Michigan got the news it was waiting for during Day 1 of the NCAA’s Early Signing Period – its brand-new, shiny 5-star QB JJ McCarthy (cover photo) signed his National Letter of Intent – as if there were any doubt on that front – but there was another signee that really bolstered the Wolverines’ No. 9-ranked 2021 class: 4-star WR Xavier Worthy.

Months ago, Worthy – a 6-foot-1, 160-pound speedster – let his feelings be known about UM. He couldn’t wait to enroll early. He loved the staff. He loved the campus.

Then he entertained Alabama — visiting during the Iron Bowl — and caused a bit of a rift among a starving fanbase. But lo and behold, the No. 12 WR of his class – and No. 76 player overall – reaffirmed his commitment to coach Jim Harbaugh’s Wolverines by signing Wednesday afternoon.

With that said, it was no secret that Worthy’s status would likely be a reflection of Harbaugh’s status at Michigan. He signs, Harbaugh is staying. He doesn’t sign, Harbaugh must be on the move.

On Monday, 20 players – 21 if counting Louisiana Tech transfer Willie Allen, an OL – officially signed with the Wolverines, who finished the season 2-4 after cancelling their final 3 games due to COVID-19 concerns.

No bowl game, but it’s game on for Michigan – there’s nothing but the future ahead for a program that desperately needs a push in a new direction entering Year 7 of Harbaugh’s tenure in Ann Arbor.

The early period was supposed to be much more dramatic this year for Michigan. But, in reality, it was about as smooth as it could get — especially given the way the season ended for the Wolverines.

Flips

Brandon Jennings, a 4-star LB, originally committed to Michigan but bolted for Maryland on Wednesday. Most saw that move coming over the horizon, so it’s not exactly a major surprise. In reality, losing out on a 4-star LB was probably better than losing out on Worthy, a 4-star WR who projects to be a contributor early in his career at Michigan.

Quintin Sommerville was once believed to be a shoo-in for the Wolverines to land during this cycle. However, the 4-star DE out of Arizona chose to stay on the West Coast, choosing UCLA over Michigan on Wednesday. Again, his change-of-mind wasn’t an alarming surprise. Recruiting experts had been projecting Sommerville to pick UCLA for weeks.

Considering the circumstances at Michigan, it was a bit of a shock to see only a pair of commits change their minds. Michigan class ranks No. 12 in the nation, down 3 spots from a couple days ago, and still second best in the Big Ten.

Surprises

In-state surprises were a theme of the day for the Wolverines, who landed a pair of The Great Lakes State’s top preps in 3-star WR Andrel Anthony of East Lansing and 4-star RB Donovan Edwards of West Bloomfield.

Just one week ago, Rico Beard of 97.1 in Detroit suggested that Anthony would back out of his commitment to the Wolverines. Maybe he would reconsider and stay home and choose Michigan State? Maybe he would look elsewhere? Beard was pretty set on the idea of Anthony not being a lock for Michigan.

Despite the in-state connection between his high school coach Ron Bellamy and the Wolverines, Edwards was thought to be entertaining the idea of heading to Georgia. In the end, the 5-11, 190-pound RB picked Michigan for various reasons – one being the proximity to his home, which is just about 40 minutes from UM’s campus in Ann Arbor.

The No. 4 RB of 2021, Edwards brings a bit of excitement in terms of RB recruiting. The Wolverines have secured a fair share of high-end RBs during the past decade – but none really lived up to the hype and/or potential.

See Derrick Green, the No. 4 RB of the 2013 class, for further reference.

Who’s left

They signed all their big dogs – grabbing all 5 top-100 players on Day 1 of the early period. The Wolverines got late word on 4-star LB Jaydon Hood out of the famed St. Thomas Aquinas in Florida, who signed his NLI just past 8 pm ET.

So, with that said, nobody is left. Harbaugh got all his men, with the exception of the two flips mentioned earlier.

Again, this early cycle was supposed to keep folks on pins and needles. Worthy wasn’t supposed to sign. Edwards was eying Georgia, or so it was said.

The 2021 early period was smooth sailing for Harbaugh, minus a couple of minor waves.

Conclusion

Signing McCarthy, the No. 2 QB of his class; Edwards, the No. 4 RB; Worthy, the No. 12 WR, and Giovanni El-Hadi, the No. 12 OT, gives Harbaugh 4 top-100 recruits in the same class for the first time in 2 years. Considering what he’s up against in the Big Ten, and at the national level, Harbaugh should be raking in at least 4 or 5, or more, top-100 high school stars.

In 2019, Michigan landed a trio of top-100 players: Daxton Hill, the No. 1 safety and No. 14 overall prospect; Chris Hinton, the No. 4 DT and No. 31 overall; and Zach Charbonnet, the No. 4 RB and No. 46 overall. Mazi Smith, the No. 11 DT, was No. 105 overall.

In 2017, Harbaugh signed 6 top-100 players, highlighted by WR Donovan Peoples-Jones, now with the Cleveland Browns. In 2016, he landed the No. 1 overall player of the class, DT Rashan Gary — but the likes of OL Ben Bredeson and CB David Long certainly weren’t just add-ons in terms of “other” top-100 talents.

The 2021 class might be Harbaugh’s most well-rounded on the offensive side of the ball. Of course, he’s also seen a lot of top recruits end up transferring.

Do star-rankings really matter that much in Ann Arbor? Some of Michigan’s best Harbaugh-era players have been mid-range prospects. Does LB Devin Bush Jr. ring a bell? What about DL Carlo Kemp or CB Lavert Hill? They were touted prospects, sure, but they were widely rated as 3-star prospects coming out of high school.

Michigan has new names and fancy rankings in this class. What they end up doing in Ann Arbor is largely up to the coaching staff, though.