Recruiting: Why some players just aren’t right for Michigan football

·6 min read
Recruiting: Why some players just aren’t right for Michigan football

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan football has been under fire for its recruiting efforts in the 2023 cycle, and it’s somewhat deservedly so.

Coming off of a College Football Playoff appearance and Big Ten championship, the Wolverines are lagging, missing out on a lot of high-profile recruits. The biggest being in-state quarterback Dante Moore, a five-star prospect rated by 247Sports as the No. 2 player in the country, regardless of position. Jim Harbaugh offered Moore when he was in seventh grade, and the maize and blue appeared to be the team to beat, but things went sour over the course of the last year, and Moore opted to go to Oregon, a team with a new head coach in Dan Lanning, who’s primarily defensive-minded.

Moore isn’t the only one, of course. The Wolverines have been seeing players they would normally get go elsewhere, presumably due to the new name, image, and likeness landscape. Harbaugh has said that he views NIL in the sense that Michigan will be transformational, not transactional, and that whatever money that would come would arrive after the player has signed and made a name for themselves — not before. There are merits to this line of thinking, but is Michigan being lapped in recruiting as a result?

On Sunday, co-offensive coordinator Matt Weiss, who also oversees the quarterback position and was the primary recruiter on the aforementioned Moore, discussed his thoughts generally on the matter (that is, not specific to Moore himself). Having come aboard from the Baltimore Ravens, where he oversaw the most prolific rushing attack the NFL has ever seen, Weiss thought recruiting would have more to do with the product you put on the field than the accouterments that could come with signing to a various school. However, things have gone quite differently, and though Weiss is still looking for advantages to other merits, he explains why the current recruiting landscape in college football makes little sense.

“That’s one thing I’m about recruiting — I thought that’s what it would all be about, right?,” Weiss said. “In the NFL, guys want to go where they have — certainly, money is a factor but usually, the money is pretty close. And the teams are deciding between them, they pick between the place that is going to utilize them the best and where they have the most opportunity to win. And that’s where they go.

“And so I certainly thought coming in here, OK, if we can get the offense really good, recruiting will be easy. And then I think, one thing I’ve learned is there is a lot of the relationship element to it, right? If an NFL free agent signed with the team and went to the press conference, and said, ‘You know, I’m just here because I just love this position coach, I mean, this guy, we have a great relationship. We’re up playing like Fortnite every morning, every day at two in the morning, and this guy is just awesome. That’s why I’m here.’ Everybody would be like, ‘Wow, what’s wrong with this guy?’ But, but in college, that’s kind of, that’s kind of what happens and it’s not the only thing that things are based on, but it matters, right?

“And so I’m learning that, figuring out how to do that. Now certainly, I’m not playing Fortnite with anyone at two in the morning, but — just like I tell the recruits that. The guy that’s playing video games with you at 11 o’clock at night or whatever, that’s what he’s going to be doing when he should be trying to help you become a better player and he should be game-planning and figuring out ways to make the offense go — he’s going to be playing Fortnite with some 16-year old.”

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Of course, Michigan is a different school than most. The academic component, being one of the top (sometimes ranked the top) public institution of higher learning in the country means that the Wolverines take the student part in ‘student-athlete’ seriously.

On top of the academic portion, Jim Harbaugh has built a program that, while it does have some extracurriculars — such as this summer’s tourism of the state of Michigan, similar to past trips to Rome, Paris, and South Africa — is focused mainly on football. That’s the way it’s mostly been since he arrived, with the head coach famously not allowing players to visit Miami Beach when in the Capital One Orange Bowl back in 2016. Though he’s loosened up a bit since then, he’s trying to build the program into not just a contender, but one that preaches togetherness, and one that sends players to the NFL. During the 2022 fall training camp, Michigan has an astounding 55 players on NFL rosters.

While Michigan has kept up with the times when it’s come to locker room renovations, other programs have added interesting features. From water slides at Clemson, to barbershops across several others, to teams like LSU that have lockers that turn into lay-flat beds, the Wolverines aren’t adding anything particularly fancy that’s not football related.

For Weiss, he sees that as a benefit, not a deterrent. Because those who come to Ann Arbor will have a singular focus, rather than whatever fad is out there.

“Yeah, I think the guys that fit us fit that type of — the guys who are successful here — we have a great culture here, we have great guys on the team. A lot of it is a credit to Jim, obviously, but it self-selects,” Weiss said. “Guys who would want to be here, the guys who do well here are the guys who like football. The guys who are good guys who just want to play football and that’s what they love to do and this is like a football-like cathedral — all the football you can handle and more. And those are the guys this place self-selects for that.

“Guys who are into other stuff, whether it’s a locker that turns into a bed or flat-screen TV in your locker — whatever it is — those guys usually don’t do well here if they come here and they usually don’t come here. So the same thing with the quarterbacks we get. I think our types of guys, they want to come.”

In essence, if you want to be good at football, Jim Harbaugh, Matt Weiss and company are working to make Michigan that destination. If you want creature comforts or to simply bond with your recruiter over video games, then there might be better destinations out there for you.

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Story originally appeared on Wolverines Wire