What is wrong with Michigan’s football recruiting? That is the familiar refrain from Wolverine fans following two “under the radar” commitments to Michigan in the last week. I’m not sure why Michigan fans are losing their minds over the commitments of MI/ATH Ben Vansumeren and MO/WR Ronnie Bell, but clearly some are not thrilled.
Vansumeren is a three star athlete who was off the radar except for his commitment to Iowa, his offer list included a bunch of MAC type schools and the Hawkeyes until he recently flipped from Iowa to Michigan. Vansumeren is a typical Harbaugh recruit, he’s versatile and loves to hit people which is why he could project as a TE, FB or LB. The guy has the athleticism to be very good, flexible player for the Wolverines, but some nutty Michigan fans are not having any of it. The star gazers are not thrilled that this guy is a three star recruit who literally “nobody” wanted and was on the way to Western Michigan before verbally committing to Iowa and finally flipping to Michigan. My guess is none of them have ever seen the kid play are are simply upset that he didn’t have enough “start” next to his name.
If Vansumeren sent Michigan recruiting stargazers over the edge, imagine the meltdown when former Missouri State basketball (yes, I said Missouri State) commitment Ronnie Bell decided he didn’t want to play basketball for the Bears and instead announced he was heading to Michigan to play football. Bell has zero….zero football offers as most schools expected him to play basketball. Bell is a rangy but thin receiver who was one of the best players in Missouri, even though the in-state schools didn’t recruit him or offer a scholarship to play football. Further freaking out some Michigan fans is the fact that Bell is Michigan’s only third two star recruit (outside of kickers) to commit to the Wolverines under Harbaugh. The other two stars are offensive lineman Nolan Ulizio in Harbaugh’s first class in 2015 and RB Kurt Taylor in 2017. I’m not counting kickers as they are considered top prospects as two star prospects.
Critics say Harbaugh can’t keep the momentum up because the Wolverines lost four games this season and that Harbaugh has lost his touch, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. There are many reasons we could be seeing some lower level recruits and none of them are a reflection of where the Wolverines recruiting efforts are trending. A quick glance at the 2018 recruiting cycle will show you there is zero loss of momentum with three players in the top 100 already verbally committed to the Wolverines.
The recruitment of Vansumeren and Bell could be as simple as Harbaugh taking flyers on very athletic players, it isn’t unprecedented. If you look at his previous classes, Harbaugh has tried to uncover guys nobody else is recruiting, every teams needs organizational depth and unless you are Alabama you can’t expect every four or five star player to commit to your program. That comes after you win and win big.
The trouble with recruiting at a high level and not yet getting into the playoffs is that recruits aren’t flocking to your school but you can get enough great players to fill out your two deep. The downside is Michigan can’t sell playing time anymore, so they will take a certain number of developmental guys who will hopefully be contributors when they are upperclassmen. If these guys don’t pan out, you will see them leave as seniors or before to free up scholarships for higher prospects. They are akin to placeholders and if they develop, all the better. Most people don’t understand that scholarships are a series of one year contracts and turning over the roster is the new way of doing business in college football.
Rest easy Michigan recruiting geeks, the recruiting effort under Harbaugh has lost no momentum under Harbaugh, the 2018 class is a smallish, filler class that affords the Wolverines to take a flyer or two on a couple guys with tremendous upside. Harbaugh clearly knows talent when he sees it and at this point, after watching the player development under this staff, I think we know where this is heading. In the end, this class will still likely end up in the top 10 nationally.