Recruiting: Analyzing the Differences Between Harbaugh and Hoke

Since his arrival in late 2014, Jim Harbaugh has revitalized every aspect of Michigan football, including recruiting. However, Harbaugh’s predecessor Brady Hoke had no problem recruiting either. Hoke routinely convinced top classes to come to Ann Arbor, yet he struggled mightily on the field. In order to understand the differences in the recruiting of each coach, let’s look at their recruiting classes and each coach’s style of recruiting. (Note: ESPN’s rankings are used in this article. Harbaugh’s recruiting classes include Michigan’s 2017 class at this time, though that class is subject to change before National Signing Day.)

Quality of Commits:

Brady Hoke and Jim Harbaugh have brought very similar levels of talent to Ann Arbor when you look at the composition of the classes in terms of player ratings. The following chart details just how similar Harbaugh and Hoke’s classes have been when using stars as a metric (per ESPN’s rankings).

HOKE: Number of Recruits Percent of Recruits HARBAUGH: Number of Recruits Percent of Recruits
5 Stars 1 1% 5 Stars 1 2%
4 Stars 41 47% 4 Stars 26 49%
3 Stars 42 48% 3 Stars 22 42%
<3 Stars 3 3% <3 Stars 4 7%
Total 87 100% Total 53 100%

Using ratings as a metric shows that that Harbaugh has brought virtually the same level of talent to Ann Arbor as Brady Hoke. This confirms the idea that Hoke was able to recruit well, but not develop talent on his roster. However, despite the fact that Harbaugh and Hoke recruited very similar classes on paper, their classes are not quite as similar as they appear.

National Spotlight:

While Brady Hoke preferred to operate his program under the radar, Jim Harbaugh has brought national attention to Michigan Football that the program has not been seen in years. The examples are numerous. While Hoke did not have a twitter account, Harbaugh made an account shortly after accepting the job and has been a frequent user, often getting into Twitter spats with other coaches and even public figures like radio host Colin Cowherd.

Harbaugh has instituted satellite camps in order increase Michigan’s exposure in all parts of the country. Last year he went on a “Summer Swarm” satellite camp tour with stops in Indianapolis, texas, California, Florida, and Alabama.  This season, Harbaugh is going on another round of camps, with confirmed stops already scheduled in Alabama and Florida. These camps have created massive criticism, especially from SEC coaches upset that Harbaugh is recruiting the fertile south. However, the camps have also boosted recruiting (as seen in the recent commitment of J’Marick Woods) and increased Michigan’s national presence.

Harbaugh has also brought attention to the program using his personality. He has made headlines for sleeping over at recruits’ houses in order to maximize the time spent with them and even climbed a tree in David Long’s backyard in order to retrieve a football. What Harbaugh and his staff have shown is a willingness to do is go outside the box, and that has led to the newfound national presence of Michigan Football.

Harbaugh’s ability to keep his program in the national spotlight has allowed him to recruit nationwide, in stark contrast to Hoke’s preference to recruit the Midwest.

National Footprint:

While Harbaugh and Hoke have brought very similar talent to Ann Arbor according to rating services, the geographic differences between the players Harbaugh and Hoke have recruited are extreme.  The chart below shows the number of commitments each coach has seen by region.

HOKE: Number of Recruits Percent of Recruits HARBAUGH: Number of Recruits Percent of Recruits
Midwest 65 75% Midwest 18 34%
South 14 16% South 18 34%
West 5 6% West 7 13%
Northeast 3 3% Northeast 10 19%
Total 87 100% Total 53 100%

While at Michigan, Hoke’s classes were almost completely centered on the Midwest, with 75% of his players coming from the region. However, under Harbaugh Michigan’s recruiting has been national. Only 34% of Harbaugh’s commits have come from the Midwest while another 34% have come from the South, 13% from the West, and 19% from the Northeast.

These numbers show the extent that Harbaugh has nationalized Michigan’s recruiting footprint. The fact that Michigan is currently is recruiting the south at the same rate they are the Midwest is remarkable when considering the monopoly SEC schools have had on southern talent for the past decade.

Recruiting nationally may be a necessity for the Wolverines. There is not enough talent in the Midwest to sustain the success of powers like Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan, Penn State, Iowa, and Nebraska. Jim Harbaugh immediately realized this and has turned Michigan football into national phenomena with the ability to recruit anyone from anywhere.

In Conclusion

There is no doubt Brady Hoke was able to bring talent to Ann Arbor.  However, the vast majority of Hoke’s recruits came from the Midwest. Harbaugh’s ability to nationalize program’s image has allowed Michigan to recruit nationally beyond the Midwest.  Many of Michigan’s best players, like Tom Brady and Denard Robinson, have come from outside the Midwest.  Jim Harbaugh immediately realized the need for Michigan to nationalize its recruiting in order to compete in the Big Ten, and thus far that has been the biggest difference in recruiting classes between himself and Brady Hoke.