The Michigan football team is heading south for spring practice.
Wednesday, coach Jim Harbaugh confirmed multiple reports that the Wolverines will hold part of their spring camp in Florida this year.
The team will train for four practices at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., during spring break to open camp. It will return after break for the remaining practices and the spring game.
IMG Academy, a for-profit sports academy, has 11 players ranked in the top 300 in ESPN.com’s recruiting rankings for 2017 and six in the top 100, including Dylan Moses, the No. 1 overall recruit.
So Michigan could get a lot of benefit out of the trip.
“We’re going to work hard, and we’re going to have fun doing it,” Harbaugh said. “We’ve already got some good plans to have swim meets. We’re going to have putt-putt golf. We’re going to have football meetings. We’re going to have practice. I think it gives us a chance to win at a lot of different levels.
“Everybody’s going to get spring break. There’s no youngster who can’t afford to fly somewhere who won’t be able to his enjoy his spring break. What better way to do that than by playing football?”
NEW JERSEY SUCCESS: The class Harbaugh unveiled Wednesday features six players from New Jersey, including No. 1 overall recruit Rashan Gary, a defensive tackle from Paramus, N.J.
In the previous 10 classes combined, Michigan brought in just five recruits from New Jersey, most recently defensive back Jabrill Peppers and offensive lineman Juwann Bushell-Beatty in 2014, also from Paramus.
Beyond Gary, the Wolverines also picked up No. 4 running back Kareem Walker, an early enrollee. Walker’s high school teammate, defensive tackle Michael Dwumfour, will join him, as will wide receiver Ahmir Mitchell from Egg Harbor City and high school teammates Ron Johnson and Brad Hawkins of Camden.
“It’s always been a good tradition of great football players coming out of that state, the Garden State,” Harbaugh said. “We’re looking for nuggets of gold anywhere. There’s good, better and best.”
Michigan finished with recruits from 12 states in its 2016 class.
RESPONDING TO CRITICISM: In the past two weeks, Harbaugh has taken heat for pulling scholarship offers from players close to signing day. He reportedly did so with offensive lineman Erik Swenson from Illinois and defensive lineman Rashad Weaver from Florida, who then committed to Oklahoma and Pittsburgh, respectively.
Friday, after Warde Manuel was introduced as athletic director, Harbaugh explained his strategy.
“We’re very much out there, we don’t hide how we operate and what we do,” Harbaugh said. “It’s a meritocracy in everything we do in our program. It’s going to continue to be that. We’re going to bring the finest student-athletes and character that we can to the University of Michigan.
“They’ve got to continue to perform when there’s early commitments — both in the classroom, on the field and as a citizen in their community. That’s how we’re going about it. I don’t hide from it at all.”
Harbaugh addressed it again Wednesday after the “Signing of the Stars” ceremony at Hill Auditorium, reiterating that his commits have to continue to perform in order to maintain their scholarship.
“We said it. We’re out there looking for nuggets of gold to bring the best and brightest to the University of Michigan,” Harbaugh said. “That will remain our objective.”
Harbaugh also said he lets players know where they stand before signing day. Asked if he gave them enough notice, he was less sure.
“We did our best. There were mistakes made. I take full accountability for them, but I don’t apologize. We’ll keep forging on.”