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Yes, Winovich’s ‘mirage’ comments were aimed at a 5-star recruit


ATLANTA — Earlier this month, Michigan defensive end Chase Winovich received plenty of criticism for calling the Wolverines’ loss to Ohio State a “mirage.” The Buckeyes official team account trolled him, as did rival players both in college and the pros. Even Wolverines faithful rolled their eyes.

Suffering another blowout loss in Atlanta — a 41-15 drubbing to Florida — did nothing to help matters. But Winovich didn’t mind.

In fact, the fifth-year senior even admitted that his comments were only directed toward one person. He didn’t say whom, but it doesn’t take much research to figure out it was five-star 2019 safety prospect Daxton Hill.

“I got a lot of flack a couple weeks ago because I said we’re building a powerhouse, and I used some heavy words,” Winovich said of his comments. “And my motivation behind that was to get a recruit who de-committed to come back. So it worked.”

Of course, the timing more or less gave Winovich’s intentions away. After being a Michigan commitment for two months, Hill — rated as the nation’s eighth-best recruit in the 2019 class and top safety — flipped to Alabama the evening of Saturday, Dec. 8.

The very next morning, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh met exclusively with ESPN Insider Adam Schefter, telling him that rumors of him returning to coach the NFL were “a choreographed message that comes up at this time every year before signing day,” and that he was “on record right here, right now: I’m not going anywhere. I’m staying at Michigan. We have big plans here, and there’s a lot we want to accomplish.”

Later that day, Harbaugh and Michigan Athletic Director Warde Manuel continued to emphasize that Harbaugh had no desire to leave for NFL. Then, Winovich took his turn trying to right the ship, answering a question bout the direction of the program in the same press conference.

“I would say to any recruit or any potential guy who sees what happened in the Ohio State game and is persuaded against coming to Michigan because of that, I would say that alone is a mirage,” he said at the time. “And you should not be fooled. What we’ve built here and what we’ll continue to build is a powerhouse. That’s the Michigan I’m leaving. A Michigan that’s competitive in its trajectory.”

Whatever it took, the Wolverines were able to get in Hill’s good graces again, as he flipped back to Michigan Dec. 19 and signed with the Wolverines the morning of Early National Signing Day.

But Michigan’s good vibes were short-lived, as they fell to Florida in Mercedes-Benz Stadium and likely fell out of the top 10. Still, Winovich, who played the game as a captain and finished with seven tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss, stood by his comments.

“I meant what I said though,” Winovich said Saturday. “We’re building a great team, and this thing takes time. In hindsight, coming to Michigan, I may have underestimated the amount of time it would take to get over that hump, because we’ve been chasing this for quite some time. We’re close, and we’re clawing at it. It’s a tough business. If you win half your games, you’re going to get fired if you do that long enough at most programs. It’s a cutthroat world, and everybody wants to be at the top. Only so many programs can do that.”

Michigan’s loss to Ohio State wasn’t a mirage, and even Winovich would likely admit that. But the fifth-year senior also likes the direction the program is heading in, and he won’t back down from that.

“I don’t know what the future entails, but I know we’ve got a great group of guys who are on the team and a great coaching staff who aren’t going to give up on their players,” Winovich said. “I was lucky and blessed to be a part of that.”

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