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Insider

Georgia's biggest recruiting rival ... Jim Harbaugh

Atlanta ESPN Junior 300 prospect Myles Sims is buying into a school more than 700 miles away.

Since Jim Harbaugh took over, Michigan has made a big recruiting push in Georgia. That focus has Sims and other top Peach State prospects suddenly wondering about the Wolverines.

“When you see big-name players from here going to Michigan, everyone says, ‘Wait, we need to see what’s up and see what Michigan is about,’” Sims said.

Forgive the feeling-out process, this is all relatively new for both the Georgia prospects and the Wolverines. Harbaugh has three commitments from the state since taking over in Ann Arbor, and the first ones from there for the school since 2006.

And it’s easy to see that Georgia will be a big part of the strategy moving forward. Harbaugh and his staff have offered 27 Georgia recruits in the class of 2018.

Four-star defensive tackle Aubrey Solomon, No. 63 in the 2017 ESPN 300, has been the biggest prize so far.

“Aubrey Solomon was a big, big name,” Sims said. “They’re from the country, Lee County is the country, so if you leave the country to go all the way up north, something must be up there.”

That’s where linebackers coach Chris Partridge comes in. He is tasked with recruiting the area.

“The main thing was that we want to be a national program, and we want to find the best kids all over the country,” Partridge said. “I went in and when I started recruiting the area, I realized that it’s a place where football is very important, they play the right way, and they’re extremely well coached. It’s a place that’s very conducive to what we’re looking for, and once we realized that and started seeing all the talent, we realized we needed to make a push.”

Partridge found himself in the Deep South trying to convince players to just visit and give the north a shot. Partridge felt if he could get some of the targets to see Ann Arbor and the campus, it would build some momentum.

That’s exactly what happened.

Solomon visited Michigan in June 2016 and promptly committed on his trip. He was accompanied by his teammate, ESPN Junior 300 prospect Otis Reese, who also committed to the Wolverines that day in June.

Those two commitments helped add to that momentum that was building in Georgia that Sims and other top juniors have latched onto.

Sims now has Michigan as one of his top schools. Sims credits Partridge for the effort and time he puts in around the area, but also mentions that Michigan’s satellite camps in the South were a catalyst for this newfound spark in Georgia.

“Nobody really sees Coach Harbaugh 24-7 around here, so when he came down from Michigan and interacted with all the kids, it opened eyes,” Sims said. “Everyone came away and thought he was a player’s coach and was just a good guy.”

That Harbaugh was on the field coaching as hard as every other coach in front of parents, high school coaches and important members of the community is what, according to Partridge, made last summer’s camp tour such a success.

“Whether there was a prospect there that we would recruit or not, we coached our butts off,” Partridge said. “I got so many comments about how hard Coach Harbaugh went and people saw who we really were. There were other coaches out there on their phones, didn’t get in on drills and people saw that.”

People also started to see more and more of Michigan and the coaches in Georgia. Building relationships with coaches, players and parents, the staff has put in a tremendous amount of time trying to break through and snag a few elite prospects.

Defensive back Chris Smith has Michigan among his top schools and says the amount of interaction he gets with the Michigan coaches is something that stands out.

“Now that Coach Harbaugh is at Michigan, a lot of people are talking about them down here,” Smith said. “I wasn’t even really thinking about Michigan like that until he and the rest of the staff started really recruiting me. Just the effort and time they spend on the kids and that they’re genuine, I think that all plays a part in it.”

With Harbaugh and Partridge as the main drivers, the momentum keeps building, and Michigan’s name is getting brought up more and more. The amount of talent in the state is reason enough to put in the amount of time Michigan has, and it all seems to be paying off.

“You have to be willing to work for it, because you’re not going to break into a place like [Georgia] if you’re not willing to put in the work,” Partridge said. “There’s a lot of legwork, and you’re trying to cultivate a whole area. I was a high school coach, so I try to do what I would’ve wanted college coaches to do to me and just make my presence as much as possible.”