Hola! Welcome to my first post at Maize 'n' Brew. I have been asked by Maize n Brew Dave to contribute periodic posts about recruiting and such, and the ink has finally dried on my multi-million dollar contract. Let the fun begin.
To the best of my knowledge, Michigan has approximately 20 scholarships to give in the Class of 2011. That number could fluctuate some, depending on early NFL Draft entrants, potential transfers, medical scholarships, players who quit, etc. For example, safety Michael Williams missed the entire year due to repeated concussions and might get a medical scholarship if he and the doctors think football is too dangerous. Conversely, it's been rumored that Class of 2010 linebacker Davion Rogers might rejoin the team in 2011 after failing to qualify this past fall. So things could change.
The following is a position-by-position breakdown of recruiting needs and which player or players are most likely to fill those slots. These projections are based on the 13 current commitments and the current staff. Obviously, the potential ramifications of a new coaching staff could cause a bit of a tizzy.
Current commits: N/A
Why: Rich Rodriguez has said on several occasions that he would like to have five or six scholarship quarterbacks on the roster at all times. Right now he has three (Denard Robinson, Tate Forcier, Devin Gardner). There's a reasonable chance that one of the quarterbacks may transfer this offseason; Forcier might want a chance to start somewhere else if Rodriguez remains coach, and Robinson might not fit into a different coach's offense. Devin Gardner has the stature and talent to play in any offense, so I expect that he will remain.
Most likely target: Cardale Jones (Cleveland, OH) is a thickly built quarterback from Ohio State pipeline Glenville High School. However, he's unlikely to receive a scholarship offer from OSU, and while he's not an elite runner, he would be an adequate developmental prospect to fill in the class below Robinson, Forcier, and Gardner. Also in the mix is New Jersey quarterback/wide receiver/tight end Tanner McEvoy (Oradell, NJ), whose future position is unclear at this point.
Current commits: N/A
Why: Taking a running back at this point would be a bit of a luxury. The program will already have senior Michael Shaw, redshirt junior Michael Cox, junior Vincent Smith, junior Teric Jones, redshirt sophomore Fitzgerald Toussaint, and freshman Stephen Hopkins. I wouldn't be surprised to see Michigan take a running back because none of the current players have seized the starting job, but there are capable players on the roster if they can stay healthy.
Most likely target: Thomas Rawls (Flint, MI) has been rumored to be close to a Michigan offer as long as he gets some grade issues in order. He's a record-setting bowling ball of a runner who plays high school ball for the son of Michigan running backs coach Fred Jackson. Rawls will be a particularly interesting target if Jim Harbaugh is hired. Devondrick Nealy (Monticello, FL) is a small-ish back that holds Michigan in high esteem, but he seems to be a backup option dependent on the coaching situation.
WIDE RECEIVER/SLOT RECEIVER
Current commits: Justice Hayes (SR)
Why: None of the current receivers graduate this year, and the slot receiver position is well stocked. However, there is a bit of a shortage on outside receivers, especially if the rumor is true that wideout Ricardo Miller has been moved to tight end. Hayes committed to the Wolverines after Michigan had received a commitment from running back Demetrius Hart (who has since decommitted) and could also play running back, but for now, I'm considering him a slot receiver.
Most likely target: Kris Frost (Butler, NC) is rumored to be a silent commit. He has been fairly adamant about playing wide receiver in college, but most people seem to believe that he'll end up at linebacker before all is said and done. Devin Lucien (Encino, CA) is also high on Michigan and, in my opinion, is more likely to impact the wide receiver position at the college level.
Current commits: N/A
Why: Martell Webb departs after the bowl game, which leaves only senior Kevin Koger and redshirt sophomore Brandon Moore in 2011. Koger is a solid starter and would shine in an offense that got the ball to the tight end more frequently, but he only has one year left. Moore has barely played. There have been rumors that freshman Ricardo Miller moved to tight end late in the season, but those rumors have been unconfirmed. This is a tough slot to fill because recruits have seen Michigan quarterbacks target slot receivers and wideouts on the vast majority of their passes over the past couple seasons. In addition, opposing coaches are surely in recruits' ears saying "Rodriguez never threw the ball to his tight ends at West Virginia, either. You'll never get the ball."
Most likely target: Jack Tabb (Red Bank, NJ) is a 6'4", 230 lb. athletic prospect. I attended the Chesapeake Bowl (a high school all-star game) on December 30th and got to see Tabb in person. He has a very impressive physique and seems to have good leadership skills. He also made a leaping touchdown catch over a defensive back late in the game. The coaching situation might be troublesome for Michigan's prospects to land Tabb, however. Other potential tight ends include the aforementioned Tanner McEvoy and Frank Clark, a TE/LB from Glenville, OH.
Current commits: Jake Fisher (OT), Tony Posada (OG), Jack Miller (C)
Why: Only ten scholarship linemen return in 2011, despite the graduation of only two contributors (Steve Schilling, Perry Dorrestein) and one little used backup (John Ferrara). Two more starters will graduate after next season (David Molk, Mark Huyge). Teams typically aim to have 15 scholarship linemen on the roster, and since linemen almost always redshirt as freshmen, that means scholarships should be spread fairly evenly over three classes; schools should aim to take three linemen every year. However, Michigan has fallen short in OL recruiting recently and needs to refill its depth. Unless the coaches want to be playing freshmen on the line in a couple seasons, they need to add depth this year. I would like to see the coaches go after more offensive tackle types, but there are more guards on the board.
Mostly likely targets: Chris Bryant (Chicago, IL) is rumored to be a silent commitment, and regardless, he's likely to choose Michigan. He could play tackle or guard. James Elliott (Pensacola, FL) has implied that he would commit to Michigan upon being offered, but with Bryant leaning heavily toward Michigan, Elliott's services will probably not be necessary.
MagnusThunder is the author of Touch the Banner, a Michigan football blog.