Jim Harbaugh was determined to increase the competition at the quarterback position next year by adding another talented signal caller to Michigan's 2015 class.
Saturday night he accomplished his mission by landing Albuquerque (N.M.) El Dorado signal caller Zach Gentry.
The 6-6, 235-pounder's commitment was the culmination of a whirlwind courtship. The two sides had only recently established contact, and Harbaugh just made it down to see the statuesque gunslinger for the first time Wednesday. But those interactions proved to be enough to compel the then-Texas commit to visit Ann Arbor. It was a surprising decision that reverberated quickly through the recruiting world because Gentry had rebuffed overtures made by multiple suitors since pledging to the Longhorns in May. He had initially chosen Charlie Strong’s new program over offers from Alabama, Tennessee, Penn State, Nebraska, Oklahoma State, and a host of others. Michigan had also shown interest last spring before the two sides decided to go in different directions.
Now as Gentry's path converges with Michigan's again, they each do so riding the wave of extremely positive buzz. Harbaugh's arrival has boosted Michigan's profile back up to traditional heights. Gentry, meanwhile, is coming off of a season where he was named New Mexico’s Gatorade Player of the Year. A shockingly capable dual-threat talent, in 2014 he passed for 2,978 yards and 26 touchdowns, and ran for 1,057 yards and another 22 trips to the end zone. That momentous showing was enough to propel his team to the New Mexico's Class 6A semifinals where it lost Rio Rancho, the eventual state champ.
Gentry’s performance is already the stuff of lore in New Mexico. If there was a showing most indicative of his dynamic talent, those that follow him say it was the September 26th comeback victory over New Mexico's #1 team at the time, Mayfield.
By all accounts Scout.com’s #19 quarterback had had an abysmal first half that night, going 3/15 through the air for 72 yards. That included zero for his last 11 attempts with an interception. He was also limited on the ground to just 26 yards, causing his team to go into the breakdown 21-2.
Then came the second half.
Gentry began the turnaround on his first play after the intermission... an 80-yard touchdown run on a read option to cut the score to 21-9. That proved to be the spark that he and his team needed.
When the dust settled he had led his team to a miraculous 50-49 double overtime victory. He finished the contest with 547 yards of total offense (286 passing and 261 rushing), five rushing touchdowns, and one passing touchdown. 444 of those yards and all of the scores came after halftime.
Scout.com took note of Gentry's impressive finish to his high school career and adjusted his ranking accordingly. He was one of the West’s biggest movers when the Scout300 was adjusted earlier this month.
"Gentry was already a 4-star prospect by Scout but moved into the 300 at No. 280," Scout.com national recruiting analyst Greg Biggins said. "For a big quarterback, Gentry moves around pretty well and shows the ability to buy time in the pocket as well as run for positive yards. His arm is strong and he can throw with touch and accuracy."
Gentry's coach at El Dorado, Charlie Dodson agrees. He believes his star pupil is just scratching the surface of how good he can be.
"Zach is a special kid," Dodson told Scout.com. "Everyone who comes through is amazed at not only his ability with his arm, but with him being (so tall), how well he moves. I think that's what's so surprising with those coaches that come through is how much balance he has with his body. Sometimes you have 6-6 or 6-7 guys who can't make the throws."
"The thing that sticks out about Zach is that he is probably going to be a better college player than he is in high school," Dodson later added. "Being (so tall) he was a little bit of a late developer. His motor skills had to catch up with his body because he grew so fast. He's 230 pounds right now. He'll be 240 next year. He's an athlete... a very good basketball player. I don't think he's reached as far as where he's going to get as far as his arm strength."
That's saying something for a kid that can reportedly throw the ball 70 yards in the air. Add to that his reported ability to cover forty yards in the 4.6/4.7 range and it's easy to see why Harbaugh was full of glee Saturday night.
Gentry's commitment is a major addition for a quarterback depth chart low on numbers and devoid of experience. It's also major momentum for a recruiting class that seems destined to gain even more in the days to come.
Stay tuned to GoBlueWolverine for more from Gentry himself following his official visit to Michigan. In the meantime, check out his senior season highlights below.