We're going to keep rolling out a new big board every month or so, with the idea that we'll eventually be able to use this to track the 2014 recruiting cycle. I will attempt to update this in the style of Walter Football's mock drafts, if any of you are familiar. This means that order will change and periodic updates will supplement existing blurbs about prospects. As prospects commit to Michigan or elsewhere (assuming it is a strong verbal commitment, criteria subjectively determined by yours truly), they will be removed from the board. Other changes will be based off of Michigan's attrition, perceptual changes, practice buzz, game performances, prospect stock, and the extraterrestrial movements of Saturn's suns. That last one is a joke. For now.
When you're reading, keep a couple of things in mind; (1) Prospects are ordered based on a combination of talent, need, and affinity for Michigan. If I was just doing it off of talent, my list would look something like this. (2) There's a good chance that a majority of the class Michigan will sign next February hasn't even been offered yet, and isn't on this list. (3) Needs will change depending on attrition during the following year, so the list is fluid.
With all of that in mind, read on, and let me know what you think in the comments!
1. Malik McDowell- Defensive Lineman; Detroit, Michigan
MARCH.. I know a lot of people will have Drake Harris here now that he opened up his recruitment. Yes, WR is a huge position of need. Yes, Harris will be one of the best in the country next year. And yes, the additional schadenfreude from Sparty would be delicious.
However, McDowell's film/potential is too insane to pass up on. If he wasn't so raw, and if his competition wasn't so weak, I have to believe he'd have a shot at being a top 10 player nationally. It is a very, very rare thing to find a 300ish pound dude with that explosion and athleticism. In the past couple of years, we've recruited a lot of kids for the DLine that could best be described as 'solid, if unspectacular'. McDowell would provide an electrifyingly huge presence on the line that may not be seen in the state of Michigan for years to come.
2. Drake Harris- Wide Receiver; Grand Rapids, Michigan
APRIL UPDATE....Harris visits Ann Arbor...a lot. With 3 consecutive visit weekends in March and another on tap for the Spring Game on April 13th, some now assume Michigan to be in the driver's seat for Harris. While a commitment is likely still a bit far off, it's not an unfair assumption to make.
MARCH ... Okay, yes, Harris is still incredible. The Junior First-Team All American caught over 2000 yards and 25 touchdowns this past fall while also almost eclipsing the century mark in receptions. Harris may be the best WR prospect to come out of Michigan since...Charles Rogers?
Drake combines unbelievable straight line speed with exceptional quickness and hands, making him the all around package. Couple that with the desperate need Michigan has for playmakers at the WR position, and he could make a huge early impact for the Wolverines. Give me Harris, McDowell and a bunch of 2 stars next year, and I'll be happy.
3. Da'Shawn Hand- Defensive Lineman; Woodbridge, Virginia
APRIL UPDATE.. Hand made a visit the weekend of March 15th, and reports were very positive about his experience. As far as trends go, I think Michigan may be close to the top 2 with VT. A promising quote ($)..
"That dude knows his stuff. He got me thinking. I thought I wanted to do civil engineering, but I'm thinking that sports management fits my personality," he said. "He gave me so much information that I was blown away, he had me drooling. I wanted to join the class right then and there."
Virginia Tech does not offer a sports management major. Since Hand has made it abundantly clear that academics will play a huge role in his decision, this could really be a plus for Michigan down the stretch.
MARCH... Alright, so it might seem a little ludicrous to have the potential #1 player as #4 on this list. But what can I say, I'm a sucker for keeping the best at home. I'm also a little more skeptical that Michigan will ever overtake Alabama or Virginia Tech in the race for Hand's services.
The hype around Hand, though, is well worth it. Aside from his great physical prowess as a player, I've heard raving reviews about Da'Shawn's personality. He's honest, smart, outgoing, and friendly in a way that would make Denard proud.
Despite my skepticism, Hand has talked up Michigan's coaching staff as his favorite, and guys like Steve Lorenz at 247 have expressed their faith in Michigan's chances all along. This should be a fun recruitment to watch.
Previous Spot: #4
4. Parrker Westphal- Cornerback; Bolingbrook, Illinois
APRIL UPDATE.. This is only a slight move and one that has more to do with Hand than Westphal. However, a couple of things concern me. For one, many of the scouting services have come to a more realistic representation of Parrker's height (around 6' instead of the originally reported 6'1-6'2). That'll make a difference down the road.
Additionally, Parrker's timeline keeps expanding. While there were rumblings that Parrker could be dropping soon in the spring, he now plans to meticulously go through the process in the summer. Obviously, it's good for the kid to be sure of his choice, but the longer a Michigan lean (or any school, for that matter) stretches out his recruitment, the less likely it is he ends up in the class. As of now, I still think he'll end up blue. But a lot can chance between now and August/September.
MARCH...A high school teammate of Illinois signee Aaron Bailey, Westphal's importance to Michigan may have tripled after Conley defected to Ohio State. Here's what I said about him in late October:
Overall, he looks like he'll be a mid to high level four star. Might get a couple national looks but seems like it'll end up being a regional heavyweight fight. Not sure he has the explosiveness to be truly elite, but could have an NFL future down the line.
After signing a couple of decent boundary corners this year, Michigan could really use an exceptional guy to be the future of that position. Westphal would fit that need nicely.
Previous Spot: #3
5. Daniel Helm- Tight End; Chatham, Illinois
APRIL...Michigan seems to be focused on landing a tight end in this class, and the top 3 names brought up are Helm, Nic Weishar, and Ian Bunting. Of the 3, I think Helm holds Michigan in the highest esteem.
Were Helm to drop for UM, it would be another TE in the Funchess/Butt mold of receiving tight ends. He's very athletic (lining up at WR for many snaps), but he has a Funchess-level of weight to add. The only difference is that depth would probably allow him to redshirt and ride the bunch for a few years before he plays.
Previous Spot: Unranked
6. Kyle Berger- Linebacker; Cleveland, Ohio
APRIL UPDATE.. With Jake Ryan almost certain to be returning for his RS Senior year due to his ACL tear, the immediate need for depth at the SAM linebacker position isn't quite so pressing. Nonetheless, the future at the SAM position is perhaps hazier than any other on defense.
While the battle for Berger seemed more of a dead heat in March, it looks like it is trending more in the direction of Ohio State at this point. Michigan has plenty of time to catch up, but were he to decide within the month, I would bet on the Buckeyes.
MARCH..With Ferns firmly committed, it seems as though the staff will only pursue 1-2 more LBs in this class. Although my favorite, Nyles Morgan, has an offer, I think our shot with him was greatly diminished when we lost Laquon Treadwell.
Instead, I think Michigan could be a key player for the athletic LB from Jake Ryan's old school. He's very active on the defensive side of the ball, a great sideline to sideline defender, and even has some of that patented Ryan quickness. With Ferns and Berger in the class, we'd lock up our third straight class of exceptional linebacking talent.
Previous Spot: #5
7. Corey Holmes- Wide Receiver; Fort Lauderdale, Florida
APRIL UPDATE... Corey is a media-shy kid, for the most part. There haven't really been many developments in his recruitment since March, which I think is a good sign for Michigan. Even if Hoke grabs Harris in the coming months, there will be room for Holmes in the class.
Corey recently showed good footwork at the Miami NFTC, but drops plagued him during drills.
MARCH..There isn't a lot not to like about Holmes. His speed, size, and athleticism all put him squarely in the four star range. He high-points the ball, can make some outstanding acrobatic catches, and plays against some of the best competition at the high school level.
With all that in mind, you might think it'll be hard to yank him out of Florida, especially considering the Gators and Seminoles have offered. However, Michigan was a childhood favorite and one of the first teams to offer Holmes after he blew up their summer camp. He's been on campus a couple of times, and will probably be back in the spring/summer. It's by no means a sure thing, but the Wolverines have put themselves squarely in the middle of Holmes' recruitment.
Previous Spot: #7
8. Alex Bars- Offensive Tackle; Nashville, Tennessee
APRIL... Alex Bars, the little brother of Michigan offensive lineman Blake, has become a hot national prospect, recently reeling in offers from LSU and Notre Dame to add to a swollen offer list. While he seems like less of a lock than many previously believed (due to the fraternal connection), I still think Michigan has a strong chance with Bars. He comes in at this position since I now believe Jamarco Jones to be close to an OSU lock.
Michigan is likely only going to take 3-4 offensive linemen in this class. With Cole already in the fold and Doles soon to follow, they really need to grab 1-2 guys that can play on the outside, especially considering the composition of the last couple of OL classes. Grabbing Bars would help to solidify the future after Lewan and Schofield leave the program.
Previous Spot: Unranked
9. Montae Nicholson- Safety; Monroeville, Pennsylvania
APRIL UPDATE.. Nicholson is a quieter kid as far as media interviews go, so don't expect his to be a wild recruitment. Moves up as Mixon falls.
MARCH...Nicholson is another prospect in the line of rangy athletes Michigan has recruited for the safety position in recent years. He can cover the field sideline to sideline like Jarrod Wilson, but he also has a little more physicality to his game. His exceptional versatility is likely what brought Michigan to Nicholson's door.
Nicholson, like Holmes, is another kid that Michigan has done well to get in on early. They brought him out to games during the season, as well as the BBQ in the Big House in July. While at one point he admitted to favoring the Wolverines, he's since eased off of that. Penn State and Ohio State will be tough competition for Nicholson.
Previous Spot: #10
10. Joe Mixon- Running Back; Oakley, California
APRIL UPDATE... Very little has changed with regards to Michigan's need for RBs, but as time goes on, it looks more and more like Mixon's attention towards Michigan was more excitement over the offer than anything else.
On the flip side, Jonathan Hillman recently released a top 10 (in order), and had Michigan right behind OSU in the #2 slot.
MARCH.. If Green had not committed to Michigan, I think Mixon would easily be within the top 3 of this list.
As it stands, Michigan just landed the number 1 running back in the nation, and the need at the position is less than great. However, it would be awesome to get a speedier guy like Mixon to .... 'mix it up' with Green in the backfield. /ducks
Joe has recently blown up, with an offer list swelling to more than 20 of the nation's top programs. However, Michigan was one of his earlier offers, and has shown him a lot of attention in the recent weeks. I think he'll probably end up staying out west, but if he comes East, expect Michigan to be in the thick of things.
FWIW, I think you could just as easily put NJ RB Jonathan Hilliman here. I'm a big fan of his, too. I give Mixon the edge for his top end speed. And leg strength. Dear God, his leg strength.
Previous Spot: #7
Well, we've covered more of where the needs and talent coincide so far. Now, I'll throw in a couple of names that would be real neat to land, if not necessary
Tommy Doles- Offensive Lineman; Grand Rapids, Michigan
APRIL UPDATE... Nothing much has changed. I still wouldn't expect it to be long before Doles drops.
MARCH..With the future of the Center position likely in the hands of Patrick Kugler, the need for Doles isn't huge. Coincidentally, neither is Doles, which is why I don't think he gets much hype. He plays like an elite lineman, but at 250, there's no telling whether or not he can add weight and maintain his ability.
Still, there are a couple of reasons to root for Michigan, aside from his talent. One, of course, is depth. There will be significant attrition from the past couple of classes once starting roles are established. Secondly, Doles is teammates with Drake Harris. Although they are reportedly not the closest of friends, it certainly wouldn't hurt to have a Michigan commit in Harris' ear.
In the end, I think Michigan lands Doles.
Maurice Ways- Wide Receiver; Beverly Hills, Michigan
APRIL...Maurice (or Moe) Ways is a kid that may be a tier or two below players like Holmes, Harris, or Artavis Scott, but he'll likely remain in the conversation for an offer throughout the process.
The reason I think Michigan will eventually come calling for Ways is Coach Hecklinski's signing day discussions of what he looks for in a wide receiver; body control, hands, and length. Ways offers all of this, and in some ways compares favorably to 2013 signee C'Sonte York. Assuming Michigan doesn't land 2 of the 3 aforementioned guys (which is a distinct possibility, considering 2 are from Florida), I think Ways will be waiting. He will also have an opportunity to accelerate that timetable during the summer at Michigan's camp.
Maize n Brew recently sat down with Ways, and here's what he had to say about a potential Michigan offer...
(MnB) Would you call Michigan the dream offer?
Yea, definitely. It would definitely be a dream come true. I'd have to consider my options if they do offer me, but it would definitely be up there. That's really where my mom wants me to go. It would be a great offer and opportunity, and if it happens that's great but if it doesn't I'll just keep working.
Come on Coach Heck. Think of the puns.
Jabrill Peppers- Cornerback; Paramus, New Jersey
APRIL... After I released the first edition of the Big Board, I got some people tweeting me about the lack of Peppers on it. Quite frankly, I thought Michigan had slipped seriously and was downward trending in his recruitment. Even now, I think Michigan is firmly behind Stanford, and likely OSU as well, for Peppers' services. However, he's currently in town with his teammate, Juwann Bushell-Beatty. The reason I think this could really boost Michigan's standing with Peppers is that prospects seem to rave about the on-campus academic tours as much as anything else when they visit, and this aspect will be very important to Peppers (hence Stanford).
I'm not sure there's much I can say about Peppers that hasn't already been said. He's the #2 player nationally and one of the most exciting CB prospects I've ever seen on film. Landing him would likely give Michigan its best athlete since Charles Woodson, even if it isn't a guarantee he would have quite the same career as #2.
Artavis Scott- Wide Receiver; Tarpon Springs, Florida
APRIL.. Scott, the teammate of '14 commit Mason Cole and '15 prospect George Campbell, is a bit of an enigma. Opinions on him are fairly split; some think he'll be one of the next commits, others think that Michigan doesn't stand a chance. An important figure in his recruitment will be his mother, who may or may not want him to stay close to home. ($) I tend to agree with the latter, and think he's more likely to end up at Georgia or one of the Florida schools. However, he will be in town for the Spring Game, so all hope isn't lost.
As far as ability goes, Scott is (in my mind) a much more explosive version of '13 WR Alvin Bailey, a Florida signee, who had some Michigan fans hoping for quite some time. I was never too high on Bailey, but I consider Scott to be the real deal. Landing Scott could provide Michigan with some depth in the slot after Gallon and Dileo leave.
Juwann Bushell-Beatty- Offensive Tackle; Paramus, New Jersey
APRIL.. The teammate of Jabrill Peppers hasn't been hyped up quite as long as his friend, but a recent slew of offers from high profile schools like Florida, Michigan, and Florida State has some just as excited for Bushell-Beatty. Well, almost.
Bushell-Beatty has pretty good athleticism and a decently high ceiling, so expect his offer list to grow. With that in mind, Michigan did well to get in early. He is currently on a visit with Peppers, as mentioned above, and I believe a good visit could propel Michigan into the driver's seat. It also wouldn't hurt to have a blue voice in Peppers' ear...
So there's April's version of the Big Board. Check in next month for the next update, and let me know what you think in the comments!