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.]
— Rick Masters (@nedflinders) February 10, 2015
Between the still-limited class size, two QBs in the previous class, and John O'Korn's transfer, I think Michigan will take just one unless there's attrition at the position before the end of the cycle. The coaches appear to be setting up a race for that spot. KJ Costello is the top target, especially since a commitment from him could impact the decision of other top California prospects, but I think the coaches know better than to take one big swing at a guy who could very well stay on the West Coast.
The recent offer to IN QB Brandon Peters shot Michigan right to the top of his list, per The Wolverine's Brandon Brown ($). Peters is ranked as high as fifth among pro-style QBs (Rivals) among the four services, coming in tenth on the 247 Composite. Both he and Costello are looking at potential spring visits, and while I think Michigan would give Costello first crack at a commitment, it may come down to which one is able to get to campus first, especially if Costello can't make it to Michigan in the spring.
— Andy (@andy_elders) February 10, 2015
Down the road? Almost assuredly. Michigan's got a bit of a logjam at quarterback right now as they've scrambled to make up for the regrettable Hoke/Borges recruiting strategy (Bellomy in 2011, no QB in 2012, only Morris in 2013, only Speight in 2014). There are going to a lot of underclassman QBs on the roster for the next couple years, and once the depth chart starts to shake out it's reasonable to expect a player or two to look for greener pastures, especially if a younger QB jumps the line for the starting job.
I know it’s beyond early and I’m much more of a cautious optimist than cynic here I swear, but when do you think we’ll get a sense of whether or not Harbaugh and co can turn all these Cali offers, and almost entirely positive feedback, into a solid (and hopefully ongoing) pipeline out west?
There's no question Michigan is off to a good start with California recruiting, generating high interest from the likes of Costello, Crawford, Theo Howard, Devin Asiasi, Camilo Eifler, David Long, CJ Pollard, and Demetric Felton. Costello, Crawford, Howard, and Long have even discussed visiting as a group; Howard has called Michigan his "dream school."
I'm still a little skeptical, though. Package deals have a way of falling through over time. It's also hard to forget Michigan's recent recruitments of Keisean Lucier-South, Iman Marshall, Su'a Cravens, Dillon Baxter, Jordan Payton ... this list goes on and on when it comes to players from the state showing a solid amount of interest in Michigan, with some maintaining that interest for the duration, but ending up close to home.
Cross-country unofficial visits are also notoriously hard to pull off. Case in point: David Long, who told GBW's Kyle Bogenschutz that he'll no longer be able to visit this month, as previously planned, because of his track schedule ($). While long-distance prospects have an easier time setting up official visits—when they don't have to pay out of pocket for the trip—those often come too late for a program like Michigan to jump into the mix.
That said, Brady Hoke didn't hit California as hard as Lloyd Carr used to, and the Harbaugh name obviously carries quite a bit of weight there—several recruits have already mentioned closely following his 49ers teams. If Michigan can get the group from California to visit for a spring practice, that'll be a very strong sign this is more than just talk. If we're talking about establishing a solid pipeline, though, it's going to take a couple of commitments—and those players sticking it out through the inevitable overtures from USC and UCLA.
— B C (@byroncopley57) February 10, 2015
Harbaugh has enough on the current roster (Kerridge, Houma, and Shallman) to get him through this season, but with Kerridge and Houma set to graduate there's a very good chance he'll use a scholarship on a fullback. Depending on where you look, Michigan's already offered one: Prattville (AL) back Kingston Davis, who's a load at 6'1", 225.
With several tight ends already receiving offers, I'd expect Harbaugh to look for an H-back type as well, and given his history at Stanford those guys often turn into fullbacks. At 6'3", 233, four-star PA TE Naseir Upshur, who's shown strong interest since the coaching change, fits that mold.
— Bradley Clarke (@Tobiah268) February 10, 2015
Top five is a little ambitious. Remember, even now, this coaching staff is off to a late start for connecting with 2016 prospects, especially the top-tier guys; 34 of the composite top-100 recruits have already committed to a school, including 12 of the 33 five-stars.
I'd say top ten is reasonable, though it's worth keeping in mind that Michigan's overall ranking may be hampered by the numbers. This class is projected to reach around 20-22 prospects. All but one of 2015's top ten classes—Florida State's, which featured four five-stars—had at least 24 members. Given the small-ish projected class, a top 15 ranking group that features a couple blue chip guys should be enough.
— Brian W (@wintbs379) February 10, 2015
— Bryan Mac (@Bry_Mac) February 10, 2015