Inside the Fish Bowl: 2 Weeks Before National Signing Day

With the end of the holiday dead period came the first glimpse of Harbaugh and company\’s recruiting efforts. And they did not disappoint.

In the first 72 hours, the staff extended offers to eleven players, including six 2015 recruits:

Most of the 2015 guys are possible-to-realistic options with Shelton Johnson and Ryan Davis being the guys the staff has the smallest chance at landing.

It looks like Ulizio is by far the most likely out of the bunch. He spoke with Scout\’s Dave Berk about how excited he was after receiving his offer and his next move ($):

“I’m going to sit down and speak with my family first,” he said. “Then I’m going to meet with my head coach Larry Cox tomorrow about the offer. Right now, I’m still committed to Connecticut and will speak with them before I make a decision to do anything.”

While Harbaugh was speaking with Nolan, Durkin gave his head coach, Larry Cox, a call. And he spoke with 247Sports\’ Steve Wiltfong about it ($).

As for the biggest event so far in the Harbaugh era, the first set of official visitors arrived in Ann Arbor on Friday. This was the staff\’s best chance to sway the top targets on the board before National Signing Day and it looks like they hit it out of the park (actually, they took them bowling on Friday night).

Striking Up Conversations and Interest

Former Michigan commit Chris Clark was in town and Harbaugh let him know he was their top target as the head coach picked him up from the airport and sat with him during the basketball game.

The #1 tight end in the country spoke with several reporters about his trip, including Rivals\’ Adam Friedman ($):

\”I had a ton of fun. The new coaching staff, they have a lot of good dudes there. It\’s something that I\’m pretty excited about. They do such a good job with the tight end position and they were just preaching that.\”

He also spoke with Scouts\’ Brian Dohn about how much he loved the new coaching staff ($).

Clark will visit UCLA this weekend and will meet with both Jim Mora Jr and Jim Harbaugh at his home before National Signing Day. He\’s let it be known that this will be a very difficult decision and that he doesn\’t know which way he\’ll go. But if he\’s choosing on future production and campus familiarity, Michigan should win this recruiting race.

This guy is a legend

— Chris Clark (@Clark8Chris) January 18, 2015

Another guy the staff feels very good about was top 50 LB Roquan Smith. And it looks like their efforts may have put Michigan in the drivers seat. 247Sports\’ Steve Lorenz heard from a reliable source that his visit \”couldn\’t have gone any better\” ($):

\”Michigan is reportedly surging for him, and again I am told that those in the program are feeling good about their potential chances with him.\”

Smith spoke with The Wolverine\’s Tim Sullivan about his trip, including his fun time on the lanes and how he can see himself donning the Maize and Blue in the future ($).

He also spoke with Scout\’s Chad Simmons about how Michigan has helped themselves in his recruitment ($).

With the coaching staff needing a linebacker in this class and only targeting Smith means they probably feel very good about landing him on NSD. But it\’s a wait and see since most still believe he stays home and attends Georgia. But let\’s just say, if I had a Crystal Ball pick, I\’d be choosing Michigan.

Coach and I #GoBlue — Roquan Smith (@RoquanSmith1) January 18, 2015

While most of the visitors seemed like realistic targets for the new staff, there was one visitor who needed to be swayed the most, and that was DE Shelton Johnson.

Scout\’s Corey Bender caught up with Johnson, who happens to keep things very close to the chest, about his trip and how he\’s liking Michigan ($):

\”Just listening to his voice, he was really impressed by Harbaugh\’s presentation. I still think it might be difficult to get him to leave the Sunshine State, but his family did come along for the trip, which is really important. The academic side of things was impressive to him.\”

While that sounds encouraging, Steve Lorenz\’s source was \”not as optimistic\” ($). Johnson would be a monster in Michigan\’s defense but from everything I\’ve gathered, it looks like he will be staying in state with Florida State. But I doubt the staff will give up on his that easily.

As for the visitor that may be favoring Michigan more than anyone (besides Chris Clark). South Carolina commit CB Damon Arnette was on campus all weekend and it looks like there\’s a very good chance he ends up enjoying Ann Arbor for awhile longer.

Damon spoke with 247Sports\’ Ryan Bartow about how great his visit went, including how much he loved the cold weather and new coaching staff($):

\”Man I loved it a lot there,\” Arnette said. \”Their coaching staff has so much NFL experience. Them wanting me so much means a lot. Plus the education part. They\’ve got it.\”

He also spoke with Scouts\’ Amy Campbell about his possible new position coach, Greg Jackson, and teammate/recruiting host, Jabrill Peppers ($). Arnette still has visits planned to South Carolina and Ohio State but things are looking very positive for the Wolverines.

4 Day Visit for a 5 Star

Most had their eyes on the weekend visitors but there wasn\’t a bigger target visiting the new staff than Long Beach Poly\’s Iman Marshall. The five star cornerback left his FSU visit and flew into Detroit on Sunday night to kick off his four day visit in Ann Arbor.

Being from southern California has most believing USC is the outright favorite (there are even rumors of him being a silent commit), but giving Harbaugh and staff 3 nights and 3 days gives Michigan a punchers chance. And Harbaugh let him know right away how big of a target he was by picking him up at the airport himself with a little gift to get adapted to the cold:


— Biggie (@iman_marshall8) January 19, 2015

It will take a visit for the ages to sway 2015\’s #1 cornerback recruit into joining 2014\’s #1 cornerback recruit (Peppers) in Ann Arbor. I\’m not saying it won\’t happen but I wouldn\’t hold my breath.

Best Friend Running Back Tandem

Besides Harbaugh and Durkin, there may not have been a bigger hire for Michigan than former star running back Tyrone Wheatley. And he hit the Detroit recruiting trail hard in his first week of action, targeting two best friends and top running backs in the state.

It is known that Wheatley and Harbaugh are doing their best to flip Mike Weber back to the Maize and Blue from the Scarlett and Gray. And, according to rumors, it looks like the switch back may already be in the works.

Rumors are swirling that the #Buckeyes could lose 2 commits from 2015 class. Torrance Gibson (Auburn) and Mike Weber (Michigan). We\’ll see. — The Buckeye Nut (@TheBuckeyeNut) January 18, 2015

If Michigan lands Weber, that should increase their chances with his best friend John Kelly even though he let Scout\’s Josh Newkirk know that he is now being recruited as a running back as well ($):

“Michigan recruiting me to play running back is really good. Because I’m kind of starting to lean towards the offensive side of the ball. But at the same time, I never really had a real preference.”

Even though the class will (likely) be only 14 deep, I believe they will bring in both backs if possible.

Possible 2015 Offers