The Michigan Wolverines football program currently holds 18 commitments for its 2017 incoming class, and if you're a stargazer it's literally 50-50, as in nine three-star recruits and nine four-star recruits.
The most recent came today when four-star OL Kai-Leon Herbert from Florida announced his commitment to Michigan via Walking Dead-style zombie attack video on Bleacher Report:
Ultimately, it's another huge recruiting win for Michigan as they add another 4-star talent from SEC country, exactly what Nick Saban at Alabama and the rest of the SEC coaches didn't want to happen.
But let's talk about WHY Herbert chose Michigan. Here is a quote from a story on TheWolverine.com about why he committed there:
Life after football. This isn't the first time we have heard a big recruit say this about Michigan football either. Just last month four-star DT Aubrey Solomon stunned the nation and the state of Alabama with his commitment to Michigan. Here's what he had to say about it:
So that's two four-star caliber lineman on both sides of the ball, playing down south and seemingly destined to end up on an SEC roster somewhere, both deciding to come hundreds of miles north to play in Ann Arbor because of "life after football."
Doesn't that seem a little different for how we believe recruits and their families operate? We've seen it time and time again where young players and their families think he is destined to go pro and make a fortune in the NFL, and they want to go to the best school that will put them in place to do that. Until recently, that was a lock for Alabama, Florida, Georgia and a whole host of southern schools that acted as feeder programs for the NFL.
Something has changed, and it may have started back in February when DL Rashan Gary from Paramus Catholic in New Jersey, the undisputed No. 1 high school player in the nation, made his choice to come to Ann Arbor instead of Clemson and a whole host of other big name schools that wanted him. The easy answer would be Jim Harbaugh and the Michigan Wolverines staff, who not even two years into their regime have completely transformed, revitalized and restored the luster of the Michigan Football program.
Let's go deeper than that, though. Here's what Gary said after he chose the Wolverines months ago:
Now, he may not have used the words "life after football," but you get the same impression from him when he talks about "a lifetime goal" and "to make sure he provides for his family." Odds are, with his talent and adding three to four years of development at Michigan, he'll be doing that as an NFL player, but Gary is one of many young football players that have talked about family, academic strength and building a great life outside of football, all major points that the Michigan coaching staff have seemed to hammer home with these kids.
And this is where the genius of Jim Harbaugh comes into play. Not only is he a 15-year NFL veteran as a player with four years of successful NFL head coaching experience and approaching a decade of collegiate level head coaching experience, but he's also a married father of six, soon to be seven children. Family is priority one for him. His son Jay coaches Michigan's tight end position. His brother John, head coach of the Baltimore Ravens in the NFL is around the program. Their father Jack along with legendary Michigan head coach Bo Schembechler, may he rest in peace, taught these lessons of family and life importance to Jim and he is now translating this genuine approach to his job as head football coach. It shows no more evidently now than on the recruiting trail.
Harbaugh and his coaching staff have more than just years of NFL experience and connections to offer a player, they also offer a genuine concern and value for the player's well-being, with regard to his family, his academics and his team. Now, you could find families and players that will tell you Nick Saban, Kirby Smart at Georgia, Dabo Swinney at Clemson and even Urban Meyer at Ohio State have told kids the same thing, but you have to wonder how genuine that sentiment is with respect to what Harbaugh and his staff are saying at Michigan. In a era when football is under scrutiny for its safety and other issues and families just want the best for their son's success, it has to be refreshing for them to hear Harbaugh and his staff's commitment to that on all levels for their players.
Maybe that's why they are making the choice to commit to the Maize and Blue. It's a long way to National Signing Day, but it's a very good sign.