Michigan and Georgia rarely have gone head-to-head on the recruiting trail in recent years, but that’s not the case with the 2016 class. The Wolverines and Bulldogs are top options for a few players — many of them from the Peach State — with Georgia in stronger position than Michigan for many of them.
A coaching change in Athens, however, could diminish Georgia’s chances to reel in some of their targets and, thereby, help Michigan. Georgia coach Mark Richt parted ways with the school this week, after 15 years in charge.
The top two players who could see a change in their recruitment are five-star athlete Mecole Hardman of Elbert County, Ga., and five-star tight end Isaac Nauta, a native of suburban Atlanta who is attending boarding school in Florida.
“If they get rid of coach (Jeremy) Pruitt, I think that’s really going to hurt them,” Hardman said of Georgia’s defensive coordinators. “I can deal with coach Richt (departing), but if they get rid of Pruitt, I don’t know what will happen.”
Nauta has taken all five of his official visits and emerged with Georgia and Michigan his most serious options. There’s a family factor at each: close to home for Georgia, close to plenty of extended family in western Michigan for the Wolverines. The U-M offense, in which tight end Jake Butt caught nearly twice as many passes for twice as many yards and three times the touchdowns as all Georgia tight ends combined, might be a better fit.
Other recruiting battles are less directly between Michigan and Georgia. Tampa tight end Jacob Mathis and D.C.-area offensive lineman Terrance Davis have both schools on their lists, but Michigan is a more serious factor for both.
It’s also possible that U-M pursues prospects already committed to the Bulldogs, particularly Lake Stevens (Wash.) five-star quarterback Jacob Eason. With four-star Indianapolis signal caller Brandon Peters in the fold, though, U-M is likely to pass on him, despite Eason’s talent and past interest in Michigan.
Tim Sullivan is the football recruiting editor of The Wolverine magazine and thewolverine.com. He is also a contributor to national football recruiting coverage on the rivals.com network. You can follow him on Twitter @tims_wolverine.