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Column: Michigan not signing-day darlings, but it'll be OK with its 2015 recruiting class

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Considering where the program was before the arrival of Harbaugh, tossing Michigan into a loser category doesn't make much sense.

Jim Harbaugh made quick work during his first recruiting period as Michigan's head coach, compiling more than half of his 2015 class in three weeks.
Jim Harbaugh made quick work during his first recruiting period as Michigan's head coach, compiling more than half of his 2015 class in three weeks.
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The dust has settled on National Signing Day and most prep football players know where they'll be suiting up come fall.

Like anything in sports, there were winners and losers. Take a stroll through the realms of the internet and you're bound to find content related to just that.

But to my surprise, Michigan was included in the loser category by both Yahoo's Dr. Saturday crew and Rivals.

Though at first glance, it's easy to see why.

Michigan took a big hit after missing out on prime-time recruits Chris Clark (UCLA), Mike Weber (Ohio State), Van Jefferson (Ole Miss) and Iman Marshall (USC), amongst others.

But even though they weren't winners on signing day, the Wolverines will be OK with their 2015 class.

Just over a month into his tenure with program, Jim Harbaugh was able to compile a 14-man class that features six four-star preps (per Rivals) and filled several needs, the obvious being quarterback.

The local face of the 2015 class, early enrollee Alex Malzone has a chance of competing for starts under center as a true freshman. But then Harbaugh snags four-star quarterback Zach Gentry from Texas, instantly creating much-needed competition at a position vital to the Wolverines' success come fall.

Considering where the program was before the arrival of Harbaugh, tossing Michigan into a loser category doesn't make much sense. Label Michigan that sans Harbaugh and his three-week recruiting tear and you'd be correct.

Dark times were cast over Ann Arbor as the 2014 season and Brady Hoke's tenure waned. Preps dropped their commitment from the program like flies as the fire burned on. Weber's in-game decommitment as Michigan's season and bowl dreams sputtered away at the hands of Maryland sums up just how bad things really were.

After Hoke was fired on Dec. 2, only six recruits stood firm with their commitment to Michigan: Grant Newsome, Tyree Kinnel, Jon Runyan Jr., Andrew David, and local stars Malzone and Brian Cole. So many top players in the Class of 2015 decommitted from the Wolverines that, at one point, their decommitments alone could form a fearsome recruiting class.

Twenty-eight days passed before Harbaugh was hired on Dec. 30. Add in the NCAA's dead period and only three weeks remained to take the country's high-school seniors by storm.

Harbaugh and his staff made a mad dash throughout the recruiting landscape once the dead period was over. Filling a class that featured only six commitments is not easy task, and doing so in a stretch of time equivalent to trial periods required an enthusiasm unknown to mankind. Or something like that.

More than half of Michigan's 2015 class was assembled from Jan. 24 on. After signing day, it sits at 40th in ESPN's class rankings. Not too shabby for three weeks of work.

But there's another reason why Michigan will be OK with its 2015 class.

Michigan simply earned commitments from players that wanted to play for Michigan.

This may seem like a silly reason, but building a football program goes far beyond on-field results. The athletes play a minimum of 12 games in a span of three-four months. That's leaves two-thirds of a year loaded with off-field activities not predominated by football, including the transition from teens to adulthood. Remember, these athletes are people, too.

Hauling in commitments from players that wanted to play for Michigan is something the past two coaching staffs have voiced publicly.

When Hoke appeared on CBS Sports' signing day show after assembling his first class at Michigan in 2011, he spoke of the practice. It's interesting to note that former Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez interviewed Hoke as a guest analyst on the show.

"You're really proud of the guys who are going to represent Michigan and this whole class," Hoke said, in February 2011. "I think as we've all been through before, it's never all the way perfect, but at the same time, you want the guys who want to be at Michigan. As Rich (Rodriguez) knows, this place has a history about it and has a feel to it that some guys just don't know if they can fit the mold or if want to compete at that high level and that big stage of 113,000 people."

Four years later, Harbaugh went the same route while appearing on CBS Sports' signing day show. But with Hoke serving as a guest analyst this time, Harbaugh touched on more personal glimpses of the love for Michigan his signees possess.

"(Grant Perry) used to come out to practice and get all the players autographs. It's awesome having guys that have a real connection with Michigan like that," Harbaugh said. Jon Runyan Jr. had a Michigan onesie on as a toddler. (Andrew David's) whole family loves Michigan, he's a real Michigan guy. Tyree Kinnel, he was given a Michigan football in his crib when he was born and loved Michigan ever since. That kind of player and what that means when they have a love and a passion for the university."

Michigan may not have been signing-day darlings, but it'll be OK. Bright days are ahead in Ann Arbor — the Wolverines already making waves with next year's recruiting class shows just that.