We did the offense already. Before we get into the defensive side of contextualizing the 2019 recruits against every Michigan guy since Bo, I want to give a shout-out to some other Tableizers. Jacedeuce gave me several suggestions I incorporated into the money graph, and Bo McReady (son of Bennie, godson of Oosterbaan) created this magnificent visual that you can spend the rest of vacation clicking over. For example if you select all the New England states you can see this view…
…that shows just seven players from the region from 1990-2013, and nine players in four classes since Don Brown arrived. Mouse over the 2016 and 2017 towers and you'll find Sean McKeon, Tarik Black, Andrew Stueber, Kwity Paye, and Ben Mason from the first two classes, all of whom are working out better than their rankings suggested they would. On the other hand recruiting rankings do strongly correlate with the likelihood of playing in the NFL. I've recreated his NFL chart so you can mouse over the individuals:
Our fun had, let's dive into the defense:
[Player-by-player discussion, after The Jump]
NT Mazi Smith
On my graphic above I have all the DTs in one group but it's helpful to separate the pure tackles like Mazi Smith from the heavy DE types like Chris Hinton. Terrance Taylor was more of a consensus top-100 type (at least to more than ESPN), but both were from western Michigan programs that believed in a lot of weight training. Mike Martin is probably the closer example if you consider ESPN too much of an outlier, but Martin as a prospect was memorably praised for his pad level (and compared to Taylor) while Smith's writeups make him seem more like a Mo Hurst-ish quick first step and knock him for getting too high. Martin's closer comp too was Ray Edmonds, who wrestled Luke Fickell for the state championships in high school but couldn't be turned into much of a football player.
DT Chris Hinton
Hinton was ranked as a strongside end for most of his recruitment, but five-star defensive tackles are often guys who are already at or long past 300 pounds and still moving like a high school linebacker. So for Hinton and Morris I created a temporarily collection of three- and five-techs who weren't really nose tackles but neither were they bound to stay on the edge. Chris Hinton is right near the top, though rated more along the lines of Juaquin Feazell—who played all over the line for the national champions—than Rashan Gary. Josh Williams is another highly rated comp. We call them Chris Wormley types but Wormley had a three-star ranking from Rivals that placed him down near Ryan Van Bergen. Hinton is considerably higher than that. Given his bloodlines, his noneventful recruitment, and the positional disagreement you can squint and still see the five-star he committed as. This is a huge get.
DT Michael Morris
Before I go back to my standard sort we can scroll down and see what kind of prospect Michael Morris's rankings say he'll be. The comps around him are pleasing. Nobody thought Matt Godin was a weakside end in his final rankings, but Morris is right around where Godin ended up. There's also a more classic Greg Mattison find in that range, Glen Steele. These tight end-ish DE/DT tweeners just below the four-star range tend become at least serviceable backups if not solid contributors or better, but not until a few years under Mattison's tutelage.
SDE Gabe Newburg
The middling three-star who didn't sniff a fourth is often a guy who takes some major projection and isn't so explosive that the recruiting sites think he's a ready-made outside linebacker. Don Brown has made a living at turning such types into Anchors for his defense, and Kwity Paye, whose ratings are an important tick above Gabe Newburg's, is the latest example of how that can work out. The other examples in proximity are last year's two high-upside swings, and of course Chris Rock. Since Brown's collection is a bit too recent. Brian suggested you can also probably find a few former productive Michigan State defensive ends who flew under the radar. I'm pretty sure he's conflating Marcu Rush, a "put some weight on him and see what you've got" linebacker convert, and Shilique Calhoun, a New Jersey product that Don Brown was after. If we didn't have Kwity pop this year I think Calhoun would have been the go-to example of what Michigan will have if Newburg pops.
WDE David Ojabo
You could count David Ojabo with those above if you like. He's in that just-below-four-stars range with Ron Johnson, Jibreel Black, Shelton Johnson, and Glen Steele, an important notch below the solid 4-stars like RVB. If he's a WDE/Edge player he's a larger Mario Ojemudia, or maybe a larger Chase Winovich. But remember Kwity Paye still works too.
Because you're putting weight on these guys—they are expected to play around 250/260—they take a lot of projection. Ojabo types used to be rated a lot lower because of that, but since they tend to turn into James Hall-quality pros (if not Ziggy Ansahs), these freakish edge dudes who need a lot of coaching and growth now peek into the four-star range, or collect just below it.
SAM Joey Velazquez
If the DEs take a little projection, placing Joey Velazquez at "SAM", a position I sorted with the weakside ends into an "Edge" group, takes a lot more of it. Even Josh Uche (6'3"/212 as a recruit) and Frank Clark (6'2"/205) were at least on the outside edge of linebacker size, while Velazquez looks like more of a safety. So again I mixed up my official groups to throw all the SAM/Viper objects into a pile.
Khaleke Hudson was of a size with Velazquez, but there's no Semper Fi video, and truthfully Hudson looked more 5'10" or 5'11" in those videos while Velazquez isn't lying—he looks like he's 6'2" or at least what the industry likes to call 6'2". The thing to like about him is his straight-line acceleration. That projects to a 230- to 240-pound edge specialist more in the vein of Uche after he's been in a college weight program. It should be noted that while this isn't a type we are familiar with at Michigan, Wisconsin proved you can turn that type of player into a Pro Bowler. And again we go back to Uche, and some of the similar players Don Brown recruited at Boston College and Connecticut for the position he literally calls "Edge." The five-star version of this is Cato June, fwiw.
MLB Charles Thomas
The sites had a wide spread on Charles Thomas: Rivals had him a middling 3-star, ESPN had him a top 300 guy and top 10 inside linebacker, and 247 split the difference. On the surface you wonder if that's a result of an IMG Academy guy who made super-early Top-100 lists but then left IMG for a Connecticut prep school and settled well outside the Top 300 by the end. He was also Michigan's first commit of the class and stuck around the whole time without a hint of looking elsewhere or of Michigan reconsidering.
The result is something around Kenny Demens, who also generated disagreement (especially because Michigan waited so long to offer him) and Chris Graham, who was considered undersized. That's an important step below the Ian Gold/Devin Bush range where "you're awesome but too small" spot but also well above the "you're right-sized but not instinctual enough" place they file a lot of middling middle linebackers. I'd keep the expectation closer to Demens. Harbaugh noted Thomas's speed and compared him to Devin Bush, though I'm not really buying that.
MLB Amauri Pesek-Hickson
We have to drop a ways down the interior linebacker list to get to Amauri Pesek-Hickson, but don't have to look very far for a comparable. Devin Gil was another safety-sized guy that nobody but Michigan knew about, and the sites didn't trust because he'd have to gain so much weight before becoming a contributor.
You can say "Gil" and call it a day, but Michigan has actually taken this type of shot a number of times. Lawrence Reid was becoming an excellent player but gets forgotten because he lost his senior year to a neck injury. Dhani Jones of course you've heard of, though few people had when he was recruited. And though he ended up outside (and later became a Hoke assistant), Roy Manning had an underrated career because Jim Hermann didn't value quicker linebacker types as much as he should have against the early spread and outside zone teams. Some misses at the type include Davion Rogers, John Spytek, Antonio Kinard, and Marrell Evans. It's a crapshoot whether you can get 30 pounds on a guy like that and keep his explosiveness and lateral agility, but when you do you get a pretty valuable, if underrated asset.
Viper Anthony Solomon
Michigan's every-down hybrid safety-linebacker is a different type of player, and though he's sort of similarly sized to Velazquez, Anthony Solomon is more of a pure hybrid in the Khaleke Hudson mold. Michigan hasn't recruited many of them—a lot of historical strong safeties filled a similar role so I added them in.
Since "hard-hitting safety" isn't as much of a thing in the slot receivers era, a common theme for these players is positional uncertainty. Charles Drake, Khaleke Hudson, and Cam Gordon were projected to offensive roles as recruits. Today a Daydrion Taylor type gets knocked down to the bottom of the four-star pile despite obviously four-star talent because their databases were formed after everyone's fourth linebacker morphed from "wolfman" etc. to a second safety, but before everyone's third linebacker went down the same path. Safety-shaped linebackers are part of most base defenses todays, and the recruiting sites are starting to get wiser to the fact, but sticking to "OLB" instead of inventing a new category. You can see the difference in the way Solomon is ranked versus Khaleke Hudson, despite almost identical profiles.
Safety Daxton Hill
Suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck it, Saban. The Bama flip (for just a few days but it counts) is one Michigan's highest-regarded recruits of all time and the best safety to commit to the Wolverines since as far back as we can track that sort of thing, unless you count Jabrill Peppers. Even "five-stars" Ernest Shazor, Tommy Hendricks and Ryan Mundy were more like top-30 types than top-10 recruits. All of them became long time contributors but not stars at Michigan, though Mundy had a pretty strong NFL career. However the elite realm that Daxton Hill occupies rarely whiffs.
Given he's projected to start next year in the Rover role (with Metellus taking over for Kinnel at free safety), you can kind of compare Hill to an early Jabrill Peppers, who lined up against slot receivers and matched them talent for talent while still fulfilling a safety's run responsibilities. When Peppers committed I did a rundown of historical DBs in his range across the country. It was…nice.
Safety Quinten Johnson
Michigan's other pure safety prospect is a way's down the list. I included a lot more guys in the screenshot to show you were Tyree Kinnel was, since I think they're similar guys, but Kinnel was well above the four-star line while Q-Jo is a bit below it. Delano Hill on the other hand is right there, and that's another comparison. Hill's speed and athleticism were underrated and his play was mostly understated, but his high draft grade and positive NFL career speak to how nice a boring safety can be. Jaylen Kelly-Powell is around there too but JKP was more "180" than 180, and was always expected to need 2017-'18 to put on weight before competing for a full time safety role.
Another guy in that mold was Marcus Ray, whose purposefully stupid takes these days are not at all representative of the heady, baiting, biting player he was. Ray was passed over by Ohio State and the recruiting industry as it was, but intelligence (Kinnel is another example) is a highly underrated quality in a deep safety.
Cornerbacks Jalen Perry and D.J. Turner II
Cornerback is a position where talent seems to translate directly to performance. There are all sorts of things a young cornerback can learn to become better at his position, but you can get most of the way there just by having the natural ability to be within a short radius of any target, especially in man-to-man coverages. This creates a rather hard distinction between Michigan's top-100 prospects—Marlin Jackson, Donovan Warren, Charles Woodson, Justin Turner, David Long, Jourdan Lewis, etc.—who tend to be Hit! or off-field issue, versus the Jeremy Clark, Troy Woolfolk realm where you might get a decent player but no early NFL picks. Both of Michigan's 2019 recruits at cornerback fall between these two categories, so projecting them is a little hard.
Here you're not making that big of a distinction between the lowest four stars and the highest three stars. Jalen Perry is the former, a consensus top 250 but not top 150 player to all the sites, long, and probably 10 or 15 pounds from his playing weight. Morgan Trent is a near example, and Andre Weathers is another. They weren't world beaters, but they were good enough to start awhile, usually as the #2 guy, and get drafted in a lower round.
DJ Turner II is the guy just below the four-star line, except ESPN likes him. Finding a likeness for him however is a bit more difficult unless you call him an Andre Weathers type as well. Turner had a weird high school career since he transferred to IMG Academy for playing time. He was obviously a cornerback at the next level but he played until his junior year at a Georgia powerhouse that needed him at free safety instead. As a cornerback he's kind of a Brandon Watson plus an inch and some speed—Turner has those long arms that should make him an A+ jam artist with some coaching. He also might be a bit suspect against super athletes. Gemon Green is in the same range as a prospect. There's also Will Peterson, a rotational guy on the '97 team who transferred to Youngstown State then Western Illinois, and went in the 3rd round. He later dropped his last name and used his middle name instead, becoming William James if that name rings a bell.
Size-wise they're both weirdly in between the two types Michigan likes to recruit. There are the 5'10" Blake Countesses on one side, and on the other the spindly tall types that they stocked up on last year. Highlight the cornerbacks on this viz to see what I mean: