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Take Two: Why did Harbaugh's third Michigan class lack for star power?

Jim Harbaugh

Take Two returns with a daily offering tackling a handful of issues in the college football landscape. Rivals.com National Recruiting Analyst Adam Gorney lays out the situation and then receives takes from Rivals.com National Recruiting Director Mike Farrell and a local expert from the Rivals.com network of team sites.

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In coach Jim Harbaugh’s first two full recruiting classes, Michigan finished fourth both times in the team recruiting rankings, landing five-stars in each of those groups.

So it came as a negative surprise to many Wolverines’ fans this recruiting cycle when Michigan finished No. 24 overall, fourth in the Big Ten behind Ohio State, Penn State and Nebraska with no five-star signees. Michigan had only seven four-star pledges, none of which were 6.0s, one step away from five-star status.

In short, Michigan’s recruiting class was average to slightly disappointing compared to other national powers.

The Wolverines only signed 19 players in this class so it was destined to slide down the team recruiting rankings a little bit. Plus, Michigan already has landed commitments from four recruits in the 2019 class including two four-stars and five-star DE Christopher Hinton, the second-best player in the state of Georgia.

Is there reason for concern in Ann Arbor? Or was 2018 just a small blip on the screen as Harbaugh works toward building a national contender?


“I don't think Harbaugh is losing traction on the recruiting trail overall, but he definitely slipped a bit in 2018. Recruits still seem to hold him in high regard, but Michigan definitely missed on several Plan A guys in 2018. There was some turnover among position coaches and most notably, within Harbaugh's recruiting staff. The fruits of their labor will be more noticeable in 2019 and beyond, but it may have caused a slight dip in 2018. Michigan's subpar 8-5 finish and no splash wins on the field or on the recruiting trail also led to Harbaugh's worst full class to date.

“Kids are still drawn to his name and know that he knows how to coach, so things should definitely improve in 2019. Michigan already has four very solid junior commits and looks poised to reel in several others as the cycle progresses.” – Brown


“Recruiting is down. There’s no doubt about it. They finished No. 24 this year after finishing fourth the last two years. There is some concern there.

“Kids still want to go to Michigan, but there is so much competition out there nowadays that if you don’t win on the football field, it doesn’t matter if you lost every senior and you’re rebuilding. If you go 8-5 while programs you’re recruiting against go 10-2 or 11-1 or making the playoff, kids aren’t going to want to go there as much.

“The bottom line for Harbaugh is it doesn’t matter how well he can recruit. Now that he’s in Year 4, he has to put together a playoff run. I know he’s come close, but you can’t step back. When kids see 10 wins, 10 wins and then eight, they think your program is regressing and it’s used against you by everybody else. He needs to have a huge season this year, he needs to solve the quarterback problem and recruiting will return to a high level if he does that.

“Finishing fourth twice in recruiting, you’re selling a vision. Now he has results on the field that are being used against him by other colleges and it’s affecting the way they’re recruiting.” – Farrell