LIST OF WWE PERSONNEL?!?
NJ DT Rashan Gary may be M's most important target in the 2016 class.
Although the Roquan Smith decision looms, the recruiting focus has almost entirely turned to the 2016 class, one that comes with significant expectations for Jim Harbaugh. While there wasn't nearly enough time in the 2015 cycle for Harbaugh to make a huge splash, 2016 should be the class in which the results start meeting the hype.
With Michigan handing out a rash of new offers in the last couple weeks, this seemed like a good time to take some of your questions.
Biggest Positions Of Need
What do you see as the biggest position of need, outside of possibly quarterback? Our lack of weapons at WR, especially when compared to the elite teams last year, has me leaning that way.
While Michigan will certainly take a receiver or two—with a focus on pulling in a top-flight talent like Dylan Crawford—I don't see that group as the most pressing need in this class. There's plenty of talent on the depth chart left over from last year, and you shouldn't sleep on redshirt freshmen Drake Harris and Moe Ways; both have big-time ability.
Three position groups come to mind immediately. On offense, the O-line is in need of sheer numbers after Michigan took just five total in the last two classes—one of whom, Mason Cole, didn't redshirt and therefore may as well be regarded as a 2013 recruit. The Hoke regime provided Harbaugh with a decent start here; 2016 commit Erik Swenson is a borderline top-100 prospect. Expect Michigan to add at least two more on the line, and preferably more. Given Harbaugh's offense, adding a high-level tight end or two is also a priority.
The biggest need on the team is at defensive tackle. Michigan didn't take one in 2015, and six of the nine DTs on the current roster are in their final two seasons of eligibility—the only exceptions are sophomores Maurice Hurst Jr. and Bryan Mone and redshirt freshman Brady Pallante. While Hurst and Mone have already started contributing, Pallante was an undersized prospect who was initially offered as a grayshirt before Hoke missed out on several D-line targets.
Given how long it usually takes for DTs to develop, landing two recruits there at a minimum is a must. Luckily, Michigan is off to a strong start in the recruitment of Paramus (NJ) Catholic's Rashan Gary, the #2 overall prospect on the 247 Composite.
[Hit THE JUMP for questions on the quarterback outlook, California recruiting, fullbacks(!), and reasonable expectations for the class.]
We've got a vision quest
not so fast my friend
It's not exactly a vision quest because GA LB Roquan Smith has a very good reason for hanging around after signing day: UCLA DC Jeff Ulbrich is apparently taking a position coach job with Atlanta, and that news broke almost at the same time his commit did. Way to go, Jim Mora:
Speculation behind the scenes in the media is that at least one media outlet was aware Ulbrich was going to leave UCLA as long as three weeks ago, but sat on the story until after Signing Day.
“It was common knowledge,” said one reporter. “They just agreed not to report it until after signing day.”
In any case, Smith backed off his commit and is in the wind post-signing day:
Roquan Smith’s coach told the AJC on Wednesday evening that Smith has re-opened his recruitment, and will take a couple of days to figure things out. “He’s going to open things up with his recruiting,” Macon County’s Larry Harold said. “It’s pretty much UGA, Michigan, and Texas A&M – and UCLA is still in it. Coach Ulbrich told him that he hasn’t signed anything yet (with the Falcons), and that he hasn’t made a decision. So I think they are still in it as well. We’re going to sit back for a couple of days and see how this thing plays out.”
Smith's affection for Georgia seems to have been overstated—he did commit to UCLA after all—and 24/7 reports that Michigan feels they are in the thick of it. Keep an eye out. It's probably Georgia now, but stranger things have happened.
Like a running back flipping on the eve of Signing Day
The diaries were graced by a post from one of Karon Higdon's coaches:
I did not get a hint or a hunch on Tuesday or Wednesday morning. There were no clues. Karan went radio silent. Karan is a very mature young man and this was not uncommon for him to focus when it was called for. On Wednesday the crowds gathered and after nearly 200 people piled in to watch the announcement, Karan made his way wearing all black through the court yard. He had two hats in his hands. One Iowa. One Michigan. He looked me in my eyes as I shook his hand and embraced him. In his eyes I saw determination. I still didn't quite know but Iowa would've been my guess. He looked very focused and walked in and took his seat. We went through our announcements until he was the last one left. There was obvious anticipation and his mother was a nervous wreck. She really didnt know and neither did I.
Much longer, and recommended.
On to 2016
Aside from that potential top 50 linebacker and a grad transfer or two, the 2015 class is in the books. Eyes now turn to the 2016 class, which will be a critical one for Harbaugh to establish himself a silverback on the national level. Michigan has 14 seniors and one open slot, so our baseline is 15. Add a reasonable amount of attrition and graduate transfers and Michigan's looking at a class of about 20-24.
What that might look like by position:
QUARTERBACK: 1. Harbaugh takes a lot of quarterbacks and will obviously take at least one. With two in the most recent class, the O'Korn transfer, and no one scheduled to exit for two years, this is likely to be a rare one-QB Harbaugh class. That's even more likely if the #1 guy is CA QB KJ Costello, a national top 50 type who was highly interested in Michigan—like commit-last-summer-until-Hoke-dissuaded-him interested. If he hops on board Michigan might find it hard to grab another guy of sufficient quality to entice. Costello is giving serious consideration to Stanford and USC but even in articles from those sites he has some positive things to say about Michigan:
"Now they have Harbaugh and some big-time coaches surrounding him. I'm definitely interested. He's trying to start something new and build an unbelievable 2016 class and really get things rolling here. He was all fired up and I really dug him. He was cool."
If QB recruiting gets past Costello, OH decommit Messiah DeWeaver is a guy Michigan will keep after. There also seems to be initial mutual interest in national #1 (and Georgia commit) Jacob Eason and fellow five star Shea Patterson.
RUNNING BACK: 1 or 2. Higdon's commitment gives Michigan flexibility here. One is highly likely, as Michigan is going to lose three guys all at once in two years. Two is a possibility.
If the current staff is as interested in IL RB Kentrail Moran as the previous one was, Michigan might not have to wait long to get their first guy in the boat here. Moran flat-out told recruiting sites that he'd probably commit if Michigan hired Harbaugh, and lo, it came to pass. Moran just told an Illinois site that he was "wide open" with no leaders, though, so it seems like Michigan has not reached out to him yet. With 2015 in the books we should know within a couple weeks how serious the current staff's interest is in him.
If Moran falls through or they do take a second there are a couple of instate options: Southfield RB Matt Falcon had a nasty knee injury last year but is still a four-star type, as is Detroit King's Martell Petteway. (Falcon's reported interest in OSU is likely moot after OSU took two 2016 RBs.) GA RB Elijah Holyfield (yes, that Holyfield) almost committed($) to Brady Hoke and was reportedly hyped on the Harbaugh hire.
FULLBACK: 1. You know it's happening. No names yet.
WIDE RECEIVER: 2 or 3. Michigan has as lot of solid options but no blue-chips except Drake Harris and his no good very bad hamstrings. They'd like to change that, and there are a couple of big time options available. CA WR Dylan Crawford is close friends with Costello and visited at the same time he did last year. Fellow CA WR Theo Howard is planning a visit this month($) and gave M the ol' "dream offer" treatment. He seemed to mean it:
"They are my dream school. I know some say dream school and then name four or five schools, but I can say that Michigan is the school I've dreamed of playing for."
There is chatter that Costello, Crawford, Howard, and CA DB David Long would all make a trip to Ann Arbor together($) in the near future. If that does come off that would be major commit watch time.
Michigan also fired off an offer($) to three-star CA slot Demetric Felton. That's his second offer (Utah was first); he's also interested in Duke, so academics are a priority.
There are also options closer to home. Michigan's starting from behind with Detroit King WR Donnie Corley, but you know Harbaugh will be coming at him hard now. Chandler Park WR Jalen Martin is a (currently) three-star option; IN WR Austin Mack is being pursued by all the regional powers and Harbaugh will stick Michigan's name in as well. MSU commit and NJ WR Cameron Chambers will probably get a poke as well in case he's more interested in Harbaugh; he camped last year.
TIGHT END: 1 or 2. HARBAUGH LIKE TIGHT END SMASH. &c.
The prime target here is OH TE Luke Farrell, who figures to be a Michigan-OSU battle if OSU is going to continue recruiting Farrell after getting a commit from Jake Hausmann. CA TE Devin Asiasi would fill Michigan's sudden need for a guy named Devin who loves bucket hats and declared he would officially visit($) as soon as he got an offer. M also offered Philly TE Naseir Upshur, but he's tough to get a read on at the moment.
OFFENSIVE LINE: 3 or 4. Michigan already has IL OL Erik Swenson in the boat. He's strictly a tackle. Traverse City OL Thiyo Lukasa was on the verge of committing to Michigan early, then dropped M entirely during The Troubles and now sounds interested again. If Harbaugh goes after him hard I would bet he gets him.
Fellow in-state OL Michael Jordan is impossible to Google but has seven picks for M in on the 247 Crystal Ball, all of which date back to the Hoke era. Like Corley, they're currently behind but that could change in a hurry here.
Regionally, WI OL Ben Bredeson is a major national prospect who expressed a lot of interest in Michigan early. Can Harbaugh overcome the natural gravity of the Badgers? Virginia's Clark Yarborough visited Michigan twice last summer and spurred a rash of M predictions before things went south
DEFENSIVE END: 2. Still more depth required here. One of Harbaugh's first offers was to AZ DE Connor Murphy, the brother of former Stanford DE and current NFLer Trent. He was very excited about the opportunity.
In-state DE Khalid Kareem momentarily committed to MSU but put himself bac on the marker two days later; Michigan is after IL DE Josh King, though the current trend is OSU on him. Staggeringly huge Cinci DE Prince Sammons (6'8", 280) was interested last summer.
DEFENSIVE TACKLE: 2 or 3. A major need after zero in the 2015 class, tackle will be addressed in depth. The #1 target is also the #1 player in the country: NJ DT Rashan Gary of Paramus Catholic. Michigan has a couple of Paramus kids on the roster and hired his old high school coach in a recruiting capacity. Meanwhile his new high school coach played for Harbaugh in the NFL. That doesn't guarantee a commit but it should mean Michigan has an inside track.
There aren't a whole lot of other names out there other than Cass Tech OG/DT Michael Onwenu. As with many local guys, Michigan is behind right now with the transition and rush to finish the 2015 class but has the potential to move up quickly.
LINEBACKER: 3. Michigan has MD LB Dele Harding committed. Other than that, names have yet to pop up. Other than the best name: IL LB TUF BORLAND. Wisconsin will be tough (tuf?) competition, though they just changed coaches as well.
DEFENSIVE BACK: 3. This is also a spot where realistic names are currently thin. Michigan will go after PSU commit LaVert Hill, the brother of Delano, until such time as they're told not to.
Michigan is in the top eight for NJ ATH Ahmir Mitchell despite little contact thus far from Harbaugh. VA CB Patrice Rene first made a name for himself as a Canadian kid who showed to Michigan's camp; he is a high academic kid who should be interested in what Michigan has to offer when the staff gets around to evaluating him.
SPECIALISTS: 1? K Andrew David arrives and it looks like Michigan is trying to bring in an Aussie to compete with Kenny Allen at punter. Even if they do, the Aussie will be gone and Allen a senior by the time this class hits campus. Michigan could be on the hunt for a punter, especially if they're going heavy into a rugby style Allen may be unfamiliar with.
That's 19-23 guys in what should be a top ten class.
FL RB Karan Higdon: flips from Iowa to Michigan
CT TE Chris Clark: inexplicably chooses UCLA
AL CB/QB Keith Washington: flips from Cal to Michigan
MI RB Mike Weber: sticks with OSU
GA LB Roquan Smith: picks UCLA
TN WR Van Jefferson: 1:30? 3:45? Vision quest?
FL DE Shelton Johnson: 3 PM
NY TE/DE Ty Wheatley Jr: 3:15 PM
CA CB Iman Marshall: 4 PM
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just overheard an #Amaizing phone call!
— Jay Harbaugh (@JayHarbaugh) February 2, 2015
A "miscommunication" means that Deontay Burnett is not only not a Michigan commit right now, but won't end up in the class, period. The Wolverines won't go wanting for long, though. Jay Harbaugh's tweet indicates a commitment is imminent, and I'm hearing the same thing.
Since I may have just spent a good part of my afternoon writing up a commitment post, I'm holding off on Signing Day stuff until tomorrow, when I'll write up a primer for what should be an eventful day.
Williamson Announces Tonight
In unrelated* news, three-star FL ATH Chris Williamson will announce his choice between Cal, Florida, Michigan, and UNC tonight at 10 pm. Sam Webb talked to Scout's Chad Simmons before the weekend to get the lay of the land after Williamson's recent official to Ann Arbor:
Michigan has already cemented themselves in the game, they’re right there I think with North Carolina at the top right now in the top two. Florida beat out Georgia, an instate school for the final visit this weekend, so Florida I think is the third team.
As the weekend wore on, however, Florida picked up a lot of expert picks—I'd expect him to end up with the Gators.
*Not tongue-in-cheek—Williamson isn't the prospect referenced in the previous section.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]
Two 2015 commits are officially in: QB Alex Malzone and ATH Brian Cole enrolled at Michigan this week.. Given what should be an open, heated competition for the starting quarterback job next season, it's especially nice to get Malzone on campus early; while he won't be the favorite to land atop the depth chart, he's got the talent to make a run for it.
I've failed to mention this in the past couple roundups, but as you might expect, the recruits who stuck with Michigan through the turmoil of the last several months are very solid in their pledges now that Jim Harbaugh is in place. 2015 four-star S Tyree Kinnel, for instance, is back to recruiting for the Wolverines after previously considering a flip to Notre Dame, per MLive's Nick Baumgardner:
"Oh yeah I'm recruiting," Kinnel said. "I'm talking to (five-star corner) Marcus Lewis, (five-star corner) Iman Marshall, I've been texting four-star safety Shaun Crawford (a former Michigan pledge, currently a Notre Dame commit) a bit.
"And I'm still talking with Alex (Malzone), he's staying on top of everyone. He's giving me more names to keep texting. He's on top of everybody. We're trying to get this whole thing together, and I know (Michigan commit) Brian Cole has been recruiting like crazy, too. We're trying to finish this class strong."
Marshall is reportedly setting up an official visit, while Lewis is considering the same; unfortunately, there hasn't been much to indicate Crawford will reconsider Michigan.
In other news, Kinnel's senior highlight reel just posted on Hudl.
Several To Go
Surprise! Four-star CT TE Chris Clark's recruitment remains bizarre as all hell. Clark is down to Michigan and UCLA, and he's scheduled officials to Ann Arbor for January 16th and LA the following weekend, per 247's Steve Wiltfong.
Which program will land Clark is anybody's guess. He told 247's Tom Loy there's "a part of me that feels UCLA is going to be the place for me," naming UCLA as his leader even though he's never been to their campus. He's also yet to meet Jim Harbaugh in person, which could swing things the other way, and... well, you try to figure out the quotes he gave GBW's Kyle Bogenschutz ($):
Based on his previous verbal commitment to Michigan under Brady Hoke, Clark did admit that gives the Wolverines a slight edge down the stretch in his recruitment.
“I would say I think UCLA, right now, in terms of the opportunity, it’s better there,” Clark said. “But I’d say in terms of my comfort level and in terms of where I know more about, it would definitely be Michigan.
“But I think the opportunity is a little greater at UCLA from all the stuff I know now but I think in terms of where I probably feel more at home or where I feel more comfortable with, Michigan would have that advantage right now.”
Bogenschutz took that to mean Michigan holds the edge. I am the shrug emoticon.
Three-star MI ATH John Kelly spoke to Harbaugh last week; he told Scout's Josh Newkirk that the new Michigan coach is "a real cool guy," and he's being recruiting as an athlete who can pick his position when he gets to campus ($). Kelly set up official visits to Tennessee and Minnesota later this month and plans to do the same for Michigan and Michigan State before a signing day decision.
[Hit THE JUMP for updates on several top 2015 targets as well as Harbaugh hire reactions from a handful of the best 2016 prospects in the country.]
Iman Marshall To Take Official To U-M
Five-star CA CB Iman Marshall, who'd previously mentioned interest in both an official and unofficial visit to Michigan, placed the Wolverines among the group of schools he'll check out on official visits this fall:
— Biggie (@iman_marshall8) August 21, 2014
I'm sure Oklahoma and Texas fans will handle this responsibly and non-creepily. Yup. Definitely.
It's worth noting that doesn't constitute a top six for Marshall. He's quite familiar with the California in-state powers, and won't need to use officials on those schools—they're very much in play.
— Adam Gorney (@adamgorney) August 21, 2014
Michigan does have something going for them: Marshall and Freddy Canteen are "good friends" according to Steve Lorenz; they worked out together before Canteen enrolled at U-M. That said, while getting an official visit is a big step, it'd be a pretty major upset if Michigan ended up landing Marshall.
More Top Lists/Officials: Wheatley, Robertson, Bates
While four-star NY TE Tyrone "TJ" Wheatley Jr. doesn't have a timetable for his decision, he's whittled down his list to five finalists, per The Buffalo News:
TJ Wheatley begins his senior season of high school football with five finalists among the many Division I powerhouses who recruited him: Alabama, Michigan, USC, UCLA and Miami.
Wheatley, a 6-foot-6, 260-pound defensive end/tight end who put on 15 pounds of muscle since this time last year, said Monday that he has no timetable for making his final decision on where he'll attend college.
"No, I'm not sure, I'm just going with the wind," Wheatley said, before commenting on any possible official recruiting visits he will take to schools. "I don't know when I'll take my officials; I don't even know if I'm going to go on officials to all five of those schools."
Wheatley has been so quiet on the recruiting trail that any guess as to where he'll end up is purely conjecture based on the fact that his dad is, you know, Tyrone Wheatley. Which that certainly means something, how much it'll affect Wheatley's decision is unknown, and there's another factor at play: Michigan's small class size means the longer he waits, the greater the potential that U-M runs out of room in the class. We'll know a lot more when he determines where he'll take his officials.
Michigan recently offered four-star CA OT Zach Robertson—who plays at the same school as top QB Josh Rosen—and will receive an official visit from him for the Penn State game, though it's likely he'll be a UCLA commit by then, per Rivals' Adam Gorney ($):
"UCLA is still my top," Robertson said. "I'm still open. I'm definitely going to be committing soon even in the next couple weeks. Even after I commit I want to take my officials."
Robertson called Michigan a "huge offer," so it looks like he'll give them a fair shot even if he's committed elsewhere when he visits. For what it's worth, Rosen reportedly enjoyed his U-M visit quite a bit, even though it wasn't enough to sway him from pledging to UCLA; this could end up working out in similar fashion.
Three-star LA DE Jalen Bates has a top five and two official visits scheduled, per Scout's Chad Simmons:
"My top five are Texas Tech, Arizona State, Mississippi State, Louisiana Lafayette, and Michigan in no order," said Bates.
"I am going to Texas Tech for an official visit on September 13 and I am going to take my official visit to Arizona State on August 30."
Bates said he is unsure if he'll take all five officials; you can safely count Michigan out if they don't receive one. As evidenced by the presence of Louisiana Lafayette on this list, pulling recruits to the Midwest out of Louisiana is hard.
[Hit THE JUMP for updates on an early enrollee, Michigan commits in the new Rivals250, Brian Cole's future role, and more.]