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How good is the Michigan football staff at evaluating recruits?

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The recruiting rankings show how well Michigan spots talent.

NCAA Football: Southern Methodist at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

After wrapping up his third top 10 class in four years at the helm of Michigan football, Jim Harbaugh has shown he has the recruiting chops to assemble a championship-level roster.

However, Michigan has approached recruiting slightly different than the other top recruiting schools in the country. It’s clear he trusts his and his staff’s evaluation skills and is not afraid to fire out an offer to a prospect that hasn’t gained much attention otherwise.

Anecdotally, it seemed to me the 2019 cycle was the epitome of this strategy, with Michigan’s staff noticing talent early and the rest of the recruiting industry catching up afterwards.

I decided to quantify this and see if I could find out how good the staff was at identifying talent early.

To do this, I used 247Sports’ handy rankings history tool to track where an eventual Michigan commit ranked when he was offered, and where he ended up in the final rankings.

For a few players, who kept their recruiting close to the vest like running back Zach Charbonnet, it was tough to find the exact date they were offered. But I was always able to get the date within a week, and the rankings weren’t updated often for it to affect the final numbers.

There were also a couple guys Michigan offered before they were even ranked, like Charles Thomas and Anthony Solomon. For those guys I just used their first ranking, which usually came soon after they were offered.

I found some interesting trends during this exercise, but first let’s look at the data.

Michigan 2019 Recruiting Class Ranking Changes

Name Offered Date Offered Rank Final Rank Final Change Notes
Name Offered Date Offered Rank Final Rank Final Change Notes
Daxton Hill 5/8/17 30 14 up 16
Chris Hinton 1/5/16 12 31 down 19 unranked when offered
Zach Charbonnet 1/1/18* 461 46 up 401 gained 4th star
Mazi Smith 7/29/17 162 105 up 57
Trente Jones 1/16/18 410 108 up 302 gained 4th star
Nolan Rumler 9/17/15 40 146 down 106 unranked when offered
Cornelius Johnson 3/12/18 566 176 up 390 gained 4th star
Trevor Keegan 6/24/17 73 177 down 104
Jalen Perry 2/23/18 133 200 down 67
Anthony Solomon 12/7/15 141 223 down 82 unranked when offered
Karsen Barnhart 1/27/18 345 266 up 79 gained 4th star
Cade McNamara 1/24/18 303 268 up 35
Giles Jackson 6/19/18 619 303 up 316 gained 4th star
David Ojabo 4/10/18 988 314 up 674 gained 4th star
Quinten Johnson 6/2/18 474 316 up 158 gained 4th star
Erick All 5/11/18 775 346 up 429 gained 4th star
Mike Morris 5/25/17 151 396 down 245 lost 4th star
DJ Turner II 1/20/17 289 400 down 111 lost 4th star/unranked when offered
Charles Thomas 5/13/16 77 507 down 430 lost 4th star/unranked when offered
Zach Carpenter 4/13/18 475 556 down 81
Jack Stewart 4/6/18 1007 575 up 432
Mike Sainristil 1/22/18 949 597 up 352
Gabe Newburg 3/27/18 1161 777 up 384
George Johnson III 5/22/18 916 881 up 35
Quintel Kent 6/23/18 1279 966 up 313 unranked when offered
Joey Velazquez 3/27/18 582 1044 down 462 unranked when offered
Average 477 375 up 102
Jonathon Simmons

From the bottom row, you can see the average 2019 commit rose just over 100 spots in the composite rankings from when they were offered to the end of the cycle. That really speaks to the excellent job the Wolverines coaches have done to scour the tape and not be afraid to take guys they’re high on.

The award for biggest riser goes to David Ojabo, who rose a whopping 674 spots since early April. Jack Stewart, Erick All and Charbonnet get honorable mentions for moving up more than 400 spots each.

Going along with this theme, eight commits were offered as 3-stars that eventually gained fourth stars during the process. Those recruits include Charbonnet, Trente Jones, Karsen Barnhart, Giles Jackson, Ojabo, Quinten Johnson and All.

On the flip side, the biggest faller was Joey Velazquez, the lowest ranked commit in the class. He was offered by Michigan before he was even viewed as a football prospect, and ironically his initial ranking was the highest he’d reach. 247Sports ranked him as a solid 3-star, but when other services jumped in it brought his ranking down and he continued to fall as others passed him.

The first commit in the class, Charles Thomas, was a close second among the tumblers. He fell 430 spots compared to Velazquez’s 462. Thomas debuted in the top 100 for the 2019 class, but fell to just outside 4-star range.

That was common with the players who fell. Among the four other commits who fell more than 100 spots, Nolan Rumler started at No. 40, Trevor Keegan started at No. 73, Mike Morris started at No. 151 and DJ Turner started at No. 289. Michigan clearly saw the talent with these players early on, and the recruiting services agreed. Over time, more players passed them and they didn’t quite stand out as much compared to their peers.

Of note, Turner and Morris join Thomas as the players to lose a fourth star.

Getting 4- and 5-stars is necessary to compete at the highest level in college football. But after looking at how well the staff can unearth talent, I’d keep my eye on the 3-stars they offer, as they could be the next prospect to blow up.