Reese flips commitment in otherwise uneventful signing day
The Michigan football program welcomed three new signees to the 2018 recruiting class on National Signing Day on Wednesday, but the biggest news came from a player who wasn’t on that list.
Four-star linebacker Otis Reese, a former Michigan verbal commit, announced Wednesday at a ceremony at his high school that he would instead be playing at University of Georgia next season. Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh was informed of Reese’s decision earlier in the day.
“(I) wouldn’t say it caught us off guard,” Harbaugh said. “We understood that was a possibility. … One person closes the door, that opens the door for somebody else, and it’s our job to make sure that whoever turns the knob on that is what’s right for Michigan.”
Reese, a native of Leesburg, Ga., verbally committed to Michigan in June of 2016 and was one of the longest-standing commitments in the class. Ranked 87th overall and 5th among outside linebackers nationally according to the 247Sports composite, Reese represented a significant loss for a recruiting class that will be viewed as one of the least prominent in years. He had previously been Michigan’s highest-rated commit.
In a tamped down environment, devoid of the bright lights and loudspeakers of past years, Harbaugh welcomed in the new class.
Thanks to the new early signing period in late December, the day was relatively quiet. Nineteen of the 22 commits — excluding incoming transfers, Shea Patterson and Casey Hughes — in the class signed their letters of intent in the early period, leaving just three to sign Wednesday.
“There was a priority for youngsters to sign on the first signing day,” Harbaugh said. “That’s the biggest takeaway.”
Ronnie Bell, a three-star receiver from Kansas City, totaled 159 catches and 31 touchdowns in his high school career. Until December, though, Bell was committed to play basketball at Missouri State. Bell earned the Simone award — granted to the best football player in the Kansas City area — for his senior year production.
Three-star Michael Barrett also signed his letter of intent Wednesday, and though it’s unclear what position he’ll play play, Harbaugh said he was eager to get him the ball.
“Envision him getting the ball in his hands — wide receiver, slot receiver, running back. I think those two areas primarily for him,” Harbaugh said. “Somebody who can get the ball and make yards after the catch — yards after contact. A receiver who can run like a running back, but I think also he’ll have the ability to be a running back.”
Barrett thrived as a dual-threat quarterback in high school, racking up 4,640 yards passing, 2,647 yards rushing and 83 total touchdowns in his career. His senior year, Barrett was named Georgia’s 7A offensive player of the year. He received interest from Georgia Tech to play quarterback in its triple-option system, ultimately, choosing Michigan rather than the assurance of playing quarterback elsewhere.
Barrett’s recruitment continued the coaching staff’s recent emphasis on recruiting out of the state of Georgia. He is the third player in the class from Georgia, totaling six such recruits in the last three years.
In all, the class ranks 21st nationally, according to 247Sports, and features no consensus five-star prospects. Excluding Harbaugh’s first, shortened recruiting class, this class ranks as the lowest Michigan has had since 2011, the year between the tenures of Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke.