The No. 1 quarterback in the state of Michigan and five-star prospect Dante Moore chose Oregon over the Wolverines on Friday. As the only quarterback offered in the 2023 class, it was a huge swing and a miss for Jim Harbaugh and his staff.
This comes in line with a series of unfortunate events in recruiting for the Wolverines in the 2023 cycle. In late June, the Wolverines also saw their top recruit, Raylen Wilson, the No. 72 player in the country, decommit as his eyes turn towards the SEC.
Now, overall, Michigan’s 2023 class sits at No. 44 with the top recruit being running back Cole Cabana, a four-star prospect who sits at No. 220 in the class. In the Big Ten rankings, the Wolverines at No. 11, a jump from No. 13 thanks to Collins Acheampong’s commitment on Friday.
A majority of the nation’s top prospects have already decided their futures at this point. Only a small handful of the top-200 have visited or plan to still visit Ann Arbor at this point as well. So, vast improvement could be rather difficult for Michigan unless can pull off some flips and snag some of the few unknowns.
In the first full recruiting cycle after winning the program’s first Big Ten Championship in the Jim Harbaugh era, calling this a failure is an understatement. But how bad is it really?
Five different Big Ten teams have been crowned champions since the game’s inauguration in 2011 when Wisconsin topped Michigan State. That would mean the first full recruiting cycle for Wisconsin after winning the game was 2013. I took the liberty of averaging the national recruiting ranks for the five teams who have won the Big Ten Championship since then: Wisconsin, Penn State, Michigan State, Ohio State and Michigan. In the time frame of 2013-23 per 247Sports’ composite rankings, here is what each program’s average is:
- Wisconsin: 35.7
- Michigan State: 30.8
- Penn State: 15.5
- Ohio State: 4.3
- Michigan: 16.3
Now, one can assume in a year where a program wins the championship, it should see a bump from that average, and for the most part, that has been the case. In five of the 11 years since the Championship Game began, the winning team has actually marked worse than their average, usually hovering near it though. You can see those details, again, based on the composite rankings below:
- 2011 Wisconsin -> 2013 Class Ranked No. 40*
- 2012 Wisconsin -> 2014 Class Ranked No. 32
- 2013 Michigan State -> 2015 Class Ranked No. 23
- 2014 Ohio State -> 2016 Class Ranked No. 4
- 2015 Michigan State -> 2017 Class Ranked No. 36*
- 2016 Penn State -> 2018 Class Ranked No. 6
- 2017 Ohio State -> 2019 Class Ranked No. 14*
- 2018 Ohio State -> 2020 Class Ranked No. 5*
- 2019 Ohio State -> 2021 Class Ranked No. 2
- 2020 Ohio State -> 2022 Class Ranked No. 4
- 2021 Michigan -> 2023 Class Ranked No. 44*
There have been slight deviations like the Wisconsin 2011 class being ranked 40th in 2013 compared to their 35.7 average. Or Ohio State being ranked 5th in 2018 when they typically are around the No. 4 mark over that timeframe. But almost every full cycle post-championship win has been above or near the running average in this window. For Michigan, it’s clearly far worse to this point.
If the cycle were to end today (and thank goodness it doesn’t) Michigan would have the worst full recruiting cycle post-Big Ten Championship Game. The reigning Big Ten Champs average a recruiting class of around 16th, so to be sitting at No. 44 at this point isn’t stellar.
Let’s look at where the other College Football Playoff programs are ranked in the 2023 class. Cincinnatti is ranked No. 12 with 20 commits, including three four-stars. Georgia is No. 9 with just 12 commitments, and Alabama is still No. 17 with 10 commits, the same amount as the Wolverines. Now, Michigan still has time to rise the rankings, but it is becoming a much stronger possibility this could be the worst-ranked class of the Harbaugh era.
Obviously there are more things than just the Big Ten Championship at play here and during this timeline. Coaching changes have been made, things have happened on and off the field, and the introduction of NIL will make this data waiver. However, the largest impact by far is NIL, and it’s something the Wolverines have been far behind the times with in terms of using it as a recruiting tool, and it’s is one of the reasons they lost out on Moore. Something has to change in that regard as every program is trying to figure out how to best manipulate the NIL in the wild west this has turned into.
Now, it isn’t all doom and gloom. There are still some uncommitted players who have visited Ann Arbor the last few weeks. At the end of the month is the annual BBQ at the Big House, which will host several of the nation’s top prospects in the next few classes. That event could be huge for the status of the 2023 class overall.
Likely the biggest fish left in the pond are five-star athlete Nyck Harbor and five-star corner Javien Toviano. Harbor hasn’t had the chance to visit yet because of a busy track schedule, but Toviano visited the weekend of June 24 along with some other big names like four-star linebacker Jaiden Ausberry (a Notre Dame lean), four-star defensive lineman Jason Moore (an Ohio State lean), four-star athlete Jacobe Johnson (an Oklahoma lean), and four-star defensive lineman Enow Etta (who is likely a Wolverine lean).
Certainly there are ways Michigan can shoot back up the rankings, but the best chance of pushing the top-10 and maybe even higher was via Moore. Now, the Wolverines will really have to luck out on quite a few names to right the ship, something that should not have to happen after beating Ohio State, taking the Big Ten crown and making the College Football Playoff.