Michigan’s recruiting priorities have come rushing to the surface in recent days. Defense has been a major emphasis, and Jim Harbaugh’s first official visit weekend is indicative of that.
Headlining the group will be Long Beach (Calif.) Poly CB Iman Marshall. The five-star standout list of finalists is a who’s who of college football. He first stop this weekend will be at Florida State before heading out to Michigan Sunday evening. Then he’ll visit LSU on the 23rd and Oregon on the30th. He also hopes to squeeze in visits to UCLA and longtime presumed favorite USC.
On the surface Michigan appears to have the longest odds in the group, but a campus visit gives the Maize & Blue a puncher’s chance. Especially add to the equation Marshall’s high regard for Jim Harbaugh.
"Coach Harbaugh going to Michigan is a game changer,” Marshall told Scout.com. “Obviously he knows what it takes to get to the highest level. He has changed Stanford and the 49ers around. I also know that coaching staffs can come and go, so I have to commit to a school and program, not just some coaches. I need to find the program that will prepare me best for life after college. That's what this process is all about."
Though not as heralded in recruiting circles as Marshall, a prospect that rose to immediate prominence on Michigan’s board was Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas defensive back Damon Arnett. Defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin and his new crew were so impressed that they extended Arnett a scholarship offer shortly after Durkin’s arrival.
“Michigan is known for having a great program and I know these is coaches are going to turn that program around from what it was this past year,” said Arnett. “That might be something that I want to be a part of.”
“(Harbaugh) has a lot of experience being in the league. He knows what he’s doing and I’m sure he’s going to bring in a great staff to coach underneath him that also knows what they’re doing as well.”
Another immediate priority for Durkin was Montezuma (Georgia) Macon County LB Roquan Smith. Scout.com South Regional Manager Chad Simmons saw Michigan’s profile with the four-star prospect rise virtually overnight.
“The Wolverines are now a contender because of new defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin,” said Simmons. “Smith and Durkin have been close for over a year and while Durkin was at Florida, the Gators were viewed as the biggest threat to Georgia.”
“Michigan is now very much in this race.”
“Smith will likely choose between Georgia, Michigan, and UCLA on signing day.”
That makes this weekend’s visit especially crucial to the Wolverines’ chances.
The same can be said for the highly coveted offensive prospect in Ann Arbor this weekend, Avon (Conn.) Old Farms tight end Chris Clark. The former Michigan commitment is visiting the Great Lake State on the heels of his in-home visit to UCLA, his other finalist.
"I'm down to UCLA and Michigan, and those two are it for me," Clark told Scout.com. "It's so close right now between those two, but I don't want to include any other schools. There is a part of me that thinks UCLA could be the right spot, but I want to take both officials and compare the two programs. “
"(The Bruins) have a great program under Coach (Jim) Mora and their coaches are awesome to talk to. I know I'm going to like the campus, so I want to see how comfortable I am with everything, but they could definitely be the one.”
"Michigan is also right there and my first conversation with Coach Harbaugh was great," he added. "He thinks Michigan is going to turn into Tight End U. and I'm the guy he wants. He said he's going to incorporate them into the offense, and he did that at Stanford."
A lights out visit in this weekend could be enough to swing the pendulum back Michigan’s way.
For more on the weekend and the Michigan’s recruiting priorities for its 2015 class, press play below.