(Michael Buffer voice): Let’s get ready to rrruuummmbbbllleee!

It’s that time of year again, folks — you know, when college football fans salivate over the next great program icon.

It’s a big week for every program (and fanbase) in the nation, but it’s an especially important Early Signing Period for Michigan. The seemingly up-in-the-air status of coach Jim Harbaugh will certainly influence the amount of early signees. With that said,  this Wednesday, Thursday and Friday will shape the immediate future of a program that just had its first winless season at home in team history.

It’s been bad news all around this year for UM, which has a 2-4 record entering the season’s final showdown Saturday with Iowa. Due to COVID-19 precautions, the Wolverines haven’t played their past two scheduled opponents: Maryland and Ohio State (did you hear about the OSU cancellation?!).

But here is some great news for those who live and die with UM each Saturday (and every other day): Quarterback J.J. McCarthy is all-in for the Maize and Blue. He’s yours. Locked and loaded — and almost signed, sealed and delivered.

He’s undoubtedly the cornerstone of the No. 9 class in the nation — No. 2 in the Big Ten, behind … you guessed it … the Ohio State Buckeyes — and the potential future of football in Ann Arbor. He’s a leader. He’s charismatic. He’s athletic and intelligent.

Ready to go yesterday, he simply cannot wait to take the field in his winged helmet and help revive an ailing program.

Yeah, he’s pretty excited about the opportunity.

During a recent interview with Saturday Tradition, the 6-foot-1, 205-pound, 5-star golden child out of IMG Academy in Florida reaffirmed his commitment to the Wolverines. Amidst all the rumors surrounding the status of coach Jim Harbaugh, he felt the need to emphasize his choice — regardless of who coaches the team in 2021 and beyond.

That’s another story in itself, but it certainly plays into recruiting. Some players commit to a program, like McCarthy. Some commit to a particular coach; it’ll be interesting to see if the Harbaugh speculation impacts other commits down the line.

The highest-ranked players typically provide the most action during the Early Signing Period (Dec. 16-18). However, commits have until February to really finalize their priorities and sign their NLIs. Needless to say, this early period was a positive for the Wolverines, who’ve had 3 top-10 classes, nationally, under Harbaugh — they peaked at No. 8 overall and No. 1 in the Big Ten during the 2019 cycle.

More will be known when the early period starts. But right now, here’s what to look for as the Wolverines inch closer to locking down one of their best classes during the past 6 years.

By the numbers

B1G rank: 2
National rank: 9
5-stars: 1
4-stars: 11
3-stars: 9

Top player: JJ McCarthy, 5-star QB

McCarthy is the type of guy any program would want to lead the way and set an example for other recruits. Culture is a big thing in athletics, and former Ohio State coach Urban Meyer — now an analyst for Fox — suggested this past Saturday that Michigan needs to “blow it up,” meaning it’s time to really take a hard look at the internal mindset of the program.

If there is one player who can lead that charge, it’s McCarthy, a confident leader and uber-talented quarterback.

“I believe I was just kind of born with it, just with the sports I’ve played and the position and the experiences that I’ve went through,” McCarthy said. “Playing quarterback – you are – you’re supposed to be the leader, and it’s the job you take when you say you’re going to be playing quarterback. When I made the decision to play the position that I love, I was signing up for the role that was needed to win games; the role Michael Jordan played. Kobe. Tom Brady. Russell Wilson. Pretty much every leader out there. I would consistently and constantly study them and study their mindsets …”

Transferring from Nazareth Academy in Illinois to IMG in Florida expedited the maturation process, McCarthy said. While with the No. 1 high school program in the country, the highly touted QB learned what it truly means to be the foundation of a team.

“I want to be the guy that everyone can count on, you know what I mean? I want to be the guy who is always consistently going to be working his butt off and always consistently in the film room,” he said.  “I want to be that guy, because that’s just naturally who I am.”

As the top-ranked player of UM’s 2021 class — No. 22 overall — and one of the highest-ranked QBs UM has ever courted, McCarthy will certainly be levied with huge amounts of responsibility and expectations. Initially, the McCarthy hype sounded like just that — it was hype. But a deeper look revealed that McCarthy is about as ready as anyone his age; he’s beyond his years, really.

Michigan fans will get their wish this week when McCarthy officially says “I do” to the Wolverines. He’s yours. He’ll probably be the first one to sign his NLI.

The in-state steal

There was a time when Andrel Anthony, a 3-star recruit out of East Lansing, was viewed as a hard Michigan State-lean. … Then, in July 2020, he pledged to the Wolverines, surprising those who follow recruiting and mirroring what former East Lansing basketball star Brandon Johns did two years ago — going against the grain by heading to Ann Arbor instead of staying home.

Anthony, a 6-2, 175-pound receiver, had 27 offers, most notably from the likes of Notre Dame, Penn State and Wisconsin. With that said, the 3-star’s recruitment always seemed like a 2-way race between the Wolverines and Spartans.

Harbaugh’s team won that race, obviously.

With a trio of top-100 rated WRs entering the fold, Michigan has secured a great haul of future pass-catchers. They’re all quick, they’re all elusive and they all seem tailormade for offensive coordinator Josh Gattis’ ‘Speed in Space’ approach — an approach that hasn’t quite took hold in Ann Arbor, but one that should yield some success with further development.

Anthony was all-UM, clearly, after committing. But again, Harbaugh’s status at Michigan may cause a delay in Anthony’s signing. This idea can be applied to several recruits, but especially with this next one …

Is UM worthy?

The second-highest-ranked WR commit — position-ranking-wise — of the Harbaugh era at Michigan, Xavier Worthy has always been a major target for the Wolverines. Top priority. A must-get.

Back in the summer, he told Sam Webb of the Michigan Insider that he’s eagerly anticipating his arrival to Ann Arbor. UM fans rejoiced at the clear and deliberate declaration.

He was in the bag.

However, a recent visit caused a bit of ruckus among the UM fanbase. Alabama has been hot on Worthy’s tail during the process, so the fact that he chose to check in with the Crimson Tide — despite earlier saying he wanted to enroll early at UM — was cause for slight concern. The status of Harbaugh is also an influencer in this whole scenario.

And, of course, there was this tweet from Worthy’s mom that set off some commotion.

Was it a sign all along? He seems to be running toward Alabama in the photo, rather than toward Michigan. A true speedster, Worthy has clocked a 10.55-second 100-meter dash, making him among the fastest Michigan prospects in recent memory.

Will he quickly break hearts this week and go to Nick Saban at Alabama? That’ll be a major storyline to monitor. If he doesn’t sign Wednesday, logic suggests that there’s a good chance he’ll reconsider his decision to attend Michigan.

Class notes

Per the usual, Michigan has stacked up some pretty good athletes in its current recruiting class. Detroit Cass Tech superstar Raheem Anderson is an intriguing prospect. Listed as a center, the 6-3, 298-pounder has an adaptable frame suited for multiple positions along the offensive line.

Cass Tech has been good to the Wolverines for years, and it’s served as one of Harbaugh’s top recruiting wells for the past 6 cycles. Former star CB Jourdan Lewis, WR Donovan Peoples-Jones, DB Delano Hill — the list goes goes back much further, actually. Since the 1970s, Cass Tech has sent talent after talent to Ann Arbor.

Anderson, a 4-star prospect, is the No. 3 center in the nation, per 247Sports. He’s played guard as well, so don’t rule out a potential position change once he hits college. By all indications, he’ll sign this week as well.

At nearly 6-8 and a solid 300 pounds, Willie Allen will be immediately eligible to play in 2021 for Michigan. Previously at Louisiana Tech, the former 3-star prep out of New Orleans seems like a logical candidate for a starting OT job next season.

Michigan has 21 players committed to its 2021 class. Add on Allen, and the Wolverines have a 22-man haul ready to make a splash in Ann Arbor. To view the entire list, check out the roster on 247Sports. If you like to connect the dots, this week will be the week to piece together a valid theory on Harbaugh’s return to Michigan.