THE DEFENSIVE LINE
Like the skill position players for the offense, this position group is nowhere close enough to being finished for me to accurately project the numbers and needs of next years' class, so I'll try to stick with a basic rundown of those with interest from the maize and blue, as well as a rough sketch of the needs. When looking at the 2012 class, there is a lot of uncertainty. There are three guys that seem locked into a certain position; Pipkins is a NT, Henry seems to be a 3-tech, and Strobel seems to be a 5-tech. Godin and Wormley are both fairly ambiguous, and could be either 3 or 5-techs once they fill out their frame. Ojemudia could start out as a SAM, but will likely end up as the weakside defensive end. In the 2012 class, OH DE Taco Charlton seems ticketed for the weakside defensive end. Following this season, Michigan will be losing NT Will Campbell and SDE Craig Roh. Following next year, Michigan will be losing 3-techs Quinton Washington and Jibreel Black, as well as walk-on SDE Nathan Brink. Assuming the staff grabs a 3-tech/5-tech type of guy to pair with a NT in the 2013 cycle, the defensive line will not be a pressing area of need for the 2014 cycle. That could, of course, change with attrition.
Three prospects currently hold offers from the Wolverine staff; (Loyola) MI DE Malik McDowell, VA DL Da'Shawn Hand, and UT DT Bryan Mone. I'll start with the two that you, perhaps, aren't already aware of. With regards to Mone, there is little to nothing out there about him. A teammate of 2012 signee Sione Houma, Mone is a kid that's flown under the radar so far, but received a Michigan offer after Coach Montgomery sat in on a Highland practice. Sam Webb has said that Mattison expects Mone to grow into a 1-tech by the time he's college-ready. From Mone's coach, regarding his character ($):
He’s a lot like Sione. In fact, the church that both of them go to is run by Bryan’s dad. He’s a Methodist minister. So, he comes from a great family and he’s of good moral character, which you love to have that on your team. Truly, he was a leader on the line this year.
Outside of that, there's little else out there about Mone. He has offers from hometown schools Utah and Utah State, to go alone with his Michigan offers.
Hand is essentially the opposite of Mone, at this point. Hand is a highly-touted kid, already holding offers from...well...everybody. He's taking the process slow, and still hasn't visited any of his prospective schools. Michigan has a few potential cards in the deck, with regards to Hand. He's gotten to know VA LB E.J. Levenberry ($), whom some consider to be a Michigan lean. They live very close to each other, and Levenberry's school is a 5-minute walk from Hand's house. He also follows the NFL more closely than college, so regional teams like Virginia Tech or Maryland may not have the normal home-team bump, and he knows of Mattison's days with the Ravens. From 247sports, his two prospective majors could play in Michigan's favor, as well.
At this stage, Hand says academics are going to be an important part of his ultimate decision.
"I want to major in Engineering," he said. "But a lot of people say that it’s tough to do that and be a football player because of the labs and things like that, so if not Engineering, I want to major in business."
The article goes on to mention that he'll visit Alabama over the summer, as well as (potentially) Virginia Tech. As far as his caliber as a player? In a recent article on Rivals, they named Hand the 'Most Complete Defensive Lineman' a the Rivals/VTO camp, saying this about him (emphasis mine).
Da'Shawn Hand can do it all. The 2014 future star can beat you outside or inside with his speed and athleticism and even when you get your hands on him, he has a nice rip move and he is sneaky strong for a 237-pounder. While fellow sophomore Andrew Brown is also very impressive, he can't beat you with his speed as consistently as Hand can and Wyatt Teller, who was also impressive, is an inside rusher and a bull. Hand is special athletically and a rare prospect who has the inside track for No. 1 overall in 2014.
And another quote previewing the event, once more filed in the 'extreme hyperbole (?)' folder.
Click on the first article to get video of the event, because when I try to link specifically to the video, Rivals has it paywalled. Hand's section is the last, but there's also an intensely entertaining section featuring fellow 2014 Virginian Andrew Brown. Note to Michigan-please offer him.
Of course, the midwest has a rising star of its own that could garner elite national attention, in the form of MI DE Malik McDowell. McDowell hasn't been on the radar of schools for as long as Hand, but his early list of offers, all coming within the past month or so, is staggering. It now includes Michigan, MSU, Ohio State, Stanford, and Syracuse, with interest coming in from National Title participants LSU and Alabama, among others. He held a boyhood affinity for Michigan, as well as MSU and Ohio State. He took his first recruiting trip to Michigan for the Spring Game, and Coach Montgomery could be seen giving him the full court press throughout the event. Sam Webb ran an excellent article on McDowell this past Thursday, which I encourage you to give a look, but here's a quote on how big his coach could see him ending up.
"He has a frame where if you look at him he looks like he is only 240, but he is 272 now," said Callahan. "He's got a frame that can carry 300-plus, and I know he is still growing. Who knows in two years what he is going to end up being? He is dedicated in the weight room and does a great job with our lifting. I think that in itself has led to a great improvement in his size and his quickness. If he stays committed the way he has been, the sky's the limit for him."
6'6 300 sounds like a 3-technique to me, but I think there's a very real chance that he'd be able to keep his athleticism and stay on the edge. This does not look like 270 pounds to me, but it is. 272, to be exact. McDowell plans to commit sometime during his junior year, at the moment, if he feels comfortable with a school. I'm not certain he'll reach that comfort level if his coach and parents keep him as insulated from the recruiting process as they are now, but we'll see. Hopefully Michigan can land this local, elite prospect.
Other prospects? TN DE Alex Bars is the younger brother of 2012 signee Blake Bars, and was on campus for the Spring Game. MI DE Dylan Roney is a teammate of Wyatt Shallman and Matt Godin's at Detroit Catholic Central, and is a favorite of the guys over at Tremendous. MI DL Jake Khoury is the younger brother of former Michigan OL Rocko, and has been hearing from Michigan. WI DT Brandon Hines has been on campus twice, most recently during this past week. The staff likes him, but likely wants to see him in person first, as he still lacks some size, before offering.
LINEBACKERS? MORE LINEBACKERS?
So far, Michigan is in line to take 6 linebackers in 2 classes. If EJ Levenberry ends up signing with Michigan, that number will be 7. Distributed across 3 positions. That's some serious depth. And with only 4 leaving over the course of the next two years (when the 2014 LBs will be on campus), it also means that there won't be a lot of room for linebackers in the 2014 class. The talk, as of right now, then centers around 3 linebackers from your and my favorite high school in Detroit; Cass Tech. The Technicians will be featuring 3 D1 caliber linebackers in their lineup this year, as Gary Hosey transfers in from Farmington Hills Harrison (the school of 2012 signees Devin Funchess and Mario Ojemudia), joining Will White and Deon Drake. However, I'm not certain any of them are Michigan caliber prospects, at least not at the moment. All of them are 6'1 and below, for starters. I think both White and Drake are a bit stiff in the hips, something White admits he needs to work on. Drake is a touch more athletic than White, but he's also only at 205 right now. Hosey's probably the best of the three, but also the shortest, at what looks to be a generous 6'. Obviously, they have plenty of time to grow (physically, and as players), if they want to end up as highly touted as some other Cass Tech alumni, and Michigan's done a good job of getting all three on campus, but I'll be interested to see how this plays out. If it was this time last year, all 3 may have seen offers. But now? Time will tell.
Outside of those two, Michigan has limited their contact (understandably) with LBs. IL LB Nyles Morgan may be one of the top targets on the board, at the position. A physical linebacker with quick instincts, Morgan is almost certain to see his recruitment blow up, before long. He attends Crete-Monee, the same HS as former commit Anthony Standifer, as well as 2013 WR recruit LaQuon Treadwell. Michigan has done well to get in on Morgan early, as well, and could have a leg up on his recruitment. Michigan has also shown preliminary interested in another IL LB, Clifton Garrett. There isn't much about Garrett out there right now, either, but I beg you to take a look at his highlights. Try not to be impressed. He may be the most human-like ballistic missile I've ever seen. Rivals also lists that Michigan has interest in TX LB Derek David. This would surprise me. For those of you who don't know, David was a highly touted LB in 2012, before committing to Texas Tech early on in the process. Things fell apart when he was accused of sexually assaulting a 16 year old girl, by luring her to his aunt's house under the guise of playing video games. He took a couple years at Blinn CC in Texas, yes, the same Blinn that Cam Newton went to, and is apparently re-classifying himself as a 2014 prospect. He does not seem to be the type of prospect that Hoke would recruit, regardless of his talent.
WELL WHAT ABOUT THE SECONDARY?
Stop yelling. Right now, Michigan only has one offer out, to DC CB Jalen Tabor. Tabor is the teammate of another former super-recruit, 2012 FSU signee Eddie Goldman. I'm not going to spend much time talking about him, because he's probably not coming to Michigan. Just like Hand, he too has offers from pretty much everybody. At the moment, he favors Tennessee, with Bama, Auburn, and Maryland consistently popping up in his top group. Please Jalen, don't commit to Tennessee. Or at least wait until they fire Dooley first. Please. His plan seems to be along the lines of Goldman's; play things out, take your officials, sign near signing day. Maybe Michigan can make a play for a visit, probably not. Either way, it gives Dooley plenty of time to finally hit rock bottom.
The remaining prospects are a bit of an enigma. GA DB Nick Glass claimed interest from Michigan, before committing to Georgia. TX DB Nick Watkins is smooth and athletic for his size, but as with every Texas kid, he will likely be a Longhorn if they offer. MI DB Johnny Miggins continues the proud tradition of sub-6' Cass DBs. He plays safety for the Technicians, but seems a little small to continue that in college. However, he does look like a D1 caliber recruit, so we'll see how he progresses during his junior year. He, like seemingly every other Cass Tech player of note, has been on Michigan's campus recently. TX DB Ronnie Larue claims to have Michigan interest, but looks a bit slow for a DB. Coming off of a torn ACL, however, could do that to a person. We'll see if he visits Michigan sometime, with his teammate, fellow 2014 WR Bobby Baze.