A major point of emphasis for the Michigan football program on the recruiting trail has been head coach Jim Harbaugh’s ability to turn high school standouts into NFL players. Former Wolverines such as Chris Wormley and Jabrill Peppers credited Harbaugh for helping them get prepared for the NFL, and this year the NFL Draft was kind to Michigan players once again.
Linebacker Devin Bush and defensive end Rashan Gary, both Harbaugh recruits, were drafted with pick No. 10 (Pittsburgh Steelers) and No. 12 (Green Bay Packers). This is the first year where we’ve seen two Harbaugh recruited players get drafted this high.
Why the NFL Draft was good for Michigan on the recruiting trail
This is the type of draft that can have ripple effects for a program, and can be mentioned as a major selling point.
- Harbaugh can now tell players he recruited the No. 10 overall pick in the draft, No. 12 overall pick. This is the first time Michigan had two players selected in the top 12 since 1941. Both picks, Devin Bush and Rashan Gary, were selected by historic teams, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers. The optics for both selections were good. Michigan defensive recruits already know the Wolverines will have one of the best units in the country, but seeing those same players get drafted so high validates how good a defense was and is.
- Even tight end Zach Gentry going in the fifth round was good for Harbaugh. Harbaugh originally brought Gentry on board as a quarterback, then Gentry converted to tight end, and it looks like the position change was beneficial towards Gentry’s NFL aspirations. Gentry is far from a finished product, but fared well enough at U-M to go from never playing the position to being drafted at TE. Future recruits who may be looking at a position switch may be inclined to trust the process a little more seeing players like Gentry have success after making a switch. Sidenote: Harbaugh moved Richard Sherman from wideout to cornerback at Stanford, a decision that led to Sherman turning into an NFL All-Pro.
- The New England Patriots drafting Chase Winovich is a major positive. When a dynasty of a franchise drafts you.... that’s good news. Recruits pay attention to who goes where, and having a player drafted by the Pats in the early rounds shows that top-tier teams like the offerings of a given program. The Patriots are trying to win NOW, while Tom Brady can still play, and their picks in the first three rounds were used to grab players they want to try and plug in immediately. Winovich has a very good shot at playing significant snaps in year one. So it isn’t even that the Patriots picked Winovich, it’s the context along with the selection itself. They drafted Wino to be part of a championship run.
- Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin giving major props to Michigan helps on the recruiting trail. “You just get that feeling as you walk into Schembechler Hall. You’re in a college football setting. Then you see The Big House in the back. It just lets you know you’re kind of in the right place,” Tomlin said this weekend.
On the recruiting trail, anything that can enhance your sales pitch, your brand, the perception of your program, is welcomed. Recruiting prospects is all about moving the needle in your direction, and how the draft shook out aided Michigan in that way.