alternate headline: man does job
Many Michigan fans are mystified by the current recruiting strategy of taking so many low-rated (or unrated) players at this early stage in the process. ‘Does JH know what he is doing?’ ‘Why not wait, as you can scoop up these guys later if the bigger fish don’t come on board.’ Even those of us who totally trust JH must admit to being a bit boggled when he took the 2 star DE; notwithstanding that he had worked him out personally at camp. However, when you look at the numbers - in light of Harbaugh’s track record - his madness makes more than just sense... it is genius.
2015: I believe that we will take Jhonny Williams as a transfer so will need to make some room to get down to 85. That should be no problem with the rumored medicals and other natural attrition.
2016: It looks like we are going for 25 recruits (#Fab 25)... or even more. There are 15 - 16 spots open at present which means that 10 or so more are expected. We do not name names on this site (and I fully agree with that policy), but looking at the roster it is fairly easy to see where the 10+ openings will come from. Medicals, un-offered 5th years and transfers for PT or other reasons could open at least 25 spots for the 2016 class. In fact, 28 (the league maximum if you have at least 3 early enrolees) is a very plausible number. This makes the spate of offers - and the less-than-sexy commitments - more understandable.
The bottom line is that JH is Confident that with his track record, and an EUTM, he can spot the right kind of athletes and mold them into Winners. To get 25 - 28 of those guys you can't sit on your butt waiting for high rated prima donnas to sign your dance card. This is why the 'Swarm' camps were such a stroke of genius. They gave JH the opportunity to see athletes from all over the country up close and personal. All of the ones who checked out as potential winners were offered. Never mind the star ratings of the armchair experts; one of the best talent evaluators in all of football worked these guys out in person. There is absolutely no way that he could have seen the vast majority of these kids if he had just waited for the Michigan camp... Genius!
We've got the Right guy in the Right Place at the Right time... Enjoy!
Recruiting and player development go hand in hand – a lesson we have learned the hard way over the past few seasons. While it is important to recruit highly rated players, it is equally important to be able to discern which ones are more likely to pan out. At the same time, no matter how much potential a recruit has it is crucial to be able to maximize that potential on the field. Obviously the ideal coach has the ability to both evaluate talent, and to create a staff that will get everything out of them.
Jim Harbaugh had four recruiting classes at Stanford (though the first and the last may not have been solely his due to the coaching changes). To keep this simple I have just used the Rivals ratings. The first two classes had a lot of two stars as reflected in the average stars below:
2007: 2.63 (one 4*)
2008: 2.70 (two 4* including Luck)
2009: 3.27 (eight 4*)
2010: 3.13 (five 4*)
As you can see the quality improved each year, and I would guess that 2010 would have been even better had he not jumped to the Niners. On a personal note, when I look at recruits I am much more interested in offer lists than star ratings. Beginning in 2008 I began to see Stanford offers popping up all over the country – both for big name players and diamonds in the rough. Stanford offers were practically non-existent in my Michigan-centric searches before that. Clearly JH was even then capable of spreading a very wide and selective net throughout the country.
In 2009 Stanford had risen from terrible to 8-5, yet Harbaugh’s first (mixed) class were only juniors, and his next two classes were sophomores and freshmen.
By 2010 when they went 12-1 the only upperclassmen were 3rd and 4th year guys from his weaker first two classes (average stars well less than three). Of course there must have been help from the stronger ’09 and ’10 classes, but they were only 2nd and 1st year recruits.
JH was able to create a solid BCS bowl winning team with talent that – on its face – looks a lot lower than what we get at Michigan. This indicates not only his ability to develop talent, but also the recruiting acumen to find players with more potential than their star ratings would indicate. In sum, it appears (not surprisingly) that JH brings the same intensity and ability to recruiting and talent development that he does to all phases of the game.