Just before noon Wednesday, Brandon Peters heard his name called. He stood and walked onto the stage at Hill Auditorium during the Michigan football team’s “Signing of the Stars” ceremony.
At that point, Peters — a four-star quarterback recruit from Avon, Ind. — took the microphone from New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and sat down next to Harbaugh on the stage.
If that was setting the bar too high for the 18-year-old Peters, he didn’t show it.
“It’s not easy, but I’m kind of a humble person, so I don’t really look to do that stuff that much,” Peters said. “I just do me.”
In his first season, Harbaugh exceeded all realistic expectations with a 10-3 season. Now, he has plenty more talent on the way — and for them, the expectations will be much higher from the get-go.
In all, the class currently comprises 28 players. Dytarious Johnson, a three-star linebacker from Prattville, Ala., could be the 29th if he signs. While the Wolverines’ class is bigger than average, Harbaugh confirmed Wednesday that the seven early enrollees’ scholarships can be back-dated to the class of 2015 to balance it out.
Michigan’s class of 2015 featured just 14 players, decimated by the program’s struggles during the 2014 season and the firing of former coach Brady Hoke.
But the Wolverines bounced back in a big way this season, garnering the nation’s fifth-ranked class.
“From top to bottom, this recruiting class is youngsters that have a real heart for competing, a heart for football,” Harbaugh said. “They’ve got football faces. They’re competitive in the classroom. They have worked so hard to put themselves in a position to be here. I love them all.”
No discussion of Michigan’s recruiting class is complete without perhaps the jewel of the class, five-star defensive tackle Rashan Gary. Gary, the No. 1 overall recruit in the nation, committed Wednesday toward the end of the “Signing of the Stars” ceremony.
Of the early enrollees, Peters has received the most publicity. He came to the stage first Wednesday, and Harbaugh compared him to his former quarterback at Stanford, Andrew Luck.
“I saw a lot of similar things in Brandon — a natural player, not over-coached, over-mechanic-ed, naturally out there playing,” Harbaugh said. “Most of all, just naturally playing the game of football.”
Another signing day highlight was adding top-ranked kicker Quinn Nordin out of Rockford, Mich. Nordin’s name has been in the headlines in recent weeks for a different reason: When the recruiting dead period ended last month, Harbaugh slept over at Nordin’s house during an in-home visit.
The coach spoke about that practice for the first time Wednesday, saying during the ceremony that the bed he stayed in at Nordin’s house was one of the most comfortable he’d ever slept in.
“Just having fun,” Harbaugh said. “If people criticize that, then so be it, but we’re enjoying the heck out of it.”
Four-star linebacker Devin Bush told another Harbaugh recruiting story. During his in-home visit, the two started playing spades, and Harbaugh lost a couple of games — so Bush and the ultra-competitive Harbaugh ended up playing for four hours, according to Bush.
Bush, who is also already on campus, is another recruit who will have a chance to play with the departure of Michigan’s entire linebacker corps.
“I see huge opportunities for myself, opportunities for me to lose,” Bush said. “I’m just going to come in, not overthink everything, go in there day by day, step by step.”
Though Michigan returns more depth in the offensive backfield, four-star running back Kareem Walker, too, sees an opportunity for himself.
“Oh, I’m playing. I’m working hard,” Walker said. “I’m doing good adjusting to the workouts, just gotta learn the playbook.
“But I’m not riding the bench. I came in to be ready. I didn’t come here to just sit on the bench.”
The rest of Michigan’s class appears similarly optimistic. They drew attention when they made their commitments official Wednesday, and if they live up to the hype, it’ll follow them as far as they go.