The state of Alabama hardly has been a pipeline for Michigan football talent. Only a few scholarship players (most notably 1996-99 wide receiver Marcus Knight) hailed from the Yellowhammer State prior to the arrival of Jim Harbaugh in Ann Arbor.
But Harbaugh — and his primary recruiter in the state, running backs coach Tyrone Wheatley — have been able to make headway quickly. Just weeks after arriving on campus, the coaching staff signed 2015 Prattville cornerback Keith Washington, who had been committed to California. After a satellite camp at Prattville High last summer, they eventually signed 2016 running back Kingston Davis and got a commitment from linebacker Dytarious Johnson, who remains unsigned as he works through the NCAA clearinghouse.
The rising tide of Alabama prospects is continuing in U-M’s 2017 class, with the first blow landed Monday. U-M secured a commitment from Florence safety J’Marick Woods and has offered 15 other players from the state in the 2017 class alone.
New U-M offensive analyst Antonio (Bam) Richards might play a significant role in the state.
“I know coach Bam comes from down here,” Woods said. “I just really talked with my family, my coaches, my teammates and everything about my decision. They are important people in my life. They were comfortable with it, and I was comfortable with it.”
In addition to a return to Prattville for another satellite camp this off-season, Harbaugh and his coaches will participate in a camp at Bob Jones High School in the northern part of the state. That’s closer to Woods’ hometown of Florence, and the Wolverines have offered a quartet of prospects in Madison, where the school is located.
Outside observers may peg this as the wrong time to try to make an impact in the state. Alabama is fresh off of its fourth national title in seven years, and Auburn claimed a championship within the past five. However, if there’s one thing Harbaugh has shown in his brief tenure in Ann Arbor, it’s that there’s nothing he relishes more than healthy competition.
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.