With an off week in its schedule, No. 4 Michigan (6-0) has been given a much-needed opportunity to rest its players and return a more healthy team for its matchup against Illinois on Saturday. In doing so, many of the Wolverines’ veteran players are assuming the role of position coaches, focusing on technique and physical output primarily while the UM coaches are on the road.
Most of the Michigan staff, which includes head coach Jim Harbaugh as its most formidable participant, have hit the road to visit various high schools across the country and promote the Wolverines’ brand from coast to coast. Harbaugh, for example, took his recruiting talents to Antioch as the nation’s No. 1 running back, five-star Najee Harris, played against Liberty in California.
Harbaugh is no stranger to the West Coast, which is where he coached the San Francisco 49ers for four years after spending four more at Stanford. Harris is no stranger to Michigan, as the highly coveted prospect attended Michigan’s BBQ at the Big House over the summer, a recruit-laden event designed to show targeted prospects what UM can offer through a series of creatively designed tasks, such as a scavenger hunt.
Harris came away from his trip to Ann Arbor with an expanded appreciation for Michigan football, and the Wolverines have remained firmly in pursuit for the California blue chip prospect as a result, working to forge a relationship and bridge the gap that 1,000s of miles can create.
Despite the distance between California and Michigan, the Wolverines’ coaching staff also will have to work on prying the powerful running back from Alabama’s grasp, which dates several months back in April. That’s when Harris committed to Alabama over offers from Georgia, Ohio State and Oregon, among others. The Crimson Tide have a peerless reputation of churning out NFL-caliber running backs, and playing behind an Alabama offensive line in which most every blocker is above 300-pounds is a dream for many high school ball-carriers.
But since Alabama is also thousands of miles away from California, Harbaugh may not be embarking on an insurmountable task. The greatest boundary is expected to be Harris’ excitement in playing on a Nick Saban-coaches team that is a consistent championship contender over the past decade, and while that is a feather in the Crimson Tide’s cap, Harris is not solid in his decision as of yet, according to statements he made at his U.S. Army All-American jersey presentation.
“Let’s say this: My mind isn’t set on Alabama,” Harris told USA Today. “I’m not 100-percent set on Alabama. I’m trying to see what else is out there for me. I’m using my visits to see. As much attention as I’ve gotten, I feel like I have helped my teammates get some offers, too.”
One of those visits is scheduled to be to Ann Arbor where Harbaugh will put the full court press on Harris.
If Harris does accept Michigan’s scholarship offer, an idea that is gaining steam as of late, one of the Wolverines’ current running back pledges may reconsider whether the backfield would be too crowded at UM. Michigan holds commitments from four-star running backs O’Maury Samuels and A.J. Dillon in addition to three-star runner Kurt Taylor. Four running backs in one class would be a hefty number for any school, but Michigan is also returning Ty Isaac, Karan Hidgon and Chris Evans with Kareem Walker expected to factor into the 2017 workload as well.