No region and certainly no state has been listed as off limits when it comes to the recruiting territories being explored by Jim Harbaugh and his coaching staff at the University of Michigan.
Harbaugh is taking a national approach to recruiting, with two of his first four verbal commitments in the 2016 class coming from outside the state of Michigan.
The biggest fish thus far is four-star Avon (Ind.) high school quarterback Brandon Peters, committing to Michigan back on Apr. 4.
Based in Indianapolis, Scout.com’s Anna Hickey analyzes the addition of Peters for the Wolverines and takes a look at other top targets currently catching Harbaugh’s eye.
Peters Cool as a Cucumber
Harbaugh made it clear from the get go in his 2016 recruiting efforts, a quarterback would need to kickstart and lead the class.
In Peters, Michigan hopes to have found a young man with the arm talent to add to the depth building at the quarterback position.
“Height (6-foot-4) is obviously the first thing that stands out about Peters when he takes the field,” Hickey said. “After watching him multiple times last season, his ability to make just about any throw down field and his calm demeanor and coolness in pressure situations are currently his biggest strengths.
“He has a huge arm - one that will only get stronger as he fills out his frame. His mobility in the pocket may be overstated as he transitions to the college level, though when he opts to keep it in the zone read, he’s hard to handle. Peters throws a beautiful deep ball, and he’s money at finding his wide out in stride down the sideline.
“The biggest area of improvement needed from Peters is synonymous with many quarterbacks his age - he needs to get better at going through all of his progressions. He’s tremendous at getting rid of the ball quickly when he senses pressure in the pocket, but he’ll have to get better at scrambling in order find the third, fourth options down field and to avoid throwing the interception. Overall, he’s got just about every physical tool in the book. And, mentally, he’s got the potential to be really special as a leader for the Wolverines.”
Michigan Focused on Future, Not Past
Michigan has had success in the state of Indiana in the past even before the arrival of Harbaugh in Ann Arbor.
As it turns out, one player previously committed to Brady Hoke and his staff may have missed the opportunity to play for the Wolverines due to a timing issue.
“Indiana’s top ranked middle linebacker in the class of 2015 originally committed to Michigan, but with the program lacking a head coach during crunch time of his commitment timeline, Kirkland opted for the Vols last December.”
Although the Wolverines missed out on Kirkland, who could be an impact player in the SEC for years to come, the 2016 class has several other targets being prioritized.
“Michigan fans shouldn’t sweat the past - especially when it comes to recruiting in Indiana,” Hickey noted.
The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Mack visited Michigan back in March, leaving with high praise of the new staff and offensive approach.
"I can't be more impressed with Harbaugh," Mack told Scout. "His career background is crazy. He's straight from the pros. You're not going to learn anything better. You're playing in the pro-style offense. They don't care who you are. If you come in and play and execute -- you're playing.
“Right now Alex Malzone is the first guy in the lineup. He's been competing and working and doing what he needs to do to get done. That's something that is good. Whoever is executing the best, they’ll play. He really just said everything that got my interest.”
Other Recruiting Battles to Follow
Already with Peters in the fold in the 2016 class, things appear to be moving quickly between Michigan and a 2017 quarterback also from the state of Indiana.
“Perhaps what’s shaping up to be the biggest heavyweight recruiting battle for Harbaugh in Indiana is the race to land sophomore signal-caller Hunter Johnson of Brownsburg, Indiana,” Hickey said. “Johnson boasts a plethora of offers already, and Michigan, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Penn State and Tennessee are the favorites in his recruitment thus far.
“It would not be surprising to see Michigan and Notre Dame as the final two teams standing in Johnson’s recruitment. Both programs are pushing to get Indiana’s No. 1 ranked player in 2017 on campus as often as possible. Johnson could elect to end his recruitment as early as August.”
While Harbaugh didn’t wait around twiddling his thumbs with an offer to Peters, another early scholarship could put Michigan in the forefront of yet another recruitment in the 2016 class.
“Harbaugh didn’t hesitate to the pull trigger on offering Peters, a fact that could reap dividends if Peters has a terrific senior year and other programs like Notre Dame wish they had gotten in with the signal-caller much earlier,” Hickey said.
“But the early offer that could produce the biggest payoff was last month’s offer to 2016 three-star running back Toks Akinrinbade, a teammate of Johnson. Before Michigan, Akinribade’s biggest offers were from Boston College, Cincinnati, Illinois, Indiana and Iowa.”
6-foot-0 and boasting a 40 time under 4.5 seconds, Akinribade tells Hickey he is very impressed with what’s going on in Ann Arbor right now.
"I know that they are working to get their football program back to where it was even though last year was kind of a down year,” Akinribade told Scout.
"I could tell that by Coach Harbaugh. He was different than I thought. He came up to us right way and started playing around with us. I immediately felt comfortable.”
One early recruitment to watch in the 2018 class is offensive lineman Emil Ekiyor as well. Michigan has already extended an offer to Ekiyor, his first of the process.