Van Down By The River: Defense
Needs: Michigan picked up four top-100 defensive linemen last year but one, Marques Slocum, did not qualify and will enter this year after going to prep school and another, Eugene Germany, was just tackled from behind by cops--that bodes unwell for his future playing time in more than one way. Still, with four defensive linemen going into their second year of eligibility and another two or three redshirted freshmen (depending on Germany's status and exactly where edge-rusher/OLB Chris McLaurin ends up), Michigan can afford to go light here this year.
Commitments: NY DE John Ferrara and PA DT Marques Slocum. Slocum has not wavered on his Michigan commitment despite being released from his LOI after failing to qualify. He was a near five-star a year ago who dominated the Army All-American game. He's reminiscent of Alan Branch, a huge dude with impressive athleticism for his size who could play DE if the situation called for it. He's probably destined to be a penetrating DT.
Ferrara is a three-star on the upswing. He was trying to keep his grades up this fall... so he could get into Stanford. Smart is good and he had offers from Penn State and Michigan State, but he's probably closer to Rondell Biggs than Lamarr Woodley. No offense intended to anyone.
Prospects: Michigan and Ohio State are battling for Indiana DT Dexter Larimore, who also happens to be the nation's #1 rated heavyweight wrestler--shades of current freshman Terrance Taylor's dual exploits in high school--and previously considered accepting a wrestling scholarship. Indiana is nominally the third finalist, but the next football player to pick Indiana over Michigan and Ohio State will be the first. Michigan is also in on Micah Johnson, though he seems like a solid bet to stay in the south at this point.
Completely Useless Opinion: This isn't the OMG TOP 100(!) defensive line class that 2004's was but it seems on track to be a good compliment to it, depending on which class, exactly, you count Slocum in. Michigan is in a position where they can take a player they like without worrying too much about future holes if he doesn't pan out.
Needs: Significant. Michigan brought in only one last year and this would have been the year that it lost its entire set of starters had fate and crappy play not intervened. As it is, Lawrence Reid was forced into retirement, Pierre Woods moved to defensive end, and Scott McClintock was exiled to the bench. Even though Michigan returns all three starters for '06, they have almost no depth past them. Redshirt freshman John Thompson backs up Harris and true freshman Brandon Logan backs up Brandon Graham. After that there are no scholarship players. Michigan's looking for three or even four players.
Commitments: Detroit Crocket MLB Brandon Graham, Colerain OH MLB Cobrani Mixon, and Flint Carman-Ainsworth OLB Quintin Patilla. Graham is the number one prospect in Michigan, a five star by both services, and one of the top three linebackers in the country according to everyone. Mixon is a thumper in the middle from the high powered Cincinatti Colerain program Mister Simpson and BJ Askew came from, a prototypical mike linebacker. Think Sam Sword. Patilla was initially thought to be a wide receiver recruit but Michigan offered him as an outside linebacker. He needs to add bulk to play in the Big Ten. If he can do that he should be a contributor--camp offers seem to work out well.
The possibility of batting Graham to defensive end is out there--he is already 250 pounds--which may explain Michigan's continued pursuit of linebackers even with three already in the fold. Mixon and Patilla aren't moving anywhere.
Prospects: Instate sleeper Obi Ezeh has received an offer and seems to be on the verge of committing. He should do so sooner or later, as his only other options are MAC schools and Indiana. Michigan is also pursuing Ohio's Thaddeus Gibson--always good to have a guy who knows his way around a cotton gin--and Michael Morgan of Texas, both four stars. Gibson is reputed to have grade issues but does hold an offer. Michigan may take him knowing he may not qualify since they have some flexibility with the three commits--losing him wouldn't create a major hole. Gibson also appears suited for strongside linebacker unlike any of Michigan's commitments to date.
Completely Useless Opinion: A strike and a necessary one. Graham is one of the nation's top recruits. Mixon was pursued by LSU, Michigan, and Ohio State early despite limping through a large portion of his senior year on a partially torn ACL. Patilla is less heralded but Michigan liked him enough to offer him at camp when they were still in the running for a number of higher profile recruits.
Needs: Morgan Trent's emergence as a steady nickel corner and prospective starter in '06 plus the unexpectedly strong play of all four safeties, including true freshman Brandon Harrison, has reduced the panic level significantly. Michigan is still on the lookout for a player or three. It seems doubtful that sophomore-to-be Charles Stewart is going to see the field in a meaningful fashion, as Michigan avoided using him at all costs this year. That leaves redshirt freshmen Chris Richards and Johnny Sears as the only backups to presumptive starters Leon Hall and Morgan Trent. A lot is riding on the two California sleepers unless Michigan backs them up with someone this year or, failing that, '07.
Commitments: Indiana safety Steve Brown, who was busy doing everything for his Columbus (Indiana) high school team before he broke his ankle. Brown's projected to play free safety but is a possibility at corner.
Prospects: Bleah. Michigan has no serious cornerback targets at the moment other than Louisiana's Jai Eugene, who is unlikely to stray far from home. Michigan may pick up a sleeper late, but after last year's wing-and-prayer job there's reason for concern. Michigan does have a good shot at California safety Jonas Mouton, a top-100 guy to both services. Mouton is down to USC, LSU, Michigan, and Nebraska, but USC already has a couple of high profile safties.
Completely Useless Opinion: Michigan's post-Marlin Jackson big time corner drought is going to continue. There are three high-profile defensive backs that Michigan is thought to have an edge with in the '07 class. Instead of taking a marginal prospect who probably won't see the field Michigan will probably use the opportunity to pitch an appealing depth chart to Muskegon's Ronald Johnson and OLSM's Dionte Allen. Brown is an excellent pick up, but one defensive back in the class is not enough.
Again, average given Michigan's needs. They'll go into '07 really needing to lock down at least two top corners, but the linebackers look very good and given the defensive line situation Michigan isn't really pressing. C so far.