Jim Harbaugh’s first recruiting turn in Ann Arbor may not have resulted in a class renowned in the ratings (a ceiling imposed largely because of small class size), but it did set an undeniable tone. Of the eight recruits Michigan’s new staff is responsible for landing, six of them were flipped from other schools. While that clearly was a strategy born somewhat of necessity, it also is reflection of Harbaugh’s intensely competitive side. He sought that same character trait in his signees and definitely played out in his pursuit of quarterbacks. Despite the early enrollment of Bloomfield Hills (Mich.) Brother Rice signal caller Alex Malzone the Wolverines’ new headman made it a point to fortify the position further with Texas decommit Zach Gentry.
“I am excited about both Alex and Zach,” said Harbaugh. “The two things common to them with everybody in this class that really has been fantastic to see, is a desire to compete in the classroom and on the football field. I really like those guys, those kind of people the most that compete in both of those areas to the highest level."
That will continue to be a theme for Michigan on the recruiting trail, even if that means courting players that are committed to other schools. The 2015 class will likely stand as an outlier when it comes to the sheer number of committed prospects that were pursued, but Harbaugh won’t shy away from those kinds of opportunities should they present themselves.
“You make a call and ask someone if they are interested in talking about Michigan,” said Harbaugh. “Certainly if someone says no, it is no, but if someone says yes, then I want to show them Michigan. (Sarasota, Fla. Riverview running back) Karan Higdon (is) a great example. There was time enough to make a decision, and it was about a week. He flew up here for an official visit and did not make it on the first day. He did not make it through security but came back the next morning and caught a 5:20 flight to come up to Ann Arbor, and that was the night we had the five, six, seven inches of snow. He had to get up at two in the morning, and that spoke volumes to me that he got up here. He was here for one day on an official visit, and now he is a Wolverine. He is an excellent example of somebody who competes at the highest level in the classroom and on the football field. He wants to go to medical school and Michigan -- I found this interesting stat -- sends the most undergraduate students to medical school out of any university in the country."
Higdon backed out of his pledge to Iowa in favor of Michigan, surprising many on signing day. But his was not the most shocking land for the Maize & Blue. That distinction is shared by two other southern prospects; Prattville (Ala.) athlete Keith Washington, and Delray Beach (Fla.) Atlantic defensive end Shelton Johnson.
Washington, who early in the recruiting process committed to Duke before flipping to California in January, pledged to Michigan without ever taking an official visit to Ann Arbor.
“I really liked Keith right away, the way he plays,” said Harbaugh. “When I went down and
visited him, along with coach D.J. Durkin, we were there with his father, Big Keith, and he's got a great mother Candice. The four of us were sitting there (Big Keith, Keith, Durkin, and I) and I asked him (Keith) how fast he was. He said, 'I'm a 4.3, coach.' Come on, a 4.3? Nobody's a 4.3. Everybody thinks they're a 4.3, but come on. So he said, 'I'll go out in the parking lot and show you right now.' And he was serious, dead serious. I liked him even more, and I knew he'd go out; I knew he was a competitor. I got a great feel."
The same can certainly be said for Johnson. The four-star defensive end spurned offers from in-state powers Miami and Florida State to choose Michigan, and in the 23rd hour fended off cold feet from his mom to stick with the Wolverines.
For a look at each of Michigan’s 2015 signees, check out the Scout Spotlight presentation below.