Looking Forward: Michigan Football’s 2016 Class

Michigan Football seems to be on track to return to its former glory, and the 2016 class looks to add to this legacy.  From offensive weapons to defensive titans, this class has it all–including a potential for growth amongst the few quarterbacks signed.

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It seems that every time I am tasked with writing about Jim Harbaugh and his transformation of Michigan Football, I constantly underestimate his abilities.  Beginning with actually accepting the position in Ann Arbor to taking his team to an inaugural 9-3 season, the man exudes excellence.  But now, Harbaugh has outdone himself in the area he needed to most: recruiting.

It all began with a frankly creepy invitation to visit prospective kicker Quinn Nordin overnight in his effort to recruit him.  The media went berserk, following Harbaugh and Nordin as they went about their day.  Ultimately, after countless hours of unending speculation, Harbaugh did ultimately spend the night with the three-star kicker from Rockford, MI.  Even better, Nordin signed.

But even that wasn’t quite enough to satiate Harbaugh’s desire for a top-level recruiting class.  In typical fashion, Harbaugh created the “Signing of the Stars” event on National Signing Day, introducing new student-athletes to a crowd of supportive fans.  Even big name celebrities including Tom Brady and Derek Jeter made appearances, making the event more emblematic of an “Athletic Oscars” than a signing event.

To say that all the audacity and glamour of such an event was effective would be a gross understatement.  Michigan Football signed twenty-eight total athletes during the event, including fifteen ESPN 300 members.  Key deficiencies in the offensive line appeared to be the key focus of Harbaugh’s recruiting strategy, as a whopping nine recruits come from those positions.  Overall, sports aggregates including 247sports.com rank Michigan’s 2016 class as the 5th best in the nation.

Most notable of all recruits was #1 overall Rashan Gary, a defensive tackle from New Jersey.  Gary is first and foremost an incredible athlete, boasting explosive speed and athleticism unsurpassed by other athletes.  His 40-yard dash time of 4.86 seconds was first overall for defensive tackles, making him an incredible asset for an already-dominant Wolverine defense.

“I picked Michigan because that’s a place where I felt comfortable,” Gary stated while speaking with ESPN.  “That’s a place where I felt the academic support is great and the degree holds a lot of weight.”

Another impressive signee came in Kareem Walker, the 4th ranked running-back in the country, also from New Jersey.  Walker dazzled scouts with his ability to run between the tackles and overall power.  Even more, his instincts on the field are virtually unmatched by any other athlete in his class.  Walker will be an incredible addition for a Michigan offense that has become rather pass-heavy in recent years.

Although 2016’s class seemed more than sufficient a goal, Harbaugh’s recruiting endeavors didn’t stop there.  Looking ahead already to 2017, he was able to nab quarterback Dylan McCaffery–the number one rated pocket passer in his class.  McCaffery is the younger brother of Stanford sensation Christian McCaffery, who currently holds the NCAA record for most all-purpose yards in a season with an astounding 3,864.

Overall, Wolverine faithful across the country have much to look forward too.  Michigan Football seems to be on track to return to its former glory, and the 2016 class looks to add to this legacy.  From offensive weapons to defensive titans, this class has it all–including a potential for growth amongst the few quarterbacks signed.

However, fans must not get antsy too quick.  So often it appears fans become unjustifiably disappointed when top-level recruiting classes are not followed with immediate results.  Why is this?  In short, because they are high schoolers.  While the 2016 class is incredibly talented and holds high potential for success, they still have not been tested or trained on the battlefield that is college football.  Keep in mind as well that most of these athletes are still only 18 or 19, as opposed to the 300 pound 22 year old linemen they will come to face.

Fortunately, fans can take solace in the fact that one of Harbaugh’s best talents is mentoring new athletes through their college football journey.  Take for example his work with Andrew Luck while at Stanford.  During his time there, Harbaugh mentored Luck as closely and intensely as possible, ensuring his transition to the college stage would be smooth and successful.  While at Stanford, Luck played at an all-star level, winning multiple passing awards including Offensive Player of the Year.  With evidence like that, it’s clear Harbaugh will shape his new recruits into an unstoppable force on the field.

Now, we as Michigan fans must sit patiently and wait for Harbaugh’s recruiting efforts to come to fruition.  As for myself, I can hardly wait.

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About Jake Thorne

Jake Thorne is Editor-in-Chief of the Review, studying Honors Political Science and Economics at the University of Michigan. He has been an active contributor to the Review since 2014. He can be reached at jnthorne@umich.edu