Recruits, former players excited about Harbaugh's arrival

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Jim Harbaugh during a press conference announcing his appointment as the next head football coach at Junge Center Tuesday. Buy this photo

By Alejandro Zúñiga, Daily Sports Writer
Published December 30, 2014

Ask nearly anyone associated with the Michigan football program, and he’ll tell you Jim Harbaugh is the right man for the job.

Former coach Lloyd Carr said after the introductory press conference Tuesday afternoon that he and other Michigan figures have a lot of pride in the hire.

It’s not crazy to think Harbaugh can turn the Wolverines around — just look at his track record at San Diego, Stanford and with the San Francisco 49ers. Harbaugh means intensity, player development and a commitment to winning. It means profound excitement surrounding Michigan. And that excitement has permeated throughout the program.

Just ask Tyree Kinnel, a four-star safety from Dayton, Ohio. He verbally committed to the Wolverines under Brady Hoke, but visited Notre Dame when the coach was fired. Now that Michigan landed Harbaugh, though, Kinnel is confident in his original pledge.

“I’m excited, because he’s the guy that Michigan wanted,” Kinnel said. “He’s the guy that everybody wanted. It’s very exciting for the fan base, for college football and for the Big Ten. I think it’s going to bring a lot of good things to Michigan.

“I think it’s going to bring us back to the top.”

And Kinnel isn’t alone. He has spoken to several other recruits — committed and not — who have expressed higher interest in coming to Ann Arbor.

“I think we’re going to get some good recruits that come in before signing day, just because of his name and because of what he’s done in the past,” Kinnel said. “And because it’s Michigan.”

Kinnel expects Harbaugh to reach out to recruits Tuesday evening. And earlier that day, the new Michigan coach was making a different call — one to the current Wolverines. Many of them had hoped Harbaugh would come to Michigan from the start.

“You hear about how fabled his resume is, and you’re hopeful (that he’ll come to Michigan),” said running back Drake Johnson. “Until it happens, you’re always like, ‘Eh, it’s just a hope.’ Now that it’s a done deal, you feel almost relief. It’s amazing; it’s nice.”

Johnson and the Wolverines will face a significant transition from Hoke to Harbaugh, though neither coach is a stranger to the school’s tradition and history. But the current players have gotten plenty of feedback from former ones, such as Roy Roundtree, who had to endure a much bigger change when Michigan fired Rich Rodriguez and hired Hoke in 2011.

In Hoke’s first year, the Wolverines went 11-2, beat Ohio State and won the Sugar Bowl.

“Four years ago, I was at that same press conference with Coach Hoke,” Roundtree said. “I know they know what it’s going to take. It’s Michigan, man. I feel like I’m about to go out there and run down that tunnel again.

“Everyone wanted Jim. We got what we wanted.”

Harbaugh didn’t promise immediate success Tuesday, but his track record almost does for him. Michigan has its man, and the next stop in the eyes of the program — from current and past players, and former coaches — is greatness.

“I guarantee it,” Roundtree said. “I won’t say right now, but he should be winning real soon.”