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Yes, it's time for more guarded optimism about #1 overall recruit Najee Harris. The Alabama commit didn't make his scheduled official visit to Tuscaloosa last weekend because he couldn't leave his high school game early enough to catch his flight. Today, the San Francisco Chronicle continued their series on Harris with a feature focused on Harbaugh's bye week visit to Antioch; while there are many more factors to this recruitment, Michigan has a clear edge in relationship with the head coach:
Harris, though, was flattered by Harbaugh’s decision to attend his game and amused by the way he mingled with fans.
“Not many head coaches go out there and take pictures with everybody,” Harris said. “Everything he’s doing is cool.”
Harris will make it to Tuscaloosa eventually. He doesn’t have the same fondness for Tide head coach Nick Saban as he does for Harbaugh, but he does have a relationship with [Alabama assistant Tosh] Lupoi, the recruiter.
There's another telling passage in there: Harris's main recruiter at Alabama, Tosh Lupoi, called him after Harbaugh's visit and "belittled Michigan’s schedule in the Big Ten" in comparison to Bama's. As a general rule, you don't negative recruit another school unless you perceive it as a threat.
While the date hasn't been set, Michigan's coaches still fully expect Harris to make it to campus for an official visit. Harris plans to enroll early, so this recruitment will move quickly once OVs start happening, and it'll be fascinating to follow.
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It was disappointing that Notre Dame had a bye on the weekend Michigan won while Michigan State and Ohio State both lost, but ND-turned-Michigan commit Donovan Jeter did his best to qualify it for the superfecta, anyway. This is five-fire-emoji commitment quote:
“I started thinking, ‘Michigan is undefeated and Notre Dame is 2-5,’” Jeter said.
Jeter was most impressed by Harbaugh, and he had some interesting comments about Harbaugh and Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly. Jeter said Harbaugh “might be the coolest dude I ever met in my life.”
Jeter elaborated, saying, “He doesn’t act like he’s important. … He’s real down to earth and humble. He’s easy to talk to. Talking to Brian Kelly wasn’t fun. It wasn’t cool. You have to make an appointment just to go to his office. Coach Harbaugh has an open-door policy. Every one of Michigan’s coaches has an open-door policy.”
Jeter said he's done with his recruitment—“I’m done. I can’t put myself through this again”—and also mentioned that Harbaugh picked up a group of recruits at midnight to take them back to the hotel on Friday. In a van. Harbaugh.
Jeter later apologized for his quotes about Kelly, which was the right thing to do, but they'll live on forever in our hearts anyway, especially since all available evidence indicates they're true.
Meanwhile, four-star UT DT Jay Tufele's visit went very well. He helpfully included the caveat that this was his first of five official visits when telling Scout's Blair Angulo that Michigan is now out in front:
"I wasn't expecting that much but, man, they are up there," Tufele said. "I would say right now, since they're my first visit, they are probably leading now. They did an amazing job showing me how awesome it would be to play and live out there. The family atmosphere is something I look for in schools and I could really feel it over there with all the coaches and players."
The Wolverines pushed the Polynesian angle; Tufele spent much of his visit with commit Phil Paea. That worked well, and should help Michigan maintain an edge when Tufele checks out BYU and Utah, two schools that may even be more of a threat than Ohio State in this recruitment because of comfort level.
In addition to all this, four-star DT Aubrey Solomon has set an official visit to Michigan for the Maryland game, and 247's Steve Lorenz says the Wolverines still have a shot if they can convince his family that Ann Arbor is the place for him:
The story with Solomon has been pretty simple according to our sources: His interest in Michigan remains. It is the others surrounding him who need to be convinced about the program. This includes mom, who as of now we are expecting to take the visit up to Ann Arbor. The impression I've gotten from talking to a few different people surrounding this one is that Michigan would have hosted Solomon either way but that their chances would be all but dead in the water if mom wasn't able to make it up to campus for the official.
The obvious caveat here: it can be tough to sway family members, especially when trying to sway them from SEC powerhouses like Alabama and Georgia.
With Tufele putting M on top of his list, Jeter in the fold, Solomon in play, and the likes of Deron Irving-Bey and Rutger Reitmeier still on the board, the obvious question is: how many DTs can Michigan fit in the class? In a lengthy breakdown on the recruiting board, Sam Webb suggested M could take as many as nine defensive linemen—they're at six right now if you include Kwity Paye as a WDE, five if you don't. Of the non-committed targets, Tufele and Irving-Bey look like the best bets to join the class. Reitmaier is also one to watch—his father swung by Ann Arbor last weekend while on a business trip in the area, and Rutger says he's planning to visit as well, per Webb:
"First of all I think (Mattison) is a great guy,” said Reitmaier. “Obviously he knows what he's talking about. (He is) a great defensive line coach and taken many defensive linemen to the NFL. He even mentioned he has quite a few on the roster now that are draft picks this year. I think that's one of the big things I like about him."
"I've talked to (Jim Harbaugh) on the phone minimally, but I enjoy talking to him. He seems like a great guy and I continue to look forward to getting to know him."
Even is Solomon is a long-shot, Michigan isn't short on options.
More Illinois Visit Reacts
Last week, I mentioned the reasons why you shouldn't expect Willie Gay to wind up in the class—namely, he's got work to do in the classroom to qualify by M's standards, and the feeling surrouding his recruitment was that it'd be very difficult to pry him out of Mississippi. While the former is still a hurdle, the latter may not be as much of one as many thought:
“I would rank it a 10,” Gay said. “Because it’s more than I expected. I fell in love with Michigan this weekend.”
Adding: “It was great. It was more than I expected. I wanted to see something new and I really did. I really enjoyed every part of it. I hope I can come back soon.”
Gay subsequently decommitted from Ole Miss and named Michigan his leader. If he can qualify, the coaches will definitely push for him to end up in the class. We'll have to wait and see; he plans to make a Signing Day decision.
Four-star DE Robert Porcher IV told Scout's Corey Bender that he enjoyed his official visit, but it sounds like he's pretty solid to Nebraska:
"I love Nebraska, so that's my number one choice; I'm still 100 percent with them for right now. That's why I'm going to take my officials, but as of right now, I like Nebraska and they like me."
Harbaugh is still covering his bases close to home, too. He stopped by last week's PSL title game between Cass Tech and Detroit King, which didn't go unnoticed by Ambry Thomas:
“It means a lot,” Thomas said of Harbaugh’s visit. “A head coach that I know of has never come out to see one of my high school games, so that means a lot.”
“He’s been telling me he’s going to come to a game,” Thomas said of Harbaugh. “He told me he wasn’t going to miss this one. He came and showed up, so I appreciate that.”
The MSU optimism with Thomas has died down considerably of late.
Finally, the Illinois game may have solidified the commitment of Kai-Leon Herbert, which would be good news in both his recruitment and TJ Slaton's.
Four-star AL WR Nico Collins will take his official visit for the Maryland game. He also has OVs set to Florida State and LSU, and he plans to use his final two officials on Alabama and Georgia.
Dylan McCaffrey is putting up some impressive numbers so far this season.
Four-star TX RB Eno Benjamin decommitted from Iowa and mentioned Michigan as a school of interest. I can't find the link right now, but Lorenz mentioned he doesn't think M will pursue Benjamin.
Happy trails to four-star TX TE Major Tennison, who made a long-anticipated commitment to Alabama.