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Recruiting Game: Coaches always have tricks up their sleeves

JIM HARBAUGH’S GREATEST HITS

Out of his tree — While playing a game of catch with four-star recruit David Long and his siblings during a January in-home visit, Harbaugh tried to climb a tree in response to a challenge by Long’s little sister.

“He was just trying to fulfill her request,” Long said. “He ended up putting my little brother up instead, because he never actually made it up.”

Harbaugh might be out of his tree, but Long is a fan. The cornerback signed with the Wolverines.

Bunk beds — Harbaugh had two sleepovers with recruits, arriving at their homes at 12:01 a.m. to maximize his time with them.

“He told me if I had a 6-foot-3-inch piece of carpet for him to sleep on, that would be enough,” said Quinn Nordin, the nation’s top-rated prep kicker. “He said we can watch a movie, see how well we jell, and he said he would sleep over after that. I was in tears laughing when he said that.”

Harbaugh ended up sleeping in Nordin’s sister’s room. She wasn’t there. They must have jelled well because Nordin decommitted from Penn State and committed to Michigan.

Harbaugh also had a sleepover with four-star defensive lineman Connor Murphy, who tweeted, “It was a Netflix & Chill kind of night.”

Said Murphy: “We ate some banana bread and drank some ice cold milk. That’s his favorite, two-percent milk, so we made sure to give him a whole gallon of that.”

Harbaugh should have shared his milk, as Murphy committed to Southern California, but the coach is batting a solid .500 on sleepovers.

Sign of the times — Harbaugh enlisted the help of Tom Brady, Derek Jeter, Ric Flair and an assortment of other celebrities in a two-hour “Signing With the Stars” event to introduce Michigan’s highest-rated recruiting class, ranked sixth by ESPN, in more than a decade.

The surreal show was live-streamed by Jeter’s The Players’ Tribune website. Jeter was one of several celebrities who went onstage to introduce the signees, and actors Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn made cameos via videos.

Said Brady: “Our biggest recruiting day was last year, when we got coach Harbaugh back.”

HELICOPTER COACHES

Texas A&M football coach Kevin Sumlin has literally swooped in to snag recruits using a helicopter provided by a booster that has been dubbed the Swagcopter.

Sumlin started using the Swagcopter — which has a zebra-striped paint job and is adorned with a Texas A&M logo — in 2013, when ESPN showed it circling the field at a nationally televised high school game in Houston. Sumlin was shown on the sidelines moments later and ended up signing the two players he was recruiting.

“It seems to be working, because the helicopter is undefeated when it comes to signings and commitments,” Sumlin said jokingly.

Georgia coach Kirby Smart, Missouri coach Gary Pinkel and coaches from several other programs also have used helicopters on the recruiting trail.

SHOW ME THE MONEY

While college football programs aren’t allowed to give cash to recruits, there’s no rule against reminding them how much money their alumni have made. In 2013, Alabama coach Nick Saban tried to lure recruits with a poster of NFL checks made out to the Crimson Tide’s nine draft picks that year worth a combined $51.8 million.

LOVE LETTERS

Apparently, some colleges have been slow to catch on to the whole “Going Green” thing, as several of them have tried to woo recruits by sending them hundreds of letters in one day.

Alabama coach Nick Saban sent running back Alvin Kamara 105 letters in one day in 2012, and each one had a different message or selling point. Kamara committed to the Crimson Tide, but transferred after one season.

Kentucky sent recruit Draw Barker 115 letters in one day, but that pales in comparison to Notre Dame, which in 2013 sent out 477 letters, including handwritten ones, to each recruit — one for each Fighting Irish player drafted by the NFL.

POT OF GOLD

Notre Dame’s letter-mailing campaign was one of the “Pot of Gold” packages it has sent to recruits the past few years. In 2015, it sent each prospect 244 gold coins bearing different messages and statistics, and this year the school sent 24 faux scratch-off lottery tickets that revealed various messages and pictures personalized to each recruit.

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0354. Follow him on Twitter: @tdewey33.

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