Michigan's 2013 recruiting class ranked fifth in the country not only because of the hard efforts of the Wolverines' coaching staff (though they were far and away the biggest factor), but also because of the efforts of Michigan's early commitments to bring other talented players into the fold.
If David Dawson doesn't build a close friendship with Derrick Green, there's a good chance the only five-star in Michigan's class ends up signing elsewhere. Similarly, although his plan to lure elite wideout Laquon Treadwell didn't pay off in the end, Shane Morris played a huge part in convincing several of Michigan's pledges to build something special in Ann Arbor.
The 2014 class plans to take a similar approach, but kick it into overdrive. Richmond (Va.) Collegiate School quarterback Wilton Speight has already hit the recruiting trail reaching out to a number of top prospects.
"Drake Harris, I've been texting a lot he's a really, really good guy," Speight said. "Juju Smith is another. He plays wide receiver and DB so I'm not sure, but there's a guy named Adoree' Jackson. Jabrill Peppers I have talked a little bit and then a running back - a big time running back - that I've been working on a lot is Joe Mixon."
One of Speight's future teammates has taken things to the next level. St. Clairsville (Ohio) linebacker Michael Ferns vowed to be a heavy recruiter as soon as he committed to the Wolverines Aug. 9, but the effort and coordination is more than ever before.
A campaign titled "Project 135" involves printing up a number of T-shirts - and making them exclusively available to players that pledge to Michigan.
"We're trying to put together the best class possible for 2014," Ferns said. "Every time someone commits, I'll send one of these nice blue shirts out. Then, as commits wear the shirts to events, we'll get the attention of other potential recruits who may not have been looking towards Michigan at first.
"Plus, the shirts also signify how proud we are to be a part of Michigan."
While recruits-as-recruiters is no new concept, never before has their been such a coordinated effort.
Project 135 will have a strong opportunity to kick into another gear next weekend. Both Speight and Ferns will be visiting Ann Arbor - no doubt clad in their exclusive t-shirts - while a number of other potential future Wolverines are on campus. If They have their way, you can expect more shirts to be worn out of town than are worn into it…