Jim Harbaugh breaks down each player in Michigan football's 2022 recruiting class

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  • Michigan Wolverines
    Michigan Wolverines
    LiveTodayTomorrowvs--|
  • Jim Harbaugh
    Jim Harbaugh
    American football player and coach
  • Herschel Walker
    Herschel Walker
    American football player, running back, Heisman Trophy winner, College Football Hall of Fame member

Despite securing a remarkable recruiting class ranked No. 9 in the nation and headlined by a handful of highly rated players, Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh declined to speak with the media on the first day of the early signing period, and opted instead for the haven of an athletic department podcast.

Harbaugh dedicated more than 30 minutes to the school’s “In the Trenches” podcast with Jon Jansen on Wednesday evening, and broke down the entire 2022 recruiting class, player by player.

Here’s what Harbaugh had to say about the signees:

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Quarterbacks

On three-star QB Alex Orji: “Alex was committed to Virginia Tech. We had offered him, recruited him. He was solid with Virginia Tech. Their head coach got let go, and we just called him back up and said, ‘Hey, we’re here.’ We’re not going to twist anybody’s arm, but he decided to come up on an official visit. And that was the first time I met Alex and his family. It was love at first sight for me. Super excited that he’s coming here. Have seen him on tape a lot. He plays in the highest level of football in Texas. Rushed for 1,200 yards. You can watch the tape and say, ‘This guy is a great runner.’ I mean, a tremendous runner. If he had 400 yards, you’d say he’s a really good running quarterback. If he rushed for 600 yards, you’d say the same thing. But 1,200 yards? I mean, that is way, way up there for a quarterback. And don’t get the thought in your head that he can’t throw the ball. He throws it really, really well. But you can see why, when you meet him in person, I mean, I don’t know what he weighs. Not an ounce of fat on him, and it’s gotta be 235 (pounds), close to 240. It’s like looking at Herschel Walker playing quarterback, who can really throw the ball. Super excited about him."

Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh before action against the Ohio State Buckeyes, Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021, Michigan Stadium.
Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh before action against the Ohio State Buckeyes, Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021, Michigan Stadium.

On three-star QB Jayden Denegal: “Jayden Denegal is somebody that we had here on campus again. We were able to, in June, do the one-on-one evaluation where you can really watch him throw, go through all the routes, watch him drop back, really see his mechanics in person and really fell in love with him. (His father) Mark Denegal and I have become like long-lost friends, you know? Instant click there. He’s been raised great. Great head on his shoulders. Great stature as a quarterback. Lean and throws the ball extremely well. Pretty darn athletic. And it’s a great, great feeling to have two quarterbacks coming in the same class. We haven’t had that here in a very long time. It’s going to be fun to watch.”

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Running back

On three-star RB CJ Stokes: “Big, physical back. Very, very mature. Got shoulders that look like they’re two very good-sized boulders or volleyballs. Comes from a great program. Really well trained or really genetically gifted. Just looks great. Muscles everywhere. But also very, very fast. He’s going to be a physical-type back. Backs are a little harder to compare, you know, than other positions because they’ve all kind of got a unique style. But I think he’s going to be a real physical guy between the tackles, pass protection and all the things you want him to do. Really, really excited about CJ.”

Wide receivers

On four-star WR Darrius Clemons: “Think Nico Collins. If I could make a comparison for you right now, it would be Nico Collins. Tall, physical, great big catch radius. Runs all the routes well. Physical. He’s going to do it all.”

On four-star WR Tyler Morris: “Tyler Morris is very Roman Wilson-like. Very fast, elusive, shifty, playmaker. Not short by any means. Can do the reverses. Very, very shifty and really good.”

Ponchatoula receiver Amorion Walker (6) and safety Jacoby Mathews (2) pose for a photo after defeating Acadiana 43-26 in the Class 5A semifinals in Ponchatoula on  Dec. 3.
Ponchatoula receiver Amorion Walker (6) and safety Jacoby Mathews (2) pose for a photo after defeating Acadiana 43-26 in the Class 5A semifinals in Ponchatoula on Dec. 3.

On three-star WR Amorion Walker: “Amorion Walker, even taller. He’s even taller. Probably right around there with Darrius Clemons. And a 3.9 grade point average. Just had a really, really great connection with Amorion during the recruiting process. Very Andrel Anthony-like in build and catch radius. I would expect all three of these receivers to come into a receiver room that is already really good, really good and produce and be factors. The kind of guys that are high level. Not going to keep them on the bench very long. Tall in stature and big, with a wide catch radius. Something that’s going to be a real complement to our team right now.”

Tight ends

On four-star TE Colston Loveland: “I had a chance when I visited Colston, I got a little workout in myself, but he was in the weight room training and he does not look like a high school senior. He’s going to be a midyear and he’s going to come right in and look like he belongs with the juniors on the team and the seniors. Probably go in around 235 (pounds), 238, but you could easily see in the frame that he is going to be rocked-up 256-, 258-type of guy that will run really, really well. The V-shape, you know? Wide at the shoulders, narrows to the hips. As opposed to wide at the hips and narrow at the shoulders. You’ve got the V-shaped or you’ve got the pear-shaped kid. Colston Loveland is the V-shaped guy."

On three-star TE Marlin Klein: “Marlin Klein is from Germany. He’s been over here in the United States playing some football. Long, tall, fast. Marlin and Colston, everything that you’re looking for in tight ends. You know, 6-5, 6-6-ish. Well over 230, 240.”

Offensive line

On four-star OT Andrew Gentry: “Andrew Gentry is somebody that we recruited a couple years ago and he was top of the class. (Zak) Zinter, Gentry, Reece Atteberry, Jeff Persi, that class. And Gentry was, gosh, right there at the top. Real high four-star guy. About 6 feet 8 inches tall. Serious, serious length and big and strong. I know he’s well above 300 (pounds), like in the 310s, 315s, 320s — but doesn’t look like it, you know? There’s some guys that can be 320 pounds and look like, you know, a bowl of jello. This guy, it’s 320 pounds and it looks like it’s carved out of marble. So he’s a tremendous player. Just last week I was contacted by (his father) Todd Gentry. Andrew had been committed to Virginia and was doing his Mormon mission. The coach from Virginia resigned his position there (and his dad) said we were way up there, No. 2 when they committed to Virginia. So I got on a plane and was able to talk to the church and some of the elders, and he was granted a 90-minute visit. We had lunch, and he committed once that lunch was over. Talked to the parents there on Zoom. You know, one of those special things that doesn’t occur every recruiting cycle. But we are thrilled. I mean, we really thought he was something special. And now, after visiting with him 90 minutes, imagine the maturity, the selflessness of his mission and the way he’s matured is tremendous. He was already a pretty mature guy. Talk about smart, you wanna talk about smart? How’d you like to have a son who has a 4.5 grade point average, according to the NCAA? You’re talking anywhere in the country would love to have him just as a student. And I don’t want to say ‘just as’ because that sounds bad. A tremendous, tremendous student and a tremendous football player.”

On three-star OT Connor Jones: “Connor Jones was one of the first to commit in the class. The first time we visited was back in the Zoom days and the COVID days when you couldn’t come to practice, couldn’t come to visit on campus, so that’s how things started. And then when he did an official visit, he committed to Michigan. The family is a big Michigan family, all the way out in Colorado. Great, great family. Tall, long, just what you want your tackles to look like. He’s a heck of a good player and really good student. Talking about core GPA right there in the mid-3s. And you want your offensive linemen smart. If they’re not, they can get a quarterback or a running back killed.”

On three-star OT Alessandro Lorenzetti: “Out of Montreal and going to prep school in Connecticut right now, where he’s playing good football. Visited here in the summer. This was the only time that we’ve ever been able to do evaluations on 2022s. When everything happened this past summer, a blanket waiver was given by the NCAA where you could do a workout, a private workout. Alessandro came and knocked the socks off of Sherrone Moore, and then the recruiting process was really turned up with Alessandro. Great kid, great guy, great parents. Wasn’t able to do a home visit with Alessandro yet, and he’s not going to be a mid-year so I’ll be able to get up there in January when it’s not a dead period anymore. But yeah, get to go to Montreal. I’ve never been to Montreal.”

Secondary

Kumasi Kumasi, right, mother of Grosse Pointe South senior Will Johnson, left, who committed to play football at Michigan on Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021, at a ceremony held at the Parc restaurant at Campus Martius.
Kumasi Kumasi, right, mother of Grosse Pointe South senior Will Johnson, left, who committed to play football at Michigan on Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021, at a ceremony held at the Parc restaurant at Campus Martius.

On five-star CB Will Johnson: “Will Johnson, son of Deon Johnson who played here at the University of Michigan and was a heck of a good football player. Been recruiting Will since it seems like he was a freshman in high school. I think we probably offered him as a freshman, at least as a sophomore. He’s been fantastic, been one of our best recruiters. Michigan legacy. Everything you want in a corner in terms of length and movement skills, traits. Fantastic. And I’ll also say that Will, he’s the signature guy in the class. He’s a 99.00, five star — and he’s an even better guy. Can’t tell you how much he’s meant to us and this recruiting class. Everybody in the class wants to room with Will. Just a great guy. Will Johnson has really been the anchor to the entire class.”

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On four-star DB Keon Sabb: “One thing that really stands out, whether they’re a corner or whether they’re a safety is to be determined, but they’re all really athletic enough to be corners, or at least nickels. And when I say 'at least' I mean a nickel really kind of takes a good combination of a safety and a corner, covering slots but still being able to tackle in the box. And the corners are physical enough to be safeties and they move well enough to be corners and nickels. If you go through it, I mean, who is really better? Keon Sabb is a tremendous player.”

On four-star DB Kody Jones: “Kody Jones might be the best one, might be the most versatile corner, nickel, can play safety.”

On four-star S Zeke Berry: “Zeke Berry comes from a tremendous program. You talk about a guy that can play both offense and defense, has done that in high school. Real football player. Compare him a little bit to Rod Moore, who was the only freshman who played for us this year in the secondary and did a tremendous job.”

On three-star CB Myles Pollard: “I mean, just turn on the first play of his highlight tape, the very first one. He looks like Jack Tatum coming up there to hit somebody. The movement skills are really outstanding.”

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On three-star S Damani Dent: “He’s a guy I’ve really gotten so close to in the class. There’s guys you talk to every day. They text me or I text them every day. Damani has certainly been like that. ‘Hey, how’s your day? What are you doing today?’ Or they’re texting me, ‘What are you doing? How ya doing?’ Great personality, that’s Damani Dent. He’s kind of like looking in the mirror when you see the enthusiasm, the love of football. He just really, really stands out to me that way. But he is also going to be one of those (guys with) really good movement skills but is tough, tough as you’d ever want a defensive back to be. Loves to workout. He plays a game and then goes and works out. Call him up, ‘What are you doing?’ ‘Working out. About to go workout. Just finished a workout. Gonna get another one in this afternoon.’ He loves running the hills, these sand hills. I’ve got pictures of him (where) he’s passed out like, ‘Yeah Coach, I was just running the sand,’ and he’s got sand all over him. I just compare him to Erick All that way. Guys that you just know love football.”

Edge rusher

On four-star OLB Derrick Moore: “The experts rank him maybe the No. 1 or No. 2 edge guy in the country. He had committed to Oklahoma, and like Alex Orji, the coach was leaving. The same thing happened to Derrick Moore. Their coach went to USC. He felt that he wanted to look at his options. Come to find out, he really liked us and reached out. You can imagine we were thrilled. A great position of need. As well as Colston Loveland physically looks, or some of the other guys, Andrew Gentry, how far along they are, or Alex Orji, this is Derrick Moore. I mean, he walks through the door and you go, ‘He more than belongs.' Like he’s a junior, like he’s a senior in college already. Great physical gifts. Also a 3.0 student. Heck of a good kid. We were fortunate. That was a great get that we got right there and the end and couldn’t be happier.”

Defensive line

Kenneth Grant, DL, 6-4, 335, Merrillville, Ind.
Kenneth Grant, DL, 6-4, 335, Merrillville, Ind.

On three-star DT Kenneth Grant: “You say, gosh, I’ve got my favorite. That guy was my favorite, this guy was my favorite. Kenneth Grant was my favorite. I mean, there’s nobody I like more than Kenneth Grant. A ton of personality and not in a showoff way or anything. Just good, genuine, down-to-earth good guy. Always got a smile on his face. You talk about a position of need. Look at 6-4, over 300 pounds. A real nose tackle, a guy that can play the 3-technique or can play the 1-technique. Can be a pass rusher or can be somebody that pushes the pocket. Just a big, physical presence in the middle of the defense, something that Shaun Nua and Mike Macdonald really felt was important to our defensive scheme. We’ve got somebody now who is as big as Shaun Nua. It’s nice to see that our biggest guy isn’t the coach, you know? Really love him, really do.”

On three-star DE Mason Graham: “You’re always mining for gold. You’re always out there looking. And this year was probably one of the best examples of that where guys didn’t play a lot during their junior season or you weren’t aware of him or there wasn’t as much tape. You flick on the film of Mason Graham and you see this relentless motor. Then the next thing you really notice is, man, he’s playing offensive tackle, defensive end — which is he better at? I mean, he’s really a heck of a great defensive end. He’s so athletic and stout in there. Then you watch him play offensive tackle and you say, ‘He can be an offensive tackle, too.’ It was really like which do you want to play? Do you want to be a defensive end? Do you want to be an offensive tackle or offensive lineman? Because we’re really interested and we’ve got a spot for you right here in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He was somebody that came on the official visit and had a great visit here, really liked it and decided this is where he wanted to come to school. Really fired up about that. Another Southern California guy. The California-to-Michigan connection. It’s a pretty long and good one. Go back to Tom Brady or Jim Harbaugh, myself. I don’t think I’ve ever used myself in the third person until right there.”

Linebackers

On four-star ILB Jimmy Rolder: “Jimmy is an elite baseball player as well. I mean, Erik Bakich is going to get wind of that. I’m trying to encourage Jimmy to keep playing, play both sports. He’s really good at it. Think of a guy like — I’ll paint you the picture — Wisconsin linebackers like Leo Chenal or some of those guys that are thick, strong, stout, run-stopping guys that can really run as well. Jimmy is really athletic. He’s that tough, Big Ten middle linebacker that is going to be really good for us, you know?”

On three-star ILB Deuce Spurlock: “Deuce is exactly the same way. They’re darn-near carbon copies of each other. Deuce Spurlock and Jimmy, two for sure MIKE/WILLs. They’ll probably be in there next to each other. One a MIKE, one a WILL, inside linebackers. As Jack Harbaugh would say, ‘backer, backer, backbone crackers.’ That’s what we’re looking for with all three of those youngsters.”

On three-star ILB/OLB Micah Pollard: “The first one to commit. He visited here in the summer. Marcus Pollard, Micah’s dad, and I played together in Indianapolis. Marcus Pollard is one of the all-time great guys, great teammates. I’ll never forget the day we were playing the Dallas Cowboys, world champions, defending world champions, about the third game of the season, and I kick out a tight end screen to Marcus Pollard. Might have thrown the ball 13 yards to the side, you know? Then to watch him weave about 50-plus. About every guy on the Cowboy defense had a chance to tackle him, at least eight of them, and weaved his way through there. I’m sure that was his rookie year, too. Basketball player at Bradley. Didn’t really play college football. I don’t think Bradley had a team. Great guy. ... He’s a player personnel, player relations, player development for the Jacksonville Jaguars, so it kind of speaks volumes about the kind of guy he is and the kind of son he raised. Again, a little closer with the parents there. But Micah is a heck of a football player. Whether he’s going to be an edge linebacker or an inside-the-box MIKE/WILL remains to be seen. He’s got really good pass rush ability but he also has a nose for the football, which makes you think he could be a MIKE backer. And he’d be a stout one. He’d be a good 6-foot-3, 235, Big Ten linebacker-type of guy. We’ll see where it goes. Probably start him off on the edge because we’re going to need some help there, and he can certainly do it. So we’ll see. Going to be a very versatile guy in my opinion.”

Contact Michael Cohen at mcohen@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Cohen13.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan football's Jim Harbaugh breaks down 2022 recruiting class