Over the last 50 years or so, the Michigan football program has been able to land top recruits for a myriad of reasons. Whether it’s due to the tradition and legacy of the program, or being sent into the NFL, the University of Michigan has had success with highly-ranked recruits committing to the football program.
Since his return in Dec. 2014, head coach Jim Harbaugh has been able to reel in some of those highly-ranked recruits I was referring to. In seven total classes — and six actual classes, if you don’t count the quickly put together 2015 class — he has landed six five-star recruits and a plethora of four-stars.
Today, we are going to take a walk down memory lane and recall the top-rated prospects to commit and sign with the Wolverines since Harbaugh came back to town. For this list, I am only counting players who were recruited by Harbaugh. Guys like Jabrill Peppers, for example, will not be factored in since they were already on campus.
No. 10: Cesar Ruiz, four-star OL, 2017 class
Ranking: No. 1 OC, No. 47 overall, 0.9786 composite score
Chris Partridge is known for helping acquire the No. 1 player on this list, but he also was a major factor in Ruiz’s decision to attend Michigan. Ruiz, a New Jersey native, transferred to IMG Academy to play his senior season, but his tight bond with Partridge ultimately won the Wolverines this recruitment.
A two-year starter at center at Michigan and a first round pick by the New Orleans Saints in the 2020 NFL Draft, Ruiz is arguably the best offensive lineman of the Harbaugh era.
No. 9: Zach Charbonnet, four-star RB, 2019 class
Ranking: No. 4 RB, No. 46 overall, 0.9760 composite score
Despite his short stay in Ann Arbor, Charbonnet was a huge win on the recruiting trail for Jay Harbaugh. This recruitment was as quiet as it could have been for a top 50 player in the country, but at the end of the day he picked the Wolverines over a ton of other highly-regarded college football programs. He will now spend the rest of his time in college at UCLA, after transferring there back in January.
No. 8: Donovan Edwards, four-star RB, 2021 class
Ranking: No. 4 RB, No. 41 overall, 0.9808 composite score
Perhaps Edwards can make up for Charbonnet’s transfer. A member of Michigan’s incoming freshman class, he was a big win for Harbaugh and the Wolverines on the recruiting trail. He committed during the early signing period in Dec. 2020 outside his school in West Bloomfield, choosing the Wolverines over other schools like Notre Dame, Michigan State, Georgia, Oklahoma and more.
Despite enrolling early, Edwards was still able to play in, and win, the high school state championship with West Bloomfield his senior year.
No. 7: Ben Bredeson, four-star OL, 2016 class
Ranking: No. 5 OT, No. 39 overall, 0.9799 composite score
With offers from all over the country, including the in-state Wisconsin Badgers, Bredeson committed to the Wolverines in the summer of 2015. He locked things down and stayed true to his word throughout the rest of his high school career. A four-year starter at left guard and two-year captain, Bredeson is right up there with Ruiz as one of the top offensive lineman of the Harbaugh era. He now plays for John Harbaugh and the Baltimore Ravens.
No. 6: Christopher Hinton, five-star DL, 2019 class
Ranking: No. 4 DT, No. 31 overall, 0.9867 composite score
A five-star prospect from the state of Georgia committed to Michigan? During the era of bag men? Somehow, Harbaugh and the Wolverines were able to do it, one of reasons being the Hinton family’s high value on academics. Chris’ younger brother, Myles, was being heavily recruited by Michigan before signing with Stanford.
Hinton has been a contributor since his freshman season in Ann Arbor and will look to continue that this year.
No. 5: J.J. McCarthy, five-star QB, 2021 class
Ranking: No. 4 QB, No. 24 overall, 0.9868 composite score
The top-ranked signal caller of the Harbaugh era, the true freshman has yet to suit up for the Wolverines, but he his potential is sky high. McCarthy shut down his recruitment pretty quick in the spring of 2020, committing to Michigan and never wavering from that. He helped recruit a ton of the players in Michigan’s 2021 class, and looks to have the potential to be a team captain someday.
No. 4: Aubrey Solomon, five-star DL, 2017 class
Ranking: No. 2 DT, No. 23 overall, 0.9879 composite score
If you follow recruiting closely, you probably know Solomon best for him committing to Michigan, and then decommitting after he received a letter from the university thanking him for attending an event he did not even attend — and the letter had his name spelled wrong. And then there was a video on social media of him saying “F*** Michigan.” He later apologized for those words, and then ended up signing with Michigan anyways. It was a wild recruitment to say the least.
Another “what could have been” in Ann Arbor, Solomon had a lot of potential before transferring to Tennessee after two seasons at Michigan.
No. 3: Daxton Hill, five-star S, 2019 class
Ranking: No. 1 S, No. 14 overall, 0.9927 composite score
Perhaps Harbaugh’s biggest win on the recruiting trail, Hill flipped from Alabama to Michigan on the first day of the early signing period in Dec. 2019. Sherrone Moore, a native of Oklahoma, where Hill also grew up, should receive a ton of credit for getting Hill to flip.
Hill earned some playing time his freshman season, but was a full-time starter in 2020. He and Brad Hawkins will once again manage the deep part of the defensive backfield for the Wolverines this season.
No. 2: Donovan Peoples-Jones, five-star WR, 2017 class
Ranking: No. 1 WR, No. 12 overall, 0.9925 composite score
An absolutely lethal receiver out of Cass Tech in Detroit, Peoples-Jones committed to the Wolverines over Ohio State, Michigan State, Florida and Florida State on ESPN2 in Dec. 2016. DPJ put up more than 1,000 yards during his junior and senior seasons leading up to his career at Michigan, where he only put up 1,327 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns. Now he is catching passes from Baker Mayfield on the Cleveland Browns.
He wasn’t a bust, but he certainly did not live up to his five-star billing.
No. 1: Rashan Gary, five-star DL, 2016 class
Ranking: No. 1 DT, No. 1 overall, 1.000 composite score
The highest-rated recruit of the Harbaugh era, Gary was an athletic and physical specimen coming out of Paramus Catholic in New Jersey. Deciding between Michigan and Clemson on ESPN during the traditional signing day in Feb. 2016, Gary put on the Maize and Blue hat and made it official. Partridge, once again, played a huge role in this recruitment, as he coached Gary in high school.
The current Green Bay Packer put up 119 tackles, 23 for loss, 9.5 sacks and one forced fumbled in three seasons in Ann Arbor.