Football

Recruiting: Bye doesn't provide break on trail for Michigan football

Michigan Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh throws the ball during warm-ups prior to the game against the Wisconsin Badgers at Michigan Stadium on Oct. 1, 2016 in Ann Arbor.

Michigan Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh throws the ball during warm-ups prior to the game against the Wisconsin Badgers at Michigan Stadium on Oct. 1, 2016 in Ann Arbor.

For Michigan and schools all over the country, there’s virtually no rest on the recruiting trail. This includes bye weeks, when both head coaches and assistant coaches travel across the country to see top targets in virtually every class they’re recruiting.

Jim Harbaugh’s travels throughout the week were mostly out west, where he spent the latter half of the week in California, including a visit to Antioch to see the nation’s top overall prospect, five-star running back Najee Harris.

Because Harbaugh is such a huge name nationally, part of his role on these types of visits is to play sort of a politician role as far as shaking as many hands and taking as many pictures as he possibly can. This was the case at Antioch where he was asked to announce the homecoming queen for the high school, and also at El Cerrito High (home of four-star OL Aaron Banks) on Saturday where he became a part of the chain gang and worked with the referees. His response to his weekend during his Monday news conference was coy, as you’d expect.

“It was great to be a part of the activities,” he said. “Then the chain gang, we needed a guy and I was promised a tri-tip steak sandwich at halftime. That’s all I needed to hear. That was a lot of fun.”

It’s naive to believe that Harbaugh’s motivations aren’t motivated by recruiting; it’s why he’s on these campuses to begin with. However, there’s an authenticity in the way he approaches recruiting that continues to resonate with the kids, and this is the latest example of that. Whether it’s the much-publicized sleepovers or climbing trees, recruits and their families buy Harbaugh and his message.

“He’s willing to go the extra mile and show you that he wants you,” current Wolverine cornerback David Long told 247Sports upon his commitment. “People think his actions are all for show, but it’s just him. You get to learn that about him as he continues to recruit you and you learn more about who he really is. It makes it easier to listen to what he has to say.”

Michigan’s current class is sitting at 11th in the 247Sports recruiting rankings. This is mostly due to the fact that they remain in on elite talents who will make late decisions at one of the high school all-star games (Under Armour or Army) or on National Signing Day. This means we almost assuredly haven’t heard the last amusing story from Harbaugh this cycle.

Among the notable players Harbaugh and Michigan stopped in on this week:

Antioch (Calif.) 2017 five-star running back Najee Harris: The Wolverines continue to try to chip away at the nation’s top prospect, who remains verbally committed to Alabama. It’s believed that he will officially visit Michigan sometime this fall, but no date has been set at this point. USC is another school continuing to recruit him, but it appears to be a two-team battle at this juncture.

Los Angeles Dorsey 2019 five-star defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux: 2019 recruiting is an eternity away, but Harbaugh made a point to sit in on Thibodeaux’s game on Thursday evening. He is the No. 1 overall ranked player in the 2019 class according to 247Sports, and holds an early scholarship offer from the Wolverines.

Los Angeles Hawkins 2018 five-star wide receiver Jalen Hall: The other player Harbaugh was in Los Angeles to see on Thursday night was Hall, whose Hawkins team was the opponent of Thibodeaux’s Dorsey squad. Hall is Michigan’s top wide receiver target in the junior cycle and is the top wide receiver prospect in the country according to the 247Sports Composite rankings.

Littleton (Colo.) Chatfield 2017 four-star tight end Dalton Keene: Michigan tight ends coach Jay Harbaugh traveled to Colorado to check in on Keene, who is committed to Virginia Tech but was recently offered by the Wolverine staff. An explosive athlete who plays five different positions for his high school team, Keene is believed to be at least considering the Wolverines and is expected to visit before National Signing Day.

Steve Lorenz is the editor and publisher of Wolverine247 of the 247Sports Network. You can follow him on Twitter @TremendousUM and sign up for our FREE newsletter today!

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