Michigan football has a national brand, meaning it can, and should, recruit the entire country looking for prospects. Throughout Jim Harbaugh’s tenure, there have been time periods where Michigan has recruited an area hard and gained plenty of contributors but few have been consistent.
There are a few regions of the country where it would be a good idea for Michigan to have more of a presence in moving forward. Regardless of any staff changes, these are the places Michigan should devote some more effort into recruiting in 2024 and beyond.
Virginia often gets lumped in with Washington, D.C. and Maryland as part of the “DMV” region, but Michigan often neglects the state. Under Jim Harbaugh, Michigan has only signed two players out of Virginia, compared to eight from Maryland and D.C.
The Wolverines are missing out on a state that regularly produces between eight and a dozen four- or five-star players every cycle. This isn’t a black hole state either where it’s hard to get kids out of the area. In fact, Virginia and Virginia Tech rarely keep the top talent home since they’ve both been mediocre recently.
The school that has consistently performed best in Virginia is Penn State. For Michigan to push harder in the state would have the added benefit of making the Nittany Lion coaching staff work harder on the trail, which is crucial when both teams have such a similar talent profile.
Mike Hart is the designated recruiter for Virginia, which helps explain the Wolverines’ lack of presence since he has not proven to be an exceptional recruiter while at Michigan. However, Director of Recruiting Albert Karschnia does have some connections in the area and has been working to build relationships with important people in the state. Hopefully that will pay dividends in the near future.
In the 2010s, the state of Georgia crashed the party and joined the traditional top three talent producing states of California, Florida, and Texas. That was in large part due to a population surge in the state, which is bound to produce more and better football players.
Arizona is going through a population boom itself, with the state population increasing 10 out of the 11 years between 2010 and 2021. The state’s population growth during that time period has almost doubled the rate of the entire country. Maricopa County, Arizona’s population center and the home of Phoenix, has been the fastest growing county in the United States in that time.
With that increase in population comes an increase in blue-chip football prospects. Per the On3 composite rankings, in the last five recruiting cycles Arizona has produced 34 four- and five-star prospects. That is an average of almost seven a cycle. In the previous five cycles, from 2014 to 2018, Arizona only produced 24 total, which is almost five a cycle.
Arizona has not yet reached the production of even mid-tier talent producing states like Virginia yet, but the trend is going upward and now would be a good time for Michigan to lay some groundwork. Getting players from the West Coast is always more difficult, but this is another state where the flagship schools have not been that great and there is room to nab a couple players here and there.
This movement is already happening, but Michigan has a chance to fully step into the state and pry players away from Ohio State. For Harbaugh’s entire tenure, recruiting in Ohio has been a hot subject of discussion since he was not able to replicate the success that Brady Hoke had in the state.
But now with back-to-back wins over the Buckeyes, Michigan will finally have a recruiting pitch that can resonate with prospects in the state. In the 2023 cycle they signed four players from the state, but they are still guys that Ohio State passed over.
Next cycle, though, the Wolverines will fight for prospects that hold a Buckeye offer like Bryce West, Jordan Marshall, and Elias Rudolph. The program can still land four-stars that haven’t been offered yet too, like Luke Hamilton and Brian Robinson.
It’s getting past the point where Ohio State can come in at the 11th hour to offer a guy and land him. Prospects are getting fed up with being looked over and Michigan has been showing them genuine interest for longer, while also proving their superiority on the field.