After a wealth of speculation regarding the solidity of his commitment over the past few weeks, five-star running back Damien Harris (Berea/KY) officially decommitted from the Michigan Wolverines over the weekend. Harris, who was once considered a lock to don the maize and blue, has been having second thoughts about his pledge after Michigan fired offensive coordinator Al Borges.
This loss cannot be understated in terms of its significance to the Michigan 2015 class. Harris, who is a consensus five-star prospect at 5'11" and 205 lbs., had another remarkable season for Madison Southern, racking up 2,621 rushing yards and 42 touchdowns on his way to being named the Kentucky Gatorade Player of the Year.
For Harris, his connection to Michigan is strongly built upon his tie to the former Michigan OC. Madison Southern head football coach, Jon Clark, was a member of Borges' staff at Auburn and has facilitated the bond between his former colleague and his current prep standout. This relationship played a big role in Harris' summer commitment to the Wolverines.
During the BBQ at the Big House over the summer, Michigan hosted a slew of top-flight prospects in Ann Arbor for a meet and great with the Wolverines coaching staff. During this event, five-star wide receiver George Campbell issues his commitment to Michigan before returning to his home state of Florida. Much to his dismay, Harris could not be in attendance for the BBQ. Still, being a part of an elite class is very important to Harris. Riding the wave of Campbell's announcement, Damien issued his verbal commitment to the Michigan staff just one day later.
With Borges out of the picture, recruits have had an overwhelmingly positive reaction, especially to his replacement. By bringing in former Alabama offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier, the Wolverines have put a coach with a proven track record in charge. Nussmeier has engineered a National Championship-winning offense and has also produced six consecutive 1,000 yard rushers. This bodes well for whoever s toting the rock in his system.
Despite the potential advantages that this move may make, it forced Harris to reconsider his decision and to take his recruitment a bit slower after issuing such an early pledge. This decision has been on the verge of becoming public for weeks, and it is just now coming to light.
Last week, Michigan four-star safety commit Tyree Kinnel (Wayne/OH) predicted that a decommitment may be in the card for Harris. Just five days later, this prognostication came true and Harris is the latest junior prospect back on the market.
"It's not a surprise," said Kinnel. "Michigan is still going to be one of his top schools. Michigan is still in it with him."
The four-star safety commit would not say that he thinks Michigan possesses the edge in Harris' recruitment at the moment, but the general consensus is that he will be strongly considering the Wolverines going forward. Other schools vying for his services include Kentucky, Ohio State, Notre Dame and Florida.
While Harris, a junior running back, decommitted from Michigan, he has built bonds with other members of the Michigan family that are reminisced to hear of today's news.
"It sucks that he decommitted," said 2014 linebacker commit Jared Wangler. "Hopefully he comes back. He's a great player and a great guy."
As another member of the 2014 class, wide receiver Moe Ways (Country Day/MI) has stayed in close contact with Harris over the past few months. Both big fans of the program, the two have grown close and Ways is saddened to see Harris part ways-- for now-- even though he, much like Kinnel, knew this was on the horizon.
"I already knew," said Ways. "He told me last week. He has to do what he has to do. He's still young and it's still early in the process. He's still my little bro. You never know, he still might end up at Michigan."
As the second pledge in his class, offensive lineman Jon Runyan Jr. (St. Joseph's Prep/PA) has watched Michigan's '15 class grow and, recently, decline in size as well. As the son of a former Michigan legend, Runyan has watched the rise and fall of the Michigan program very closely. This has allowed for him to keep a level head and approach each situation, including the loss of Harris, in a calm and collected manor.
"It's too bad," said Runyan. "It's obviously upsetting, but I respect it because he's just trying to do what's right for him and his family. We had a really good class going, but we just have to move on. We still have over a year, so there's no need to panic."
Falling in line with his mentality that the 2015 class can be rebuilt, Runyan has already begun recruiting others to fill the open spots in Michigan's class. His approach begins where he is most familiar: the offensive line
"I've talked to [Jake] Fruhmorgen recently," said Runyan. "I really hope we can get him."
This interest is echoed by the Michigan staff, as Fruhmorgen, who has a the pedigree of a college offensive lineman, would be a welcomed addition to the Wolverines 2015 class. Anthony Mammel detailed Fruhmorgen's skill set over the weekend.
More reactions will be added as they become available throughout the day.