Michigan begins busy June with eyes on catching Michigan State


When Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh visited Michigan in April, he told the football team about the physical sibling rivalry he had with the Wolverines' new coach throughout his childhood and the frustration of battling a younger brother who was often as big or bigger than he was. Maybe for the first time in his life, Jim Harbaugh can relate.

The younger Harbaugh starts his sixth month Monday as the head coach at Michigan, a school that has been fond of calling in-state rival Michigan State its “little brother” for the past decade. For most of that decade, the little brother has been pushing the Wolverines around at will. Harbaugh didn’t dance around that fact last week when speaking to a group of Detroit high school coaches.

“We know we’re not the biggest guy on the block -- Michigan State’s the biggest guy,” he said. “They have done a tremendous job. We respect the job they've done, but we want to be that.”

Despite all the buzz Harbaugh’s arrival has created in Michigan and beyond, the Spartans seem to be widening the gap between the programs with the success they’ve had on the recruiting trail this spring. If Harbaugh and company are going to catch up anytime soon, June will need to be his most productive month to date in the new job.

Michigan State has 13 prospects committed to its next recruiting class. Eleven of them have jumped on board since late April and a few more are expected to follow in the coming weeks. It’s still very early in the talent-gathering cycle, but Michigan has only six commitments as of Monday morning. The excitement and hope surrounding the Wolverines’ new coaching staff has yet to translate into tangible results (if we’re going to consider verbal contracts with high school athletes tangible).

Much of the Michigan staff still is getting up to speed with establishing the relationships that yield future players, which is what makes June a potential early milestone. Harbaugh and his assistants will spend the majority of the next three weeks getting their hands on high school football players from all over the country.

On Thursday, Harbaugh begins a nine-day tour of satellite camps that will take him through seven states. The staff reconvenes in Ann Arbor on June 14 to host its own weeklong camp, followed a few days later by a quarterbacks-only event with a blockbuster collection of former college and NFL stars scheduled to attend as counselors. All of those outings are opportunities for Michigan’s coaches to evaluate and connect with prospects.

Michigan doesn’t need to take control of “the block” in June. It will take far more than a couple of recruiting victories, and there are bigger dates looming in that territorial battle -- their head-to-head battle on Oct. 17 is the first obvious example. The Spartans became the state’s top dog through years of consistency, and Harbaugh acknowledged their recipe for success (one he hopes to emulate) after giving them their due last week.

Nonetheless, the busy month of June could prove to be an important pace-setter in the early stages of Michigan’s quest to regain the upper hand in its sibling rivalry -- one that could pay dividends for years to come.