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Michigan football signs No. 12 recruiting class despite 2-4 record, coaching uncertainty

Jim Harbaugh’s staff overcomes major obstacles to sign strong 2021 recruiting class

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh is shown on the sidelines in the first half of an NCAA college football game against Army in Ann Arbor, Mich. (AP Photo/Tony Ding, File)
Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh is shown on the sidelines in the first half of an NCAA college football game against Army in Ann Arbor, Mich. (AP Photo/Tony Ding, File) (Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – National Signing Day had all the ingredients for the 2021 Michigan football recruiting class to fall apart, but instead, the Wolverines still managed to sign one of the top classes in the country.

It wasn’t a perfect day for Jim Harbaugh’s staff, as two four-star defensive players flipped and signed with other schools. But overall, Michigan signed 20 players and currently own the No. 12 class in the nation.

On-field performance was the most obvious reason to believe Michigan could lose some of its top committed players. The Wolverines lost four of six games this season, including to in-state rival Michigan State and then-winless Penn State.

Michigan lost every home game for the first time in program history.

Losing two-thirds of its games was bad enough, but the way Michigan lost was even more problematic. Other than the Michigan State game, the losses weren’t even competitive. Wisconsin dropped 49 points on the Wolverines and then scored a total of 20 points in its final three games.

Indiana beat Michigan for the first time in decades, and Penn State marched into the Big House with an 0-5 record only to leave with an easy win.

MORE: Elite 4-star West Bloomfield RB Donovan Edwards commits to Michigan

It certainly doesn’t help that these struggles coincide with rampant speculation about Harbaugh’s future, since Michigan wasn’t able to sign him to an extension before the pandemic arrived.

Before the team even took the field in 2020, there were questions about whether Harbaugh would sign an extension as the end of his contract neared.

Add in his first losing season with the Wolverines, and the speculation evolved from whether he would come back to whether he should be allowed to come back.

When Michigan failed to make a decision one way or another before the early signing period, it looked like it would signal disaster for the class.

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The third and final component working against Michigan’s recruiting efforts: The Wolverines were facing some of the top programs in college football to hold onto their recruits.

Alabama made a late push for wide receiver Xavier Worthy, even getting him to come to campus on a gameday. Usually, when a committed player takes a visit to Alabama, that player ends up with the Crimson Tide.

Georgia and Oklahoma -- two regular playoff contenders -- were in the mix for elite West Bloomfield running back Donovan Edwards.

Jaydon Hood was considering pushing his signing back to February because other top programs were pursuing him.

Michigan football recruiting: 4 victories, 2 major blows for 2021 class on National Signing Day

Even Ja’Den McBurrows stuck with Michigan despite a full-court press from his hometown Miami Hurricanes, who enjoyed an 8-2 season.

For Michigan to beat out those schools and sign Worthy, Edwards, Hood and McBurrows is a testament to the coaching staff’s ability to overcome enormous recruiting obstacles and keep the class together.


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