One of my favorite nights of college came my sophomore year. My roommate had just gone through a tough break-up and we just stayed up late, talking it out and trying to sort through what was what. At one point in our conversation, he dropped a wisdom bomb on me, with a phrase I’ll never forget for as long as I live:
“They’re called relationships; it’s how you relate to people.”
Trying to be a good friend, I stifled some laughter but he immediately realized how stupidly simple his previous sentence really was. It’s a running joke we have between each other now, one that I’ll dust off from time to time and drop in to casual conversation. He knows I’ll never let him live down how obvious that statement really was.
Long (and probably unnecessary) story short, recruiting is also all about relationships. When I played baseball in high school and was seeking to play at the college level, I applied to a few schools simply because teammates from previous classes had gone there. I had had good relationships with them as they moved on and they gave me insight on where and how to apply to certain programs; a helpful ‘dos and don’ts’ of recruiting, so to speak.
Matriculating from high school to college football is the biggest difference in talent gap of any sport, so when there are players who can transition seamlessly into the speed and complexity of college football, every program is after them. And with resources like Hudl and Twitter, exposure is easier than ever before; coaches can evaluate players from the warmth of their own home if they so choose. Someone’s highlight video catches fire, turns some heads, and shortly after, they’re at an all-star showcase and every program is after them.
A young man with so many options ahead of him will turn to anyone willing to listen about this big decision that carries even bigger implications. Family, coaches, teachers, loved ones, and usually most importantly, their friends and colleagues who have suited up with them every Friday night for the past three or four years. Harbaugh and Co. have done wonders building and tapping pipelines to certain parts of the country, but players talking to one another has brought home just as many, if not more.
Even in the 2016 class, there were certain sets of players who we perceived as ‘package deals’, or at least we were led to believe. Lavert Hill‘s best friend and high school teammate Donnie Corley picked MSU at the All-American Game, and at least I thought Hill would follow. I also thought California duo Devin Asiasi and Boss Tagaloa would go together until the bitter end when Tagaloa chose UCLA after Asiasi chose Michigan. Michael Dwumfour is Rashan Gary‘s best friend, a caveat of the recruiting process that surely helped Michigan. OL Ben Bredeson‘s brother, Jack, is a freshman on the baseball team, and even though this particular example crosses sports, having connections to previous classes helps immensely.
How about 2017 recruits? At the moment, Michigan has a number of targets/commits that are in some way connected to current players, with likely many more to come. I wanted to highlight some of the common threads between past commits and (hopefully) future ones, because you never know where the next feeder school could come from. It continues with the current recruiting cycle:
2. Carter Dunaway, TE. Dunaway, a 3-star from Brother Rice in Birmingham, MI, is a football legacy. Like the aforementioned Bredesons, his brother Jack Dunaway is a sophomore linebacker on the team currently, and his father, Craig, played for Bo in the early 1980s.
3. CB Ambry Thomas wasn’t just a teammate of Lavert Hill and Martin Luther King in Detroit, they played in the same defensive backfield on their way to a state runner-up finish in 2015.
4. Tedarrell Slaton, OL. Florida is not new to Harbaugh, though he is trying to break down the door fully (e.g. spring practices at IMG). Slaton attends the same high school that gave Michigan incoming freshmen TE Nick Eubanks.
Let’s take it up a notch.
5. Cass Tech was a breeding ground for multiple Michigan players back in the days of Lloyd Carr, and could return to that status under Harbaugh. Grabbing OL Michael Onwenu in 2016 was a start, and things could pick up quickly with S Jaylen Kelly-Powell and #1 recruit in the state, 5-star receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones.
6. S/LB Devil Gil, S Josh Metellus, and two generations of Devin Bush (coach Devin Sr. and LB Devin Jr) came from Charles W. Flanagan in Hollywood, FL in 2016. Getting the three players from one high school is one thing, but adding the coach is the real kicker; Michigan could very well be the favorite landing spot for fellow Flanagan Falcons WR Clevan Thomas and CB Stanford Samuels, who by many is considered one of the best corners in the country.
7. Last but certainly not least, the good old Paramus Pipeline. Paramus Catholic in New Jersey sent Chris Partridge, Jabrill Peppers, and Rashan Gary to Michigan and there could be more to come in the 2017 class. 4-star DL Corey Bolds is considering Michigan, as is 4-star OLB Drew Singleton, who very well could gain a fifth star as his senior season draws near.
With the NCAA cracking down on contact with coaches, using recruits to recruit is an invaluable resource. It is quick, efficient, and most of all, honest. Go to any recruits Twitter account and there will be hundreds if not thousands of tweets between players who are all taking their game to the next level in college. Harbaugh is an excellent recruiter himself, but so are his players.
Header photo: Dennis Lee, MaxPreps