Seven months ago, Aubrey Solomon announced that he will be a Wolverine.
Today, he said that again, this time in front of a national television audience, capping one of the more unusual recruitments in recent memory.
Offering his pledge at Lee County High School in Leesburg, Ga., the nation’s No. 25 overall player and No. 2-rated defensive tackle gave Michigan’s 2017 class a big boost.
The 6-foot-3, 288-pounder is the second-highest-ranked player in U-M’s 2017 class, trailing only receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones. But while Peoples-Jones was an expected commit from Detroit Cass Tech, Solomon was anything but. Not only is he from Georgia, where the Bulldogs are one of three teams ahead of U-M in the class rankings, choosing Michigan meant saying no to recruiting behemoth Alabama. Dominant defensive tackles rarely leave the South — and rarely turn down Nick Saban.
So symbolically, landing Solomon was Jim Harbaugh’s statement that U-M can compete with anyone at any position.
Like most high-value targets, Harbaugh’s staff identified Solomon early. U-M held a satellite camp at his school in June, and Solomon and junior teammate Otis Reese visited U-M later that month. Both verbally committed to the Wolverines. Solomon’s decision was surprising because it came so early in the process.
Then in mid-August, he decommitted. He wrote that he made the decision without his mother’s input, but he also shared another reason with a Georgia recruiting reporter: Michigan had thanked him for coming to its August recruiting BBQ, even though he did not attend.
Distanced from U-M, he began talking to other schools. But the Wolverines stayed on him and even got him on campus for an official visit Nov. 5.
But then he went to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and was caught saying, ‘(Expletive) Michigan,’ on a live video. A week or so later, he named Alabama his leader.
Solomon apologized, then had the U-M coaches down to Leesburg for a home visit in mid-January, and Harbaugh made it memorable. Bringing his own daughter Addison, in addition to assistant coaches Chris Partridge and Don Brown, Harbaugh spent the day go-karting and bowling with Solomon’s family.
His ultimate decision was still uncertain among even the most clued-in recruiting experts Tuesday night. U-M could offer immediate playing time with only two scholarship defensive tackles with game experience — senior Maurice Hurst and redshirt junior Bryan Mone.
And on Tuesday night, Alabama landed the No. 7 defensive tackle and No. 99 overall player, Phidarian Mathis.