Recruiting Refocus: Offense

Submitted by Brian on December 5th, 2017 at 11:30 AM

Like the other thing that happens annually, in December the college football fan's attention turns either to a ludicrous coaching search or the slightly less ludicrous enterprise of recruiting. Michigan is downshifting from a couple of extremely large classes in Harbaugh's first two full years, but attrition and a few fifth-year firm handshakes means this shouldn't be a class down in the 14-17 range that Hoke's last two classes were in. This is a good thing, as anyone who surveys this year's roster and results should be able to deduce.

To the various h3 tags!

Numbers

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Will Grant Newsome make it back? Please? [Bryan Fuller]

With the announced departures of Wilton Speight, Alex Malzone, and Maurice Ways, Michigan has 69 scholarship players with eligibility next year. That's 16 spots. In addition, it seems likely that Jared Wangler, who has barely played, will explore a grad transfer.

Ian Bunting, Juwann Bushell-Beatty, Lawrence Marshall, Noah Furbush, Bryan Mone, and Brandon Watson are also redshirt juniors who may be in limbo; in the past couple years Michigan has told certain potential fifth years that their spot may be contingent on attrition elsewhere. Watson, Furbush, and Mone are almost certainly safe. The other three guys maybe not.

Other attrition from guys who feel buried or have negative extracurricular events is inevitable. Per Sam Webb, JaRaymond Hall has received his release and may end up transferring; there are probably other names. In addition, Chase Winovich has an NFL decision to make and Grant Newsome may not make it back from his injury.

The most likely outcome is a class between 20 and 22 with one or two of the borderline fifth-years leaving. Any transfers in would obviously dent this number.

Needs

There are few areas that are crying needs after Michigan's last two classes stocked the cupboard up and down. With 16 commits in the class already, Michigan's board is narrow. At most spots Michigan is only looking for one or two guys and has a top target and a couple secondary ones they hope to lock down. This recruiting year is going to be much less of a frenetic finish.

A total dearth of Hoke-era QBs means Michigan needs to add numbers, but they've already got two. Tight end is a major priority after passing on the spot a year ago and losing Devin Asiasi; Michigan has two and is looking for more.

As currently constituted the class is most in need of an interior OL or two—currently Michigan just has a couple of Frey-style developmental tackles—and a DT or two. Michigan took a bunch of DTs a year ago but that isn't a spot where you want to take a pass, ever. A wide receiver or two is also a priority; Michigan currently has none in the class.

Position by position:

Quarterback

Michigan won a recruiting battle with various SEC schools for Joe Milton, a "holy specimen" with nigh infinite upside... who's completing under half his passes as a senior. The history of QBs who don't see their completion percentage go up over the course of their high school career isn't great, but with Peters and McCaffrey ahead of Milton this seems like as good a time as any to take a Dave Kingman cut at a high-ceiling prospect.

Then Michigan was just watchin' some high school football on ESPN...

The line of communication between Michigan’s coaching staff and Kevin Doyle had been somewhat quiet, until Pep Hamilton and Jim Harbaugh spent time watching Concord De La Salle vs. St. John’s College High School on ESPN.

They watched Doyle — a three-star 2018 pro-style quarterback from St. John’s — throw for more than 300 yards against one of the top prep programs in America, one day before U-M’s season-opener against Florida in Texas.

“And then I got a text from coach Harbaugh asking me to give them a call,” Doyle told the Free Press recently.

...and decided they should go after Kevin Doyle. One glance at the depth chart should confirm the need for two QBs in the class; Doyle isn't a recruiting superstar who has the leverage to demand he's the only QB class or the profile to scare off Milton. He is a dude who played the second toughest high school schedules in the country, per USA Today, and helped his team to their first league title since the 1980s.

Doyle is the relatively low-ceiling, high-floor prospect but he's still a battle-tested 6'4" dude.

Michigan is almost certainly done with high school recruits at the position but if former target Dorian Thompson-Robinson decommits from UCLA after Jim Mora's firing they might kick the tires. Obviously, the potential addition of Shea Patterson would be big news for the program; it's less big for 2018 QB recruits since Patterson would block them for at most one year after their inevitable redshirts.

Running Back

Michigan is likely done here, as well. They flipped GA RB Christian Turner from what seemed like an inevitable Notre Dame commitment this summer and then took a flier on MO RB Hassan Haskins. Like a number of other recruits in the class, Turner's recruitment rather belies his rankings, with a lot of major offers and a near-ND commitment. Haskins is a true sleeper who didn't see any big offers until Michigan stepped in. He obliterated local competition en route to a 2,000 yard season; he's still ranked in the 1300s by the 24/7 composite.

Neither guy is going to have to carry much of the load next year, and Michigan isn't in on any big-time prospects. They're likely done here.

Wide Receiver

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JaMarr Chase or sleeper [247]

Nobody is currently in the boat after Michigan took a celebrated four-WR class last year. The early departure of Nate Johnson opens up at least one spot, and two guys wouldn't be a surprise. Michigan could use a slot type; they took Oliver Martin last year but he's an inside-outside guy and not a punt maestro and screen jitterbug.

Michigan does not seem to be the favorite for anyone with whiz-bang rankings unless the current chatter about LA WR JaMarr Chase, who visited last weekend and was the subject of a commit rumor, holds up. In this case it might since Chase decommitted from Florida in the aftermath of Jim McElwain's firing and the primary competition at the moment is TCU. TCU's an excellent program but it's not demonstrated the ability to straight up buy guys like LSU.

The rest of Michigan's known WR targets are pipe dreams like Amon-Ra St. Brown (who 24/7 isn't even listing M was "warm" for anymore) and Jalen Hall,  one of those kids who is and has been going to USC since the beginning of time but wants to stretch it out. The only guy they've had on campus is MO WR Kamryn Babb, and that was back in April.

Unless Michigan does get Chase they'll be swinging at a sleeper or two or trying to flip a guy late. Expect a three star you haven't heard of just yet, and maybe two. If Michigan does pick up Ole Miss receiver Van Jefferson he'd arrive as a redshirt junior, functionally replacing Nate Johnson on the roster. Jefferson would almost certainly mean M takes just one WR in the class, what with Oliver Martin and Tarik Black redshirting.

Tight End

Michigan has a commit from TX TE Mustapha Muhammad, a highly touted guy who was clearly one of Michigan's top targets from the get-go. ESPN has him in the top 50; Scout has him 66th. Rivals is enigmatic. He's a highly athletic FLEX sort.

They've also got a random 6'6" New England QB named Luke Schoonmaker who gets ranked like a QB in New England does. Because he is a rando recruited by Jim Harbaugh everyone kind of assumes he's going to be an NFL draft pick, and this site includes itself in this everyone.

Michigan is still recruiting the position and picked up a couple crystal balls for GA TE Tommy Tremble after his visit last weekend. Tremble has been to Notre Dame twice this fall and is the main competition; Tremble is another three-star with an offer list that does not match.

Offensive Line

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Hayes plays TE for his high school team and is thus max Frey [247]

Michigan has instate OL Jalen Mayfield and Ryan Hayes committed. Both are very much in the Greg Frey mold of highly athletic tackles who need to pack on weight before they can see the field. Both are being held back by some absurd Rivals rankings; they're 20th and 16th in the state. 24/7 has both on the verge of the top 100.

Michigan lost IN OL Emil Ekiyor to Alabama and thus has no interior OL in the class. A bumper crop of OL last year means Michigan doesn't have a huge need, and so far they've focused almost exclusively on tackles. Because obviously.

Michigan's top target is FL OL Nicholas Petit-Frere, a composite five star in the direct center of the Frey bullseye. Petit-Frere is a 270 pound athletic tackle in Tampa, Frey's main out-of-region stomping ground. And his last name translates to "little brother," which means he and only he can break the Mike Hart curse.

Also in "players exactly like you'd expect Greg Frey to recruit": Michigan offered Arizona State commit and CA OL Jarrett Patterson recently, and his recruitment went zero to 60 in a flash. He already fielded an in-home from Drevno and is visiting this weekend. Arizona State just hired a guy who hasn't been in college for 30 years and doesn't know his new school's mascot is a devil...

...so unless Patterson is inexplicably enthused about playing for Dave Brandon The Program, Michigan has an excellent shot there. UCLA is also lurking around the edges; they seem a more likely landing spot for Patterson than his actual commitment.

Contact between Michigan and enormous Aussie man-mountain Daniel Faalele has rather fallen off, unfortunately. If Michigan does decide they have a spot for an interior OL, I wonder if they'll poke around in-state Syracuse commit Tyrone Sampson. The lack of early interest from not only Michigan but MSU for an Army AA guy might mean he's got grade issues, though.

Offensive Upshot

Michigan is close to done on this side of the ball. Leaving aside transfers, they'll probably add a wide receiver and one or two OL; a third tight end is also a possibility. Chase and Petit-Frere plus anyone else would be a good finish.

Comments

ST3

December 5th, 2017 at 12:06 PM ^

I know this is an offense post, but Brian mentioned a possible firm handshake for Mone. My hope for him rests on an old basketball-related meme. It used to take guys two seasons to recover from ACL tears/knee injuries. They would sit one year, and be less explosive their first year back. Mone had back-to-back injury seasons. I'm hoping this was his competent first year back and next year he regains some quickness/explosiveness. Otherwise, he's just a big body. A really big body that we can use against the MSU/OSUs of the world, but not exactly an all-big 10 level performer (2nd team to HM type.)

corundum

December 5th, 2017 at 12:28 PM ^

I think Mone will be back. Seemed like Brown liked having the option of being multiple, whether it was the 3-3-5 with Furbush, or the 4-3 with Mone. Dwumfour isn't on Mone's level of stoutness, and Marshall is undersized as a second interior defensive lineman.

 

Winovich-Solomon-Mone-Gary for the 'we have the meats' DL is a solid change up.

A State Fan

December 5th, 2017 at 12:06 PM ^

I know it's not the same injury, or the same player, etc etc. But Grant Newsome seems like Dennis Finley for MSU, but much worse.

Finley broke his leg against Purdue in October 2015. Over two years later he's out of eligibility and never played a meaningful down of football again.

He lost a lot of weight, and a lot of strength in his leg, just like Newsome, but Newsome's injury seems like it was worse. To see Newsome on the field in 2018 would be really surprising and incredibly impressive to me. I like I'd put less than a 25% chance of it happening though.

Maynard

December 5th, 2017 at 12:10 PM ^

JBB will be back and Newsome will hold a scholarship regardless of him playing or not. Those are of course just opinions so we'll see but I find it unlikely there will be any replacement of Newsome from a scholarship standpoing with the work he has put in to get back.

ak47

December 5th, 2017 at 12:21 PM ^

Chase and Petit-Frere would be an incredible close but with potential transfers numbers are starting to get real tight.  Already at 16 and I think the staff wants JBB and Marshall back so think this class falls around 20 rather than 22. If two ole miss guys transfer in suddenly that leaves essentially only 18 spots and there are some defensive needs and guys like Tyler Friday are around. Should be interesting but will be frustrating if we don't have room for a guy like Chase because of a numbers crunch.

ak47

December 5th, 2017 at 12:54 PM ^

True but 2 more players of attrition outside of 5th year guys plus two transfers still only gets you to a 20 person class.

Current guys Michigan has even a slight chance with:
-Eyabi Anoma 5* (likely bama but Biff Poggi is his coach and he visited)

-Petit-Frere (covered in post, think Michigan has a shot in this one)

-Tyler Friday (Michigan seemingly leads)

-JaMarr Chase (covered in post, probably depends how hard LSU pushes but seems possibe)

-Josh Jobe (Miami commit but has been looking around forever, don't personally think likely but still on the board) 

-Tommy Tremble (battle with ND)

-Jarrett Peterson (battle with UCLA? I'd put him as likely in the class pending petit-frere)

-Michael Barret (don't know anything about him but RB Wiltfong just put in a crystall ball for)

 

So that is 8 guys, 4 of which are reasonable shots for only 4 spots and that is before you get to any sleepers and backup plans.  Just seems like this class hasn't been managed all that well.  Luckily looks like a blip since 2019 is off to a great start.

Mr Miggle

December 5th, 2017 at 5:50 PM ^

guess. Try 4 or 5..

Every single year people do the same thing you're doing now. Have the class size estimates from people with inside connections ever been too high this late?  It usually creeps up a little higher after the end of the regular season. The coaches already have a good idea about some more attrition that's coming and it will be reflected in their recruiting.

Expect some underclassmen to leave for playing time reasons and to lose more than one player we and the coaches would really prefer to keep.

LeCheezus

December 5th, 2017 at 12:23 PM ^

I saw Steve Wiltfong just put in a CB for Michael Barrett, listed as an ATH but I'm pretty sure from Sam's show that he's a QB?  5' 11.5" and 215lbs, any idea where he would be fitting in?  RB or maybe a switch to defense?

ak47

December 5th, 2017 at 12:56 PM ^

It being a small class with other positions that have bigger needs? Also don't think 3 rb's per class would be that normal, that would leave you with having 10-12 running backs on your roster, Michigan had 6 on the roster this year.

StraightDave

December 5th, 2017 at 12:34 PM ^

He didn’t make first or second team on the GR Press Dream Team Offense but he was the defensive POY in the GR area. I think the announcer during the state championship game said Mayfield led GRCC in tackles this year as a defensive lineman with over a 100 tackles. Those are LB numbers.

UgLi Eric

December 5th, 2017 at 12:39 PM ^

"Michigan's top target is FL OL Nicholas Petit-Frere, a composite five star in the direct center of the Frey bullseye"

Please give me more word porn. Bullseye. Little brother. Five star. Sploosh

stephenrjking

December 5th, 2017 at 12:39 PM ^

This seems ok, but this is a rundown on the offensive side of the ball and there's a notable dearth of guys that seem to have "explosive playmaker" upside. Granted, we took a couple of receivers with that kind of upside last year, but I'd still like to see more heat in there. That's not even looking at the STARZ count, which is... not impressive in most places.

I mean if we can finish with a top 12 class I'm reasonably ok with that assuming 2019 is a bounceback. 10-12 is where Clemson finished in the years leading up to its current position of dominance. But work is needed.

ak47

December 5th, 2017 at 1:04 PM ^

Clemson had some truly elite level guys in his classes though.  That is really what is missing form this class. 

2013: one 5 star plus two former 5 star juco players 

2014: former 5 star juco transfer plus two top 50 guys (Deshaun Watson and Artavis Scott, the Scott recruitment still hurts, solid hits on the top guys for this class)

2015: 3 5 stars

2016:1 5 star and 2 top 50 players.

 

They might not have had top 5 classes but they brought in true difference makers on top of their depth, this class is seemingly missing the difference maker at the top, JaMarr Chase and Tyler Friday would change that.

stephenrjking

December 5th, 2017 at 1:14 PM ^

I ran the numbers on this a few months ago, and it wasn't. Clemson's average-per-player was slightly higher than its ranking, but only by a position or two. At no time was it top-5 caliber.

That may be changing now that they are a known perennial title contender, but they built that title contention on classes that ranked no higher than ninth, and often outside of the top ten.

ak47

December 5th, 2017 at 1:30 PM ^

I think they mostly built it on hitting it out of the park on their hit rate for elite level guys.  Those 5 star elite talent level guys I mentioned above?

2013: Mackenzie Alexander NFL 1st rd, Shaq Lawson NFL 1st rd, Cordrea Tanersley, NFL 3rd rd

2014:Deshaun Watson NFL 1st rd, Artavis Scott, NFL undrafted FA (closest thing to a bust on this list)

2015: Deon Cain leading wr, Mitch Hyatt starting tackle since freshman year projected early entry nfl pick, Christian Wilkins starting dt, projected 1st rd nfl pick, 

2016: Dexter Lawrence starting dt, too young to enter nfl draft projected top 10 pick in 2019, tavein Feaster avg 6.6 yards per carry as a backup

They hit on their playmakers and get elite guys.

funkywolve

December 5th, 2017 at 1:39 PM ^

but once you get past the top 2 or 3 teams in the rankings, Clemson's average rating per player is right there.  

In 2013 they were 15th in the class rankings with an average rating of 88.46.  #8 in the ratings was Ole Miss with average rating of 88.52, #9 was A&M with 89.21, #10 was Auburn with 89.12.  

In 2014 Clemson was ranked 16th in the class rankings with an average rating of 88.69.  #3 OSU had an average rating of 90.59.  #4 FSU had an average rating of 90.13.

In 2015 Clemson was ranked 9th in the class rankings with an average rating of 89.12.  #4 Tennessee had an average rating per player of 89.48.  #5 LSU had an average rating of 89.91 and #6 UGA had an average rating per player of 89.74.

Their overall class rankings aren't that high because they usually are signing about 20-22 recruits but their average rating per player is on par with the teams in the Top 10, if not Top 5.  

1VaBlue1

December 5th, 2017 at 12:51 PM ^

Seems to be a lot of angst over the lack of starz...  To me, this class looks like a depth machine because of the high end starz that came in the last two classes at the skill positions.  I'm okay with this, and I think Harbaugh has already mapped out recruiting strategy for the next several years.  We have ample evidence that he is one step in front of most coaches re: staff (DB, anyone?, Partridge, etc), marketing (spring breaks...), preparation, game planning...  I see no reason why he wouldn't be the same way with recruiting.

Everyone wins some and loses some, and Harbaugh is no different.  But he seems to do most things better than his peers...

DHughes5218

December 5th, 2017 at 9:47 PM ^

Do you really believe Harbaugh is passing on highly ranked recruits because he wants lower guys for depth. Why would we want to fill our depth chart with less talented guys? That makes no sense. If your recruiting strategy is anything other than to get the best players who are a good fit for your program then you will continue to have 8 - 4 seasons. This not Harbaugh’s strategy. I guarantee he’s going after the best players who will consider Michigan.