing into interest from a number of power five schools, committed to Arizona State a few months later, and then turned in an exemplary senior season performance.
“We went to the second round and we were district runner ups,” said Bates. “It was pretty good. That’s all I really wanted was to have a winning season and make it to the playoffs and win a game. That was good. I had like 17 sacks and 40 TFLs, a pick six. It was fun.”
Michigan’s season, meanwhile, was anything but. The Wolverines figured very prominently in Bates’ recruitment before fading into obscurity as winter approached. By the time Brady Hoke was fired in early December Michigan was the farthest thing from the Sun Devil commit’s mind. But when he heard Jim Harbaugh had been hired a few weeks ago it definitely got his attention.
“I was happy,” he stated. “Michigan deserves a good coach and they’ve got the best coach they could probably get. I think they deserved it with all the tradition they’ve got. They deserve to continue to win.”
That said, Bates’ feeling of excitement for the Wolverines didn’t equate to excitement about the Wolverines. He didn’t immediately begin thinking about awakening his dormant recruitment, but he wasn’t surprised to learn that that’s what Michigan did.
“I kind of knew they were going to try and come after me since they had new staff,” Bates said. “I kind of figured they were going to come after me. Coach Chris (Singletary) called me first and he got my on the phone with the new DC (D.J. Durkin). I talked to him the first day (Monday) before anyone knew he was there. Then the DB coach who is my recruiter, Coach (Greg) Jackson. (Singletary) got me on the phone with him.”
“It was cool. I’m not going to lie… I didn’t even get to meet the (old staff’s) defensive line coach. I talked to (Durkin) and he said that they were going to run a 3-4/4-3 and they going to have me stand up as an outside linebacker. I talked to him about stuff like that. It’s appealing. Every time I hear outside linebacker it’s appealing to me, so it was cool. They said that they were going to keep in contact and keep calling me. They’re supposed to be coming down here after the dead period.”
Those upcoming interactions will be crucial in determining whether Michigan’s courtship of Bates will go any farther. While they have spoken preliminarily about an official visit, they’re still a long way away from actually setting one up.
“I’m not completely sure if I want to go,” Bates said. “I’m not sure. Probably whenever they come see me I’ll see what they talking about and I’ll go from there. Right now, I don’t know.”
“It would take a lot of explaining and kind of selling the place to me for me to go. I’m pretty solid, so I wouldn’t want to start a bunch of controversy. It would have to be something that I couldn’t turn it down and I would have to go see. I’ve been there before. I grew up watching Michigan, so it wouldn’t be impossible and this time would be perfect to go check it out because it is so cold. Going up there and being in the cold and seeing if I can take it would (answer a major question). So right now would be a perfect time to take an official.”
Now all Harbaugh and company have to do is convince him to actually take it.