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Jim Harbaugh's Michigan recruiting pipeline to the South has dried up

As soon as Jim Harbaugh became the Michigan football coach, he planned an invasion.

His mission was to infiltrate the South and pilfer some of the region’s best players. It was a bold strategy that riled up the denizens of SEC country who viewed Harbaugh’s campaign as an act of northern aggression.

But for a time, it was successful.

Less than six weeks after arriving in Ann Arbor, Harbaugh landed a defensive back, Keith Washington, who grew up just outside Montgomery, Alabama. The following year, Harbaugh reeled in players from four Southern states. In the ensuing cycle, he continued to make headway below the Mason-Dixon line – pulling in multiple signees who played high school football in Georgia, Florida and Alabama.

But as a new decade approached, the flow of prospects from the South to Michigan began to slow.

As the finishing touches were put on the 2020 class Wednesday, the Wolverines’ next crop of prospects included just one player raised in the backyard of the SEC – four-star defensive end Jaylen Harrell of Tampa (Florida) Berkeley Prep.

It’s the latest indication that Michigan and Harbaugh have retreated from the sport’s heartland.

“I don’t see them being as visible as they once were,” said former Prattville (Alabama) High School coach Chad Anderson.

Not too long ago, Anderson would have found that hard to believe.

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh used to conduct satellite football camps in the South.

‘Saban isn’t real happy about this’

Five years ago, Harbaugh stormed back into the world of college football and zeroed in on Alabama, where the Crimson Tide and Auburn Tigers won seven of nine national championships from 2009-2017.

In the central part of Dixie, Harbaugh aimed to disrupt the natural order of things. An invitation to speak at the Autauga Education Foundation’s A-Plus banquet dinner in Prattville, Alabama, provided him the opportunity. As a chance to secure his commitment, Harbaugh was offered a round at a local course on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail.

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