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Jim Harbaugh and Michigan Setting Summer Recruiting Trail on Fire

Published by Bleacher Report on Fri, 12 Jun 2015

GRAND PRAIRIE, TexasSay what you want about Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, but hate him or love him, his energy cannot be denied. Particularly when it's infectious.Harbaugh loves the game of football, and his level of excitement can rival any coach's. College recruits around the country are noticing that, as he and his Michigan coaching staff continue their satellite-camp tour from coast to coast.Harbaugh stopped in Dallas suburb Grand Prairie, Texas, on Tuesday as part of the Showtyme Elite Football Camp and not only watched roughly 250 athletes perform, but also gave demonstrationsin 90-plus-degree heaton how to do drills, shouted words of encouragement for hours and, when the camp was over, stayed late to take pictures with eager athletesmany of those pictures of him wearing a Texas-sized cowboy hat.Harbaugh, the former San Francisco 49ers coach, even took pictures with younger fans wearing jerseys of current 49ers."I now have a different perception of him," said Gerald Smith, Showtyme Elite Football Camp director. "When you see Jim Harbaugh, you think of what you saw with him and the 49ersalways intense. My attitude has changed. He's a really good coach who wants to help the kids and know them personally."He said he was really humbled about me reaching out to him. After he left, I knew I liked him a lot. I saw how the kids were posting about him on Twitter. Some think he's arrogant; he's not. He's very laid-back."The personality always has been there for Harbaugh, but his nationwide run of satellite camps has many SEC and ACC coaches and supporters unhappy. The SEC and ACC do not allow guest coaching at satellite camps.There's an NCAA rule limiting programs to hosting camps within 50 miles of campus. The loophole: There isn't an NCAA rule against a coaching staff volunteering at other camps or attending as a guest.It's through this loophole that Harbaugh and his team have visited Texas, Indiana, Alabama, Florida, Pennsylvania and, most recently, California."Michigan is a far school to get in a car to drive and then come back," Texas 5-star 2017 safety Jeffrey Okudah said. For them to come [to the Dallas area], that means I get a chance to meet the coaches and not just talk to them on the phone. I can actually talk to them in person and get to feel how they really are."Rising 2016 running back Peytton Pickett added: "He's an awesome coach, first and foremost. He was real positive towards everybody. As far as meeting him, it was like meeting a celebrity. I think he'll be very succesful on the college level just like he was at the pro level.Athletes hear about coaches all the time, and Harbaugh's reputation fit everything that many athletes expected. He's a fiery, no-nonsense coach who wants to get the best out of his players. Harbaugh also has a level of charisma and passion for his work that earns him respect.His presence was enough to bring out Texas Rangers pitcher Derek Holland for a couple of hours.It's that energy that's made the satellite campers want to work with himparticularly when a camper is hours away from the Michigan campus."It was great to get to work with them up close. We got to talk to them out there. They were energetic and were teaching," said Florida 2017 tight end Tre McKitty, who has a dozen reported offers. "We have a lot of talented athletes around here in Florida, so it was cool that they came to watch us. I think everyone was excited to see them."Harbaugh's presence provided more than the after-camp photo opportunities and handshakes. Recruiting targets who hadn't made it to Ann Arbor, Michigan, saw the kind of people he and his staff were. The satellite camps have been a chance for recruits to put names with faces.For someone like Texas 4-star cornerback Eric Cuffee, face-to-face meetings are key. Cuffee has 30-plus offers and said Michigan's appearance in the Dallas area gave him a newfound respect for the program.Cuffee, who lives in Waco, Texasroughly 90 minutes from where the Grand Prairie camp took placemade the trek to meet the staff. He didn't participate in the camp drills, but as someone with a Michigan offer, he felt making the drive was the right thing to do."It was a great experience. I never would have thought Michigan would have come down this far," Cuffee said. "I think that's great that the coaching staff was able to come, as well. That's one of the major factors that played a part in me coming."Smith said Harbaugh's presence, although not liked by some, is a valuable tool which could not only help Michigan's national recruiting reputation, but also the view of the Big Ten altogether. Smith said Harbaugh's a guy who "really set the tone by getting guys motivated" at the Showtyme camp. That seems to be the consensus with the other locations where Harbaugh and his staff have ventured.Whether this will get the Wolverines a few out-of-state pledges for the 2016 class is still to be determined. The groundwork, however, has been set. Younger recruits in attendance will remember the aura Harbaugh brought, and Michigan could be a finalist for a lot of athletes it once thought it couldn't have landed."I learned a lot from the coaches that I can use when I start working in summer ball," Florida 4-star 2017 defensive end Zachary Carter said. "I spoke with coach Harbaugh; I really like him. He's enthusiastic about the game."Emphasis on "enthusiastic."National Recruiting Analyst Sanjay Kirpalani contributed to this report.Damon Sayles is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained by Bleacher Report. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Damon via Twitter: @DamonSayles
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