Michigan makes mark with recruits at IMG Academy

After Michigan concluded its final spring practice at IMG Academy in Florida Friday night in front of nearly 5,000 Wolverines fans, the immediate question was what potential recruiting impact would there be for the Wolverines.

For those prospects that have already made unofficial visits to Ann Arbor, the effect is minimal since the Michigan staff could not have contact with IMG Academy players like offensive guard target Robert Hainsey.

“There was only one open practice we could attend,” said Hainsey. “It was cool to see them practice though. It wasn’t surreal or anything like that because we are always working out with guys getting ready for the NFL Combine and draft, so we are used to seeing college guys around here. Honestly, I think it would have been more impactful if we could have talked to the staff, but we had no contact. Since I had been up there before, I already knew about the program and the coaches.”

For ESPN Junior 300 center Cesar Ruiz, the chance to watch the Michigan staff run a practice was big.

“It was basically the same as here at IMG, but four hours instead of two hours. That was great to see.”

For the New Jersey native, a state that Michigan has targeted and enjoyed great success under Harbaugh, the Wolverines were already high on his list and couldn’t gain much more without the ability to have contact.

Where the Michigan practices had much more of an impact was with prospects that have never been to Ann Arbor to see the program up close. That is especially true Dylan Moses, the Class of 2017’s No. 1 player.

“Just for me to be able to see Michigan practice, it was meaningful,” said Moses. “Since I haven’t been up to Michigan, for me to see them practice personally helps [Michigan]. … When I watched the practice, I saw the determination that they have, and played with throughout the season. To see that, it did help them with me.”

Michigan wisely struck while the iron is hot extending an offer on Monday to Moses, who has Alabama at the top of his list after decommitting from LSU in August of 2015.

“I love it. I have wanted an offer from Michigan for so long. Since coach Harbaugh got there, you can see the impact he will have. They went 10-3 last year, and will do great things.”

IMG Academy not only has some of the nation’s top uncommitted prospects, but also some of the best that have already given a verbal commitment. Two of the players already committed are Ohio State pledges Isaiah Pryor and Ohio native Marcus Williamson. For Williamson, it was tough not to wear the Buckeyes gear last week.

“I know a lot of the guys were impressed with the practice,” Williamson said. “It was tempting to wear my OSU gear every day the days they (Michigan) were here. Even though I’m committed to Ohio State, it was cool to see a Big Ten team come down here and practice though.”

A final element to Michigan practicing at IMG Academy last week was the Michigan players. The buzz around the practices extended throughout the state.

“If I’m an athlete from Florida and don’t necessarily have the funds to get up to Michigan,” Michigan DT Maurice Hurst said. “I think it’s a great way to see how the atmosphere, how the team is bonding and how a team runs their practices. Because I know there are a lot of people that can’t afford to make the trip up before an official, it’s something great that really gives players the chance to see Michigan for the first time.”