Ranking the top three-star recruits of the Harbaugh era: 5-1 (2024)

Despite being one of the best programs in the country over the last decade, Michigan’s status as a recruiting power has been called into question by opposing fans for years. While it’s true Michigan might not have the recruiting chops of schools like Georgia, Alabama and Ohio State, the Wolverines have been able to develop their talent better than most other schools.

Michigan’s development and ability to find diamonds in the rough are proof that wins on signing day don’t always translate to wins on the field. As such, it’s no surprise there have been several three-star prospects that have made names for themselves in Ann Arbor in recent years.

Today, we’ll conclude our countdown of the top 10 three-star prospects from the Jim Harbaugh era. As a reminder, star ratings were pulled from the 247Sports composite rankings.

5. LB Michael Barrett (2018)

If you’re a “football guy,” Harbaugh and company will find a spot for you. That’s essentially what happened with Michael Barrett, a big and athletic recruit out of Georgia who played quarterback in high school. Barrett was converted to linebacker upon his arrival to Ann Arbor and went from an under-the-radar recruit to the winningest player in the history of the program.

Barrett played sparingly as a freshman before getting some experience on special teams during the 2019 season. He started all six of Michigan’s games in 2020 at the viper position, the last Michigan player to do so. He was one of the players that stayed with Michigan after 2020 and emerged as a leader, helping pave the way for Michigan’s recent run of success.

Barrett started 28 games the last two seasons, earning third-team All-Big Ten honors from the coaches both years. He also served as a team captain during the 2023 season as a sixth-year player. Barrett was selected by the Carolina Panthers in the seventh round of the 2024 NFL Draft.

4. LB Khaleke Hudson (2016)

Under Don Brown, the viper position was designated specifically for Jabrill Peppers, a freak athlete capable of playing a linebacker/safety hybrid role. When Peppers left after a dominant 2016 season, it was up to Khaleke Hudson to fill the role, and he far exceeded expectations.

In his first season as a starter in 2017, Hudson registered 83 total tackles including 18.5 (yes, 18.5) for loss with two interceptions. Fans might remember his breakout game against Minnesota, where he lived in the Gopher backfield and was credited with 7.5 tackles for a loss, tying an NCAA record.

Fun fact about Khaleke Hudson:

He tallied a @UMichFootball record 7.5 TFLs in a 2017 win vs. Minnesota. @KhalekeHudson | @Redskins | @NFL pic.twitter.com/OrgdeaDap1

— Michigan On BTN (@MichiganOnBTN) April 25, 2020

Hudson took home All-Big Ten honors three times, including a second-team selection from the coaches in 2019. His success were good enough to get him selected by Washington in the fifth round of the 2020 NFL Draft.

3. DT Kris Jenkins (2020)

The son of a former NFL defensive tackle, Kris Jenkins was the second lowest rated recruit in Michigan’s 2020 class. Despite that low rating, things worked out great for him, who showed what he could do on the field the last three years.

Jenkins played a rotational role as a sophom*ore in 2021, but really broke out in 2022 as a starter in all 14 of Michigan’s games. He made 54 tackles, including 3.5 for a loss, en route to All-Big Ten honorable mentions. His followed that up in 2023 with second-team All-Big Ten honors from the coaches and third-team honors from the media.

Nicknamed, “The Mutant,” Jenkins checked in at No. 6 on Bruce Feldman’s Freaks List, an indication of the rare combination of size and athleticism that he brings to the table. Those traits and his development as a run-stuffer are some of the primary reasons why he was selected in the second round of the 2024 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals.

2. WR Ronnie Bell (2018)

From 2015-2023, Michigan only signed one non-specialist with a lower composite ranking than Ronnie Bell. Who would’ve thought that in receiver rooms that featured the likes of Donovan Peoples-Jones, Nico Collins and Roman Wilson, it would be Bell that had the most productive career of any Michigan receiver in recent memory?

Bell immediately showed he was more than just a depth piece, as he registered 145 receiving yards as a freshman. He would go on to compile 1,159 yards between 2019-20, but a torn ACL in Week 1 derailed his senior season before it even really started.

Bell rebounded tremendously as a fifth-year senior in 2022, recording 62 receptions for 889 yards and four touchdowns. He was Michigan’s WR1 and earned a consensus third-team All-Big Ten selection. He was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the 2023 NFL Draft and caught two touchdowns as a rookie.

What a throw! What a touchdown! @jjmccarthy09 x @Ronnieb_8 x @UMichFootball pic.twitter.com/8hm0WL8pZI

— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) December 4, 2022

1. DB Mike Sainristil (2019)

It’s unlikely you could find a better development story in Michigan’s history than Mike Sainristil’s. Not only did he develop into a solid contributor as a receiver out of high school, he switched to defense before his senior year and evolved into one of the best defensive backs in the country seemingly overnight.

Over his first three seasons as a receiver, Sainristil had 539 yards and five touchdowns, including some highlight reel catches against Nebraska and Maryland in 2021. He then started 26 games at nickel in 2022 and 2023, hauling in seven interceptions.

Sainristil also made some massive plays in coverage, including a pass breakup in the end zone against Ohio State in 2022 and a game-sealing interception in the National Championship.

Need to that one again!!!!@MikeSainristil coming up HUGE for @UMichFootball pic.twitter.com/FOVMLgDNnI

— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) November 26, 2022

Sainristil’s leadership might be his defining quality, though, as he served as a team captain the last two seasons. He was the heartbeat of the defense, especially in 2023, and leaves behind a legacy that will be hard to beat. Sainristil without a doubt finished his career as a Michigan legend even though very few might have predicted it way back in 2019.

Ranking the top three-star recruits of the Harbaugh era: 5-1 (2024)
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