The recruiting trail hasn't exactly been kind to Michigan in recent months. Head coach Brady Hoke and company have struggled to secure key pledges during campus visits, lost their clutches on a pair of 5-star prospects and whiffed on America's top-ranked quarterback.
Cornerback Garrett Taylor halted a serious commitment drought in Ann Arbor when he created a verbal pact with the program earlier this week. The 4-star Virginia product became the fifth member of Michigan's 2015 class, but he's the first to join since last August when Ohio safety Tyree Kinnel committed.
Hoke adds a versatile defensive back who also held offers from Ohio State, Stanford, South Carolina and Michigan State, among others. The Wolverines have hosted several marquee junior recruits this year and those efforts finally paid off with a pledge from Taylor, who spent time at Michigan earlier this month:
The Wolverines hope it's the first domino to fall during a pivotal spring recruiting push. Michigan is still reeling from an offensive standpoint, more than two months after the hiring of former Alabama play-caller Doug Nussmeier.
Damien Harris, the nation's No. 1 running back recruit in 247Sports' composite rankings, ended a six-month commitment to the program in January. The coveted Kentucky recruit mentioned Michigan among his top 10 options in a newly released list of favorites, but teams like Florida, Ohio State and Alabama appear to be making progress.
Florida playmaker George Campbell de-committed in December. The 6'3", 184-pound prospect received the highest rating among athletes in 247Sports' composite rankings and is likely to land at receiver in college.
Campbell has stayed busy surveying other options. His recent activity includes visits to North Carolina and Florida State, while South Carolina, USC and Arizona State each extended offers in February.
Both players pledged to the program shortly after their sophomore years and appeared to provide pillars for an impressive 2015 class at Michigan. Instead, the squad is searching for answers and any sign of sustained momentum.
The Wolverines' class ranks 20th nationally in 247Sports' composite team ratings. Several programs leapfrogged Michigan on that list following the swift exits of Campbell and Harris, including conference rivals Penn State and Nebraska.
Hoke had an opportunity to bolster recruiting efforts two weeks ago when 5-star California quarterback Josh Rosen arrived in Ann Arbor for his first tour of the campus. The nation's top-rated passer announced a decision just four days after his departure.
Rosen chose UCLA, confirming rampant speculation that the Bruins were a strong favorite. However, his comments at the commitment ceremony suggested Michigan made up some ground during his time with the team.
"It was awesome," he told Rivals.com writer Adam Gorney (subscription required). "I was sort of hoping to go there and not like it and have my decision cut out but definitely coach Nuss and coach Hoke made it a lot harder."
That may be tough to take for the Wolverines, who seemingly finished as runner-up in a fiercely contested race for one of the country's most impressive quarterback recruits in recent memory. Still, there's a silver lining to be found.
Rosen showed up at Michigan without any anticipation of being swayed toward the program, yet when he weighed his options the Wolverines were very much in the mix. He was impressed by Hoke's vision and valued Nussmeier's presence on the staff.
Detroit running back Michael Weber echoed those sentiments this week during a discussion with Detroit News reporter Sam Webb. The 4-star Cass Technical High School standout views Michigan as one of his top five options, due in large part to the first-year offensive coordinator.
“(Michigan made the cut) because of (Doug) Nussmeier,” Weber said. “He is a good guy. He has been to Alabama and he has coached a lot of great backs. He’s bringing in a new offense and rebuilding a lot of stuff on offense, and that made (me) have a lot of interest back in Michigan."
His Alabama background should be appealing for running backs across the country. Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon flourished in the backfield during Nussmeier's two-year tenure in Tuscaloosa, where they ran behind an offensive line that may have been America's best.
Aside from Weber and Harris, the Wolverines are targeting multiple 2015 running backs who could make an immediate impact in Ann Arbor. Jacques Patrick (Orlando, Fla.), Johnny Frasier (Princeton, N.C.) and Soso Jamabo (Plano, Texas) also hold offers from Michigan.
The Wolverines remain in search of an elite quarterback in this class, but haven't found the right fit so far.
Weeks before Rosen pledged to UCLA, Michigan target Jarrett Stidham (Stephenville, Texas) committed to Texas Tech. Blake Barnett (Corona, Calif.) also received a scholarship from the Wolverines, but he joined Notre Dame's class in November.
Hoke and Nussmeier have begun to look elsewhere for a solution at the position. Maryland prospect David Sills pledged to USC in middle school, but the Trojans' coaching change and ensuing commitment from 5-star passer Ricky Town have cast serious doubt on his future with the program.
No uncommitted quarterback currently carries a Michigan offer, according to 247Sports. Expect that to change soon, with Brandon Wimbush (Jersey City, N.J.), Drew Lock (Lees Summit, Mo.) and James Morgan (Green Bay, Wisc.) presenting possibilities.
A quarterback commit would go a long way for the Wolverines toward building some positive momentum. The presence of a top-tier player at the position could stabilize the class and encourage other key recruits to hop on the bandwagon.
That bandwagon is lighter than it was just a few months ago, but the spring recruiting period could provide the perfect springboard toward a successful signing day. Wins will help the cause this fall, but it's paramount for Michigan to lay the groundwork now in order to move forward with confidence and secure talent in the coming months.
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