On the job for barely a month, first-year Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh was reportedly able to flip some recruits in the Wolverines favor on National Signing Day Wednesday.
Overall the Big Ten’s top programs were able to lock up some of the country’s highest-rated recruits, but arguably the Wolverines and Harbaugh won the day.
Contending with the likes of defending national champion Ohio State and Urban Meyer, as well as Mike Dantonio’s Michigan State squad, Harbaugh secured three-star running back Karan Higdon and athlete Keith Washington, upping Michigan’s total haul to 12 commitments so far.
Before today, Michigan’s chances of landing a major class looked fairly bleak. Former head coach Brady Hoke finished last season 5-7 and knew his time in Ann Arbor was just about done, leaving a ton of work to be done once Harbaugh arrived.
However Washington and Higdon join a solid class that already included five four-star recruits. There’s quarterbacks Zach Gentry from Eldorado High School in Albuquerque, New Mexico and Alex Malzone from Bloomfield, Michigan, safety Tyree Kinnel from Huber Heights, Ohio, massive offensive tackle Grant Newsome from McLean, Virginia, and athlete Brian Cole from Saginaw Michigan.
Perhaps at the last hour, Harbaugh was able to influence the young players. Higdon originally committed to Big Ten rival Iowa, while Washington was expected to head to Cal.
With sophomores De’Veon Smith and Derrick Green showing tremendous promise with 990 rushing yards and nine touchdowns last season, Higdon could complete a punishing attack in Harbaugh’s rush-centric offense and help a Wolverines squad that was eighth in the conference in rushing.
According to Scout.com’s rankings, the Wolverines started National Signing Day with the 50th ranked class in the country, but by the end of the day that number figures to change.
It wasn’t all roses for the Wolverines and Harbaugh, who saw the nation’s top rated tight end Chris Clark jolt for UCLA after originally committing to Michigan.
Meyer and the Buckeyes didn’t have too many holes to fill with most of the championship starters returning, but wide receiver was a bit of an issue with Devin Smith entering the NFL Draft.
Meyer addressed the issue by flipping another recruit in star Little Rock, Arkansas receiver K.J. Hill. Considered the one of the top prospects in the state, Hill first appeared headed to the Razorbacks but evidently changed his mind.
Padding a roster that already included running back Ezekiel Elliott, Meyer also managed to keep top rushing prospect Mike Weber out of Detroit, despite Michigan and Harbaugh making an impressive last minute push, Rivals reported.
With the addition of Weber and Hill, the Buckeyes moved up to No. 4 on Scout’s list of 2015’s top recruiting classes, by far the best in the Big Ten with 27 total commitments and 12 players ranked in ESPN’s 300 list.
Dantonio and the Spartans have also had a solid morning, locking up four four-star recruits including Hubbard, Ohio running back L.J. Scott, quarterback Brian Lewerke from Phoenix, Arizona and offensive tackle Kyonta Stallworth from Detroit.
Known for his rare package of speed and power, Scott was ranked the No. 7 running back in the country and in the future he could dispel the Spartans’ loss of senior running back Jeremy Langford.
Dantonio is also still waiting to find out the decisions of linebacker Cassius Peat and defensive end Mufi Hunt, according to the Detroit Free-Press.
Another first-year head coach seeking to make an immediate impact in the conference is Wisconsin’s Paul Chryst, who like Harbaugh, has been on the job for only about seven weeks.
Keeping with the Badgers tradition of a strong defense and running game, Chryst signed Wisconsin’s top ranked linebackers in Jake Whalen and Alec Ingold, while snatching defensive tackle Kraig Howe from Kettering, Ohio and the fifth-ranked running back in Alabama in Bradrick Shaw from Hoover.
Chryst didn’t land a five-star recruit, but he did sign four four-star prospects and so far has brought in 20 commitments.