Harbaugh makes things tough on PSU
Jim Harbaugh wasted little time in showing up at Quinn Nordin’s door.
The final contact period for recruiting had begun, and the Michigan coach was targeting an in-state kicker. One who happened to be committed to Penn State.
The Nittany Lions have had to deal with Harbaugh plenty this month in the home stretch before national signing day on Feb. 3. And the Wolverines honcho has already played a large role in what Penn State’s 2016 class will look like.
Harbaugh has had a hand in the two most recent changes to the class — one addition and one subtraction.
Georgia kicker Alex Barbir pledged to Penn State on Tuesday, a day after New Jersey defensive lineman Michael Dwumfour announced he would be signing with Michigan.
Dwumfour had been committed to the Lions since the summer. Barbir, likewise, was long planning to play for Rutgers until Penn State offered him a scholarship last week. That came as a result of Nordin’s high interest in Michigan.
Nordin, who had originally picked the Lions in July, has not publicly decommitted from Penn State. But he did not show up for his scheduled official visit to Happy Valley this past weekend along with the rest of Penn State’s 2016 pledges and almost certainly won’t be signing with the Lions next week.
Beyond that, Penn State was also battling Michigan for one of Pittsburgh’s top recruits, McKeesport’s Khaleke Hudson, who announced his choice Wednesday afternoon. Hudson also said he's joining the Wolverines, giving Franklin another loss against Harbaugh on the recruiting trail.
Michigan is also a top contender for former Lions recruit Lavert Hill, a cornerback from Detroit whose brother plays for the Wolverines.
Domino effect: It’s been something of a domino effect on the recruiting trail for the Lions, who have had to scramble a bit to close out their class.
That meant extending an offer to Barbir and landing a kicker before it was too late.
“I’ve made the hardest decision of my life so far over the past 2 days,” Barbir wrote in an open letter. “Countless hours of talking and consideration. … But at this time I feel that it is in my best interest to announce my commitment to Penn State University.”
Barbir will be Penn State’s first scholarship kicker since Sam Ficken signed on back in February 2011.
Though he doesn’t have the credentials of Nordin — rated by multiple recruiting services as the nation’s No. 1 kicker — Barbir checks in as the No. 7 kicker in the 247Sports Composite rankings.
At South Forsyth High School outside of Atlanta, he went 7 for 9 on field goal tries as a senior and recorded touchbacks on all but one of his kickoffs.
Penn State is set to return Tyler Davis and Joey Julius at kicker in 2016, but while their combined field percentage was high, their consistency — particularly on kickoffs — was a problem last season. Enough so that Barbir may be able to challenge for playing time this fall.
He will be joined in the class by another Georgia recruit, Atlanta punter Blake Gillikin.
Dwumfour changes mind: On the other side of the ledger, Penn State received a similar-sounding letter from Dwumfour, who announced his switch to Michigan shortly after returning from his official visit to State College.
Dwumfour called Michigan his “dream school” and will have one of his high school teammates, blue chip running back Kareem Walker, joining him in Ann Arbor.
“I would like to thank Coach Franklin and the whole staff for giving me the opportunity to play for them,” Dwumfour wrote. “Unfortunately my heart is somewhere else. … It’s been fun to be part of the family, but Happy Valley isn’t where I belong.”
Penn State once had six defensive linemen who had given verbal commitments for the 2016 class. But Dwumfour and Philadelphia’s Karamo Dioubate left the fold. A third, North Carolina’s Christian Colon, appeared to have his offer dropped by the Lions around the time that he was removed from his high school team.
Harbaugh's tactics under fire: As for Harbaugh and the Wolverines, they’ve drawn plenty of attention oustide of just Penn State.
Michigan has a shot to land the country’s top recruiting class next week, including the No. 1 overall recruit in the nation, New Jersey defensive tackle Rashan Gary.
Along the way, however, two high school players who had been long-time commitments to Michigan have said they were frozen out by the program.
One said he was told not to take his official visit to Ann Arbor and that Harbaugh would not speak to him about the situation. Another said he did talk to Harbaugh, who told him there was only “a 50/50 chance that he would have room” for him in the class on signing day.
Because NCAA rules prohibit teams and coaches from discussing specific recruits publicly, that’s only one side of the story. Harbaugh made reference to that this week as his tactics came under fire.
” ‘They said ‘artificial sweeteners were safe, WMDs were in Iraq and Anna Nicole married for love’ ” Harbaugh wrote on Twitter. ” ‘They said.’ “