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Michigan’s five biggest recruiting misses of the Harbaugh era

Ah, what could’ve been...

NCAA Football: Michigan at Illinois Michael Allio-USA TODAY Sports

After Von gave you the warm and fuzzies yesterday with the biggest recruiting hits of the Harbaugh era, I’m here to bring you back down to Earth with his biggest misses.

To create this list, I considered a few factors, including quality of the prospect, position of need, expectations of landing the recruit and who the player was lost to. Cover your eyes and grit your teeth as we look back at what could’ve been.

Najee Harris - Five-star, No. 2 overall, No. 1 RB (2017 class)

For someone who was committed to his final school for two years before signing, Najee Harris generated a ton of drama in his recruitment. So much so that an oral history was written about the saga.

Harris had been committed to Alabama since his sophomore year of high school, but Michigan kept chipping away at him, with things really ramping up during the fall and winter before signing day. He took an official visit to Ann Arbor and went as far to fill out housing forms, creating the infamous picture of Harris’ room assignment at Michigan.

When Harris boarded the plane from the All-American game in San Antonio, nobody knew where he was headed: Alabama, Michigan, or back home. But when he stepped off the tarmac next to Tua Tagovailoa at the Birmingham airport, the dream of signing the No. 2 player in the country was officially dead.

Isaiah Wilson - Five-star, No. 16 overall, No. 5 OT (2017 class)

Try not to look at Wilson’s 247Sports profile, which will show Michigan holding 91.7% of his Crystal Ball predictions. In Dec. 2016, Michigan was absolutely rolling on the trail. Dubbed “Commitmas,” the month produced commitments from Donovan Peoples-Jones, Cesar Ruiz, Drew Singleton, Ambry Thomas, Jordan Anthony and Tarik Black.

Five-star Isaiah Wilson was supposed to join them. After all, Michigan had been leading for Wilson basically since he became a national prospect. But a late official visit to Georgia changed everything.

After watching a four-hour children’s choir performance, eager Michigan fans were crushed to see Wilson choose the Bulldogs over the Wolverines in a shocker. While Michigan’s 2017 class on paper was excellent, tackle was a huge need at the time and Wilson could’ve plugged the hole immediately.

Tyler Friday - Four-star, No. 93 overall, No. 6 DT (2018 class)

2018 was a tough cycle for the Wolverines on the trail. They continually whiffed on their top targets down the stretch and didn’t have any top 100 prospects. But Friday was always there as a likely addition to the class that could change all of that.

Instead, he exemplified Michgan’s struggles. After official visits to Ohio State and Michigan in back-to-back weekends in November, Friday saw the Wolverines lose in The Game once again. This changed the momentum and he ended up choosing the Buckeyes in December.

While Ohio State has moved Friday outside to play defensive end, Michigan definitely could have used a player of his caliber in the middle of their defensive line in the last couple of seasons.

Zach Harrison - Five-star, No. 12 overall, No. 2 SDE (2019 class)

It’s really difficult to pull a five-star talent out of Ohio, let alone a defensive end from the Columbus suburbs. But Michigan almost pulled off the feat in the 2019 class.

For most of Harrison’s recruitment, Michigan fans had a “I’ll believe it when I see it” attitude towards landing him over the Buckeyes. A flood of Michigan Crystal Balls during the season changed that quickly, though.

But then, Harrison watched Ohio State’s unexpected defenestration of Michigan and suddenly leaving for Ann Arbor became a lot harder to do. In an added twist, Urban Meyer stepping down as head coach actually helped push Harrison towards Ohio State since he and his mom weren’t huge fans of his. While Harrison hasn’t continued the level of play set by the Bosas and Chase Young, he started all season after flashing as a freshman.

Rocco Spindler - Four-star, No. 60 overall, No. 3 OG (2021 class)

In a way, Spindler was payback from Notre Dame after the 2020 recruiting cycle. Notre Dame fans were angry Braiden McGregor silently committed to Michigan without letting the Irish coaches know and allowing them to continue to recruit him for a few weeks until he publicly announced.

Fast forward a year, and the two schools were going after another top recruit in the state of Michigan in Rocco Spindler. For a while Michigan looked to be in good shape for Spindler, but slipped up a bit in the spring, allowing Notre Dame to surge ahead.

While it looked like Michigan fought back hard over the summer, after Spindler committed it was revealed that he had silently committed a while back and hadn’t let anyone else know.

Losing Spindler exemplified Michigan’s struggles in-state and with closing on offensive line targets in the class. While landing Donovan Edwards a few months later definitely helps, not getting Spindler will always sting.

For you real sadists out there, I’ve put together an honorable mention list of all the guys that I considered for this list. Read at your own risk:

Dorian Thompson-Robinson (QB, UCLA), Harrison Bailey (QB, Tennessee), CJ Stroud (QB, Ohio State), AJ Dillon (RB, Boston College), Kyren Williams (RB, Notre Dame), Ja’Marr Chase (WR, LSU), Chris Olave (WR, Ohio State), Dalton Keene (TE, Virginia Tech), Theo Johnson (TE, Penn State), Alaric Jackson (OT, Iowa), Mekhi Becton (OT, Louisville), Nicholas Petit-Frere (OT, Ohio State), Logan Brown (OT, Wisconsin), Myles Hinton (OT, Stanford), Garrett Dellinger (OT, LSU), Emil Ekiyor (OG, Alabama), Jarrett Patterson (C, Notre Dame), Rashad Weaver (DE, Pitt), George Karlaftis (DE, Purdue), Jordan Elliott (DT, Texas), Alim McNeill (DT, NC State), Isaiah Simmons (LB, Clemson), Otis Reese (LB, Georgia), Shayne Simon (LB, Notre Dame), Lance Dixon (LB, Penn State), Quavaris Crouch (LB, Tennessee), Iman Marshall (CB, USC), Darnay Holmes (CB, UCLA), Josh Jobe (CB, Alabama), Julian Barnett (CB, Michigan State), Kalen King (CB, Penn State), Lewis Cine (S, Georgia), Kyle Hamilton (S, Notre Dame)