Over the past several years, one area that has aided Jim Harbaugh's recruiting efforts at Michigan was the school's ability to put forth an enjoyable game day atmosphere on recruiting trips. During the fall, U-M has a lot to showcase, and Michigan has a particularly strong home record under Harbaugh, so the Wolverines have executed in that realm more often than not.
Michigan has not had the luxury of hosting prospects on recruiting trips since March, and the current recruiting dead period was set to expire on Sept. 1 but in an unsurprising turn of events has been extended throughout the rest of the month according to the NCAA.
This fall, Michigan won't be playing football on the weekends, so the U-M staff would have extra time to prep its recruiting presentations when hosting players. Many prospects have mentioned that game day trips are important because they illustrate the atmosphere surrounding a program playing at home, and coaches are typically exceedingly busy during these times, running from one meeting to the next. Without the reality of prepping before and after a game, Michigan's coaches could offer a more tailored, personalized experience with additional one-on-one time. Now while that is still the case, U-M will have to wait one more month to carry out those plans.
But this development should not deter Wolverines fans. Throughout the COVID-19 quarantine, the Michigan staff have acted as one of the more versatile, forward-thinking programs in the country. Many recruits, such as 2022 Atlanta (Ga.) Pace Academy quarterback M.J. Morris, who is rated as the No. 2 dual-threat passer in the country according to 247Sports.com, spoke positively about Michigan's recruiting effort. Morris has participated in a virtual tour of Michigan's campus with quarterbacks coach Ben McDaniels leading the way, and other high school players have discussed how the program's Zoom calls and FaceTime calls have been helpful pieces of the process. Michigan commit Xavier Worthy seconded that notion.
But do not expect for Michigan to fall on hard times when it comes to recruiting just because the NCAA pushed back the dead period for another month. Since mid-March, U-M's 2021 class has exploded from two committed players to 21 such commits. This strong effort to build a quality '21 class even without showing prospects around campus really underscored the ability of the Michigan staff to sell the program.
For example, not all Michigan commits have even made it to campus before offering their pledge to the staff. Marshfield (Mass.) Nobles and Greenough linebacker and U-M commit Casey Phiney picked the Wolverines without ever stepping foot on campus. Both wide receivers Cristian Dixon and Worthy both did the same thing. Bethesda (Md.) Choate Rosemary Hall offensive tackle Tristan Bounds made a mid-summer decision and hadn't visited Ann Arbor prior to that time, so the SI All-American candidate took it upon himself to see what his future home would look like. Bounds drove all the way to Michigan to do a self-guided tour, ensuring that he would be familiar with his surroundings before making a final decision.
From that point, not much should change with Michigan's approach on the trail. U-M Director of Recruiting Matt Dudek spoke earlier this offseason about why these adjustments and adaptations have been so successful for the school, and it really boiled down to the coach's ability to know the players they are recruiting specifically. Without having to travel from location to location conducting in-home visits, Michigan can crank out several Zoom calls in a short timespan where the staff would otherwise by physically traveling across the country. So, it makes the whole process a bit more streamlined and efficient.
Dudek said that the staff would likely keep a few of its recruiting strategies after the dead period is lifted, and defensive coordinator Don Brown reiterated this point during a late May Zoom press conference.
While the extension of the dead period sounds like bad news for Michigan, it really does not change their operations too much at this point. The team would still like to host various players on official visits, such as Rayshaun Benny, Drew Kendall and Jayden Thomas, but that could still be possible before the year is over.
What do you think of the way Michigan has rolled with the punches of the pandemic? How could the staff get even better? Let us know!