This is a story about the impressive and competitive depth of Michigan’s newest recruiting class, including position groups we won nationally, and how they stack up to an overall record of 12-3-2 for the recruiting year.
Every year there is a nationwide homage paid to the players who have fought hard to obtain 5-star status, as well as those who came close to making it to the top 0.01% but missed out on that final star and are left in the lowly top 0.05% of graduating high-school football players. I do not wish to denigrate their hard work, and extensive time spent travelling and taking on all comers. These dudes are beasts (5-stars, 4-stars, and 3-stars alike.)
An alternative view of recruiting success for a given team would be to analyze the zero-sum addition of players by position. Every position has its own top-24 or 48 or 96 – with the value of a top 96 WR being different than the value of a top 96 Kicker based upon the number of WRs and Ks being competed for on an annual basis by the top schools. With whom are we playing this zero-sum game? I would suggest that we are playing against the top 24 most-prestigious Universities in the football nation. (You may select your own top 24 teams by prestige – we’ll probably all wind up with similar lists.)
The next assumption is that each team is attempting to recruit a perfectly balanced class each year. Granted, this is an imperfect assumption – impacted heavily by injuries to position groups on each team, strength of position groups on each team, recruiting busts from prior classes, shifting strength of position groups coming out of high-school, coaching offense/defense strategies, etc. However, across the 24 highest-profile teams there should end up being some standardization to these granular imperfections on the curve. For each team seeking no TE, there is probably a team seeking four TE; for those teams seeking 6 WR, there is a balance of teams seeking 2WR.
I presume the perfect class, as averaged across the spectrum of the Top-24 teams, to include:
4WR, 2TE, 2OT, 2 OG, 0.75 C, 1 QB, 1.5 RB, 0.75FB, 0.5 APB
2 CB, 2 S, 2 ILB, 2OLB, 1 SDE, 2 DT, 1 WDE
0.5 K/P, Some number of LS
(Mix and match your own numbers at each position, multiply the total numbers by 4 to acquire the number of scholarships utilized on the complete team over 4 years)
Taking the above number of players at each position every year would yield a team of 108 scholarships over a 4-year period – far above the 85 allowed. It is impressive to consider the purposeful impact of coaching schemes on Offense/Defense, reaction to attrition vs strength of the position over time, and necessary impact of dual-threat players/flexible linemen on these numbers.
With 24 teams, seeking the above average number of players at each position, the zero-sum game becomes: 24 teams competing for the top 96 WR. 24 teams competing for the top 48 TE. 24 teams competing for the top 48 OT and 48 OG. 18 of the 24 teams competing for the top 18 centers. Repeat this down the line utilizing mathgebra.
What does this mean? Stars be damned, every prestigious team is competing for overlapping contingents of the top 96 WR. Getting a recruit from the top of each 24-person strata (i.e. #1 and #25 from a group of 48 being competed for) is a win over getting several recruits from a lower strata (i.e. #25 and #48.) Moreover, taking above your lot from any one position is limiting the lot available for another team from the Top-24 (let alone when a pesky non-power 5 team snags a top-rated recruit.) Think about the year that Hoke signed 5 of the top 24 LBs (among 96 total being competed for) - that left 19 upper-echelon LBs to be split among the other 23 prestigious teams… the laws of space and time dictates that multiple prestigious schools missed out on a top-24 LB. Hoke won big, someone had to lose... and Michigan was eventually blessed with great LB play.
Thus, another look at Michigan’s current class, utilizing the composite position rank of each player published by 247, and in a format simulating an approximate line-up on the field:
K - #1, Nordin
WR - #19, Crawford
WR - #54, Hawkins
TE - #3, Asiasi
OT - #5, Bredeson
OG - #4, Onwenu
C – None
OG - #32, Spanellis
OT – None
TE - #15 Eubanks, #45 McKeon
WR/Ath - #9 Mitchell
Slot WR - #64 McDoom, #93 Johnson (ranked as WRs, still made top-96 which is impressive for slot-types.)
QB - #6 Peters
RB - #4 Walker
FB - #1, Davis
APB - #9 Evans
CB - #8, Long
S - #23, Hudson
S - #49, Metellus, #65 Gil
CB - #12, Hill (and #9ATH, Mitchell)
OLB – None
ILB - #12, Bush, Jr
ILB - #17, Mbem-Bosse
OLB – None
SDE - #15, Kemp (and #1DT Gary)
DT - #1, Gary
DT - #58, Dwumfour (and #4OG, Onwenu)
WDE - #23 Johnson, #45 Uche
Without applying advanced statistics to determine deviation from a random spread of the top sought recruits by position (because I don’t know how…) it appears via eye-ball (a time-honored non-statistical test) that Michigan won big at Kicker, FB, QB, TE, OG, CB, and ILB. Further, Michigan won at WR, RB, APB, SDE and DT, while holding serve at S and WDE. Losses were at OT (although Bredeson on his own is a big win,) Center and OLB.
Therefore, our 2016 recruiting record was: 12 – 3 – 2. Seven of those wins were blow-outs, one of those losses was a nail-biter (dammit, Hamilton/Swenson.)
tl;dr - below is a list of potential commits
sorted by position (not yet), per 247's warm interest indicator. Just go to the charts if you hate prose.
I'll probably stick this in diaries this year until we get late in the cycle since it gets pushed off front page pretty quick on the main board.
I put one of these up once a month for the 2016 class thru the end of 2015 and then we got crazy (had subs) and started rolling out swim lanes every few weeks (days!) in 2016 since we had an idea of positions of need by that point. This early we abandon lanes and it's just a big pool of best players available and interested.
What is this?
A winnowing tool of realistic prospects utilizing 247's "warm interest" gauge. All caveats, warnings, and wag of the fingers about this methodology can be found in earlier versions. This helps me focus on guys UM has at least a modicum of chance at rather than trying to plow through 200 names that come up randomly over time.
Aquaman was kind enough to comment on methodology of the "warm interest" on the V1.0 so I'll copy/paste that here:
The "temps" are usually set by how our analysts agree on where a certain prospect is leaning, but if a prospect reaches out and wants his page a certain way, we always go with their wishes.
Good example is Jeffrey McCulloch (http://247sports.com/Player/Jeffrey-McCulloch-47648). Michigan is in his top group with Texas, Bama, LSU and probably A&M among others, but he wanted his page to reflect that he's even with everyone, even though we know they're not.
It's about as good a basic gauge as you'll get on a prospect's interest. We try to avoid situations where it appears the interest is being embellished.
Michigan currently has 238 (!!!!) offers out for 2017. So this winnows it down to under 50. Being realistic as we watched the 2016 class unfold probably 1/3rd to 1/2 of players in the eventual 2017 class won't even be on this list so early in the cycle!
With Strobel leaving we have 19 scholarships available for 2017 at this time. I expect that # to get to mid 20s by the time all is said and done.
For now I will just sort it by national rank - later in the year I'll sort it by positions. I also added a column for HS for those in states we are familiar with (OH/MI) or specific FL schools we are becoming familiar with ala IMG & Flanagan.
I've also added a mini swim lanes at the bottom for the 3 positions this class has critical needs to have top end guys - OT, DT, and S. I'd also put LB as a very important need in this class but a bit below these top 3 - we got a bevy of LBs in 2016 but most are more "developmental" types... it lacked the top 200 type guys ala Dontavious Jackson so I am hoping to see some of those in 2017.
I've bolded the player that 247 has designated as "warmest" i.e. the love between school and player seems the strongest. At bottom I have flip candidates I am aware of (only 1 thus far) and then I put Ambry Thomas in his own category - while 247 has him as a warm interest I don't see him going anywhere but MSU at this point so I have doubt about any warmth there.
|Pos||Name||State||Starz||Ntl Rnk||Pos Rnk|
|WR/DB||Jeffrey Okudah||TX||5||8||1||1/2 -Top 10|
|ATH||Donovan Peoples-Jones||MI||5||10||1||Cass Tech|
|RB||Anthony McFarland Jr||MD||4||30||2|
|S||Chaz Ah You||UT||4||103||9|
|LB||Josh Ross||MI||4||144||5||St Mary's|
|DE||Corey Malone-Hatcher||MI||4||186||10||St Joseph|
|S||Jaylen Kelly-Powell||MI||4||286||23||Cass Tech|
|WR||KJ Hamler||MI||3||320||47||St Mary's|
|RB||Allen Stritzinger||MI||3||338||25||De La Salle|
|Pos||Name||State||Starz||Ntl Rnk||Pos Rnk|
Here are the mini swim lanes for the 3 key urgent position groups - this is how the above list will be formatted maybe by late summer after we get a bunch of commitments.
|Mini Swim Lanes|
|Pos||Name||State||Starz||Ntl Rnk||Pos Rnk|
|S||Chaz Ah You||UT||4||103||9|
|S||Jaylen Kelly-Powell||MI||4||286||23||Cass Tech|
Quick items to note
- A lot more MI players in 2017 than 2016.
- Still a lot of trouble finding love in OH - probably for same issues as recent past. OH is not "must have" but certainly getting 3-4 kids out of there a year would hurt Meyer and help us.
- FL is the new NJ. Bush Sr taking over Patridge role would confirm this if and when...
- Give me Wilson and Slaton today and let's call it a day at OT. Ok we probably need a 3rd in this class to bump up the depth chart. But I'm happy to start with these 2. Wilson has been outwardly in love with UM for months so let us wish that this is not a Jonathan Jones type situation where we "lead" for a year until the last 30 days.
- Heritage HS in FL has 2 top 400 players on its line (both tackles) incl a top 50 player. That seems unfair.
- McCafferty some say UM leads - but 247 has not come to the level they give him a "warmest" (i.e. bold) designation. QBs tend to fall early so we should know in a few months.
Ratings are on a 1 (lowest) – 10 (highest) scale. 5 is the mean for comparative assessments. Above 5 is comparative advantage. Below 5 is comparative disadvantage. Northwestern/Penn State are the mean comparison for the conference. Ohio State/Alabama are the mean comparison for national titles.
Take-aways: Good recruiting on the offensive side, but not as elite as defense. QB and Interior line recruiting are the strengths of the class. Good prospects at TE and RB. LOTS of slot receivers, especially for a team that regularly uses multiple TEs and a FB. Principal concerns are the lack of speed at WR and the lack of offensive tackles.
Brandon Peters is a top-notch prospect who had a monster senior year. Will most likely red-shirt and compete in the future.
Importance to scheme: 10. Arguably the most important position on the team.
Importance to depth chart: 6. Important to take one every year, but there are many on the roster.
Comparative advantage to the conference: 7. The B1G is fielding some of the best QB play in the country. Even Iowa has a really good one. Still, I’d take Peters over any incoming recruit in the conference and Harbaugh will make one of the QBs great every year.
Comparative advantage to national championship contenders: 5. Harbaugh-coached QBs will be better than whoever Alabama fields, but there are still some crazy good, Heisman-level athletes that often emerge and carry a team unexpectedly to the playoff.
#2) running back
Kareem Walker is a very good all-around prospect who could compete for playing time early. Chris Evans is a good prospect for 3rd-down back or slot receiver.
Importance to scheme: 7. Important to have a good runner, but an elite runner is a luxury.
Importance to depth chart: 7.
Comparative advantage to the conference: 3. Most of the B1G has better RBs than us. Hopefully, Walker can help change that.
Comparative advantage to national championship contenders: 1. We need to get to the point where we have very good running backs. Our competition has Heisman candidates.
#3) full back
Kingston Davis is probably a very good prospect as a running fullback, like Houma. Probably not a feature back, though.
Importance to scheme: 7. We like to use the FB
Importance to depth chart: 6.
Comparative advantage to the rest of the conference: mostly N/A
Compartative advantage to national championship contenders: mostly N/A
#4) tight end
Asiasi, Eubanks, and McKeon are all very good prospects.
Importance to scheme: 8
Importance to depth chart: 7
Comparative advantage to the rest of the conference: 8, I guess. Why does Ohio State even recruit tight ends?
Comparative advantage to national championship contenders: 5. We have great tight ends, but so do Alabama, Florida State, and Notre Dame. For the life of me, I cannot figure out why the top tight end prospects tend to go to schools that don’t really utilize the position much.
#5) slot receiver
This is the correlate of the weirdness at OLB on defense. What does it all mean?
Nate Johnson, Dylan Crawford, Eddie McDoom, maybe Chris Evans, maybe David Long. Very, very good prospects at this position, although we seem to be lacking top end speed.
Importance to scheme: 5 This year’s slot recruiting was very successful, but it also seemed kind of odd because we don’t utilize a slot as much as many teams. Jed Fisch does love the WR screen, though, and these players all seem to have good acceleration and YAC ability. I am kind of intrigued about whether or not the emphasis for this position in recruiting means anything schematically. It could signal an attempt to exploit Michigan State’s defensive schematic weaknesses or could just be what Jed Fisch likes or it could mean nothing.
Importance to depth chart: 5 We now have better depth at slot receiver than we do at nearly any other position. We could implement the run ‘n shoot, if we wanted to.
Comparative advantage to the rest of the conference: ? Have to wait and see. Having the best slot receiver outside of Ohio State isn’t usually a high bar to cross, though.
Comparative advantage to national championship contenders: 4. Some of our guys may become great, but right now the edge belongs to Clemson and Alabama.
#6) outside receiver
We might not have recruited this position at all, because Ahmir Mitchell and Brad Hawkins are likely to play safety. Maybe one of slot receivers is actually slated for the outside?
Importance to scheme: 7. I might be inflating this because I think it’s important to have an outside receiver who can take the top off the defense.
Importance to depth chart: 7. Starting to worry about this. Chesson is a legit All-American caliber player with blazing speed. Afther that, top end speed and athleticism is worrisome. Darboh is a solid possession receiver. Drake Harris is a question mark. Mo Ways is unproven.
Comparative advantage to the rest of the conference: 8/3. If Chesson stays healthy we have the best outside receiver in the conference. If not, I start to get really worried.
Comparative advantage to national title contenders: 6/1. Chesson just schooled Vernon Hargreaves. After that, we may have problems against national championship caliber defenses. One of these new shifty slot guys could be interesting on the outside, though. Some of them are pretty good blockers and they have ideal acceleration/shiftiness for the WR screens Fisch seems to like.
#7) Interior OL
Bredeson and Onwenu are elite prospects. Bredeson may end up at tackle. Onwenu could play DT, but I doubt that would be an every-down thing.
Importance to scheme: 8. Harbaugh and Drevno like to pull, trap, and road-grade our way to victory. 2013 flashbacks remind me that the line is anchored in the middle. It’s harder to find an athlete with the tools to be an elite LT, but the middle of the line is still most important.
Importance to depth chart: 7. We didn’t land any interior OL in last year’s class and we have a depth problem at OT that forces players best suited for the interior to kick outside. Mason Cole’s lack of a red-shirt and the recruiting gap in last year’s class raise worrisome depth concerns about 2017.
Comparative advantage to the rest of the conference: 6. Bredeson and Ownenu are each as good or better than other team’s best interior OL prospect ( Menet (PSU), Raridon (NEB), Gerald (OSU)). If we had landed Davis, we would have had a strong comparative advantage in this year’s class. As it stands we have a slight one. With respect to overall depth, we have a significant advantage over the good to middling B1G teams (Penn State, Maryland) and may be a draw with great teams (Ohio State) in 2016.
Comparative advantage to national championship contenders: 5. We did fine recruiting this year and we should have a good group this year. Depth concerns in 2017 are a problem. In Drevno we trust.
#8) Exterior OL
Maybe Bredeson. Maybe Spanellis. Both seem much better suited for the interior. Ouch.
Importance to scheme: 7. 2013 taught us that, contrary to popular wisdom, the interior might be slightly more important than the tackles. It’s easier for FBs and TEs to help out in pass-blocking in our scheme. It’s easier for play-action passing to help as well. Still, devoting extra bodies to that task is a limitation we’d rather not have to accept.
Importance to depth chart: 9. Depth at OT, especially LT, could only be worse if we had no starting caliber players at all. Magnuson is fine at RT, but it is his last year. Newsome has the physical tools to play LT, but he has yet to prove himself as a starter. After that, it’s Bushell-Beatty and Ulizio, both of whom are considered projects and huge question marks. Tulley-Tillman is gone. Mason Cole can play there, but should be on the inside. Dawson and Kugler are out of the question. Gaping hole in recruiting that the interior OL experienced in 2015.
Comparative advantage to the conference: 2. If Newsome meets his potential and stays healthy, everything should be gravy. If not, we are going to have an ok LT and a good RT. In a conference consistently stacked with pass-rushing DEs (especially our two main rivals), that is not ideal. Most B1G teams have a more proven LT and more depth. On the bright side, Newsome has the (completely untapped) potential to be All-conference and Cole/Bredeson are solid, if less than ideal, contingency plans. Bredeson lacks ideal height for tackle and no other recruits can play tackle. A commit was dropped in January due to a poor senior season and inadequate development. Stanford flipped our best tackle prospect shortly thereafter. We failed to flip an in-state tackle from Iowa at the last minute. Compare that to our slot receiver recruiting where we recruited a seemingly 4-5 deep set of talented prospects over the entire cycle, telling those lower on the board that we want them but need to wait to see how many slots are available. The obvious self-inflicted failure of this recruiting cycle.
Comparative advantage to national title contenders: 1. Newsome might work out, but he’s our silver bullet. Otherwise, we will have to help out the LT in pass blocking situations to compete with our in-conference foes, let alone the big boys. Fortunately, we have the scheme to do that and help may be on the way in the class of 2017.
Quinn Nordin is a Wolverine with the potential to be a great one!
Ratings are on a 1(lowest) - 10(highest) scale. (Edit: 5 is the mean. Above 5 is a comparative advantage. Below 5 is a comparative disadvantage.) Relation to current depth chart and principal opponents is included throughout.
Take-aways: Rashan Gary is a coup, but Rashan Gary with David Long and Lavert Hill could lay the foundation for the most dominant defense in college football. Neither ILB nor DT are as dire of concerns in the short or medium term as some folks seem to think. OLB and the HSP are unkowns over the long term as Brown takes over and Peppers departs. Brown as DC makes OLB one of the most intriguing positions in the class. If you are looking for a sleeper of the year candidate, that is a good place to start.
#1) defensive end
Michigan lands a generational talent in Rashan Gary. The two Johnsons are both very good prospects.
Importance to scheme: 10.
Importance to depth chart: 7. DL is deep, but Gary fills a long sought need at 'elite pass rusher.'
Comparative advantage to the rest of conference: 8. B1G boasts excellent pass-rushing DEs and recruited very well at the position again in 2016. However, Gary has the potential to be a generational talent.
Comparative advantage to national championship contenders: 8. Rashan Gary has that much potential.
#2) Defensive Tackle
Rashan Gary is elite. Dwumfour will eventually be at NT/3T. Onwenu might move over.
Importance to scheme: 8.
Importance to depth: 6. Might be critical to 2017, depending on whether or not Mone leaves for the draft.
Comparative advantage to the rest of conference: 10. Ryan Glasgow was one of the best players on defense this year. Bryan Mone might end up being better than Glasgow. They will make our ILBs look better than they really are. Rashan Gary is the best prospect in the country. All of these players could probably start for any team in the B1G.
Comparative advantage to national championship contenders: 9. The Glasgow/Mone rotation is the best NT/3T rotation in the country. Gary is the best recruit in the country. Onwenu is a very, very large man who will probably play OL. We have the best DL in the country.
#3) inside linebackers
Devin Bush Jr. could compete for playing time immediately. Elysee Mbem-Bosse and Dytarious Johnson provide solid options.
Importance to scheme: 5. Our monster DTs should keep blockers off the ILB.
Importance to depth chart: 7. I’m not as freaked out about this as most fans are. Gedeon, McCray and Furbush all have solid tools. Between them and the three recruits, we should be able to find two capable starters. I honestly think position coaching was a problem here last year and Brown is known for his LB coaching. Hope I’m right about this.
Comparative advantage to the rest of the conference: 4. Riley Bullough, a good, but not great B1G ILB, is far more proven than our LBs. On the other hand, both Bush and Mbem-Bosse are higher rated recruits than any other incoming ILBs in the B1G.
Comparative advantage to national championship contenders: 1. Compare our ILBs to Alabama’s Reuben Jones and Ben Davis. We are hoping for solid, unspectacular play. They expect All-American level play.
#4) outside linebackers/WDE
This is where it really gets wierd. Carlo Kemp is an OLB/DE hybrid type that will probably red-shirt. Josh Uche is a low ranked OLB prospect who is faster than all of our WR commits. Devin Gil was originally a safety prospect and he is also faster than most of our WR commits. Ron Johnson might fit this role.
Importance to scheme: 1/9 Very unimportant in the near-term. Will eventually be very important under Brown. Expect red-shirts with a schematic transition to more 3-4 and less Hybrid Space Player after Peppers departs.
Importance to depth chart: 8. Important for Brown to bring in the type of athletes he will eventually utilize. Expect this to become more important in future years.
Comparative advantage to rest of conference: 2. Very few OLBs on roster, hard to project current recruits. Even so, it’s hard to beat MSU’s STAR LB and Ohio State’s players, including incoming 5-star Keandre Jones.
Comparative advantage to national championship contenders: 2, but give it time.
#5) Hybrid Space Player
Khaleke Hudson is a big hitter, but he’s not nearly as fast as Peppers. Long and Hill are fast, but they’re almost certainly not going to be as good against the run as Peppers. Take away: Peppers is sui generis.
Importance to scheme: 10/4. Critically important in the near term, especially against spread offenses. Likely to move away from it, as a matter of degree, when Peppers departs and OLB rises in importance.
Importance to depth: 2. Come on man, Peppers screen-obliterating, slot-cancelling athleticism can’t be replaced. All this heir apparent stuff is just crazy talk. Bask in the fact that we are blessed to watch Peppers play in the Maize and Blue and don’t set yourself of for disappointment farther down the road. We do need to identify solid nickel-backs who are capable run defenders, but that’s not the same as the pipe-dream of building HSP depth.
Comparative advantage to the rest of conference: 10. Peppers is sui generis. Enjoy watching him play while we can.
Comparative advantage to national championship contenders: 10. Peppers is sui generis. Enjoy him doing his thing.
Michigan lands David Long and Lavert Hill, two elite athletes with the potential to be lock-down corners.
Importance to scheme: 9. Second only to an elite pass rusher. Especially devastating when paired with elite pass rusher.
Importance to depth chart. 7. Long and Hill are probably crucial to the 2017 depth chart, when Jourdan Lewis, and maybe Peppers, depart.
Comparative advantage to the rest of the conference: 10. Both of Michigan’s top 2 prospects have more potential in this role than any other recruit in the B1G East. They will have to vie for playing time behind arguably the best lockdown corner in the country (Jourdan Lewis). UM’s comparative advantage over the B1G here is ridiculous.
Comparative advantage to national championship contenders: 8. Long and Hill are comparable to the elite prospects pulled in by the SEC, Florida State/Clemson, and USC. We have the potential to field the strongest elite DL/press coverage combination in the country by a significant margin.
Khaleke Hudson, Josh Metellus, Ahmir Mitchell, and Brad Hawkins.
Importance to scheme: 6, so long as level of play is adequate but unspectacular.
Importance to depth chart. 9. Other than 2016 and '17 recruits, its just Kinnel at S in 2017.
Comparative advantage to the rest of the conference. 5. Our players and recruits stack up well against the rest of the conference, but we don’t have an obvious advantage.
Comparative advantage to national championship contenders. 3. Our safeties won’t undermine our defense, but they won’t be All-Americans either.
Despite losing star guard Caris LeVert for a month due to injury, Michigan currently sits in fourth place at 7-2 in the Big Ten; after a so-so non-conference showing, the Wolverines’ strong start to conference play has allayed any concerns about missing the NCAA Tournament. Still, there’s a lack of clarity with this team – even disregarding the uncertainty regarding LeVert’s return and ability to quickly and seamlessly reintegrate into the lineup.
With the notable exception of the win over Maryland, Michigan still is essentially a team that’s beaten the teams they should’ve beaten and lost to the teams they should’ve lost to (two neutral site games, UConn (loss) and Texas (win), were the only two against opponents close to U-M in Ken Pomeroy’s ratings). For the most part, the Wolverines’ wins in the Big Ten have been rather pedestrian: Rutgers and Minnesota were uninspiring home victories over terrible teams, sweeping Penn State isn’t a notable resume event, and the road wins in Big Ten play – over Illinois and Nebraska – were against teams that will surely miss the NCAA’s.
Still, between that win over the Terrapins, the complete lack of bad losses, and the tantalizing potential of adding an All-American level player to a team that’s already playing pretty well, there’s reason to hope that Michigan can round into a formidable squad heading into postseason play. The schedule from here on out in the Big Ten is undeniably harder – starting this week with home contests against Indiana and Michigan State. After Michigan’s solid start to the conference season, there are a few things we can point to as pretty important moving forward:
[After the jump, those things]