It has been just under month since the 2014 recruiting class has concluded with National Signing Day festivites. With the recruits wrapping up high school classes and preparing themselves for the next big step, a small group of players are already on campus. Seven commits decided to expedite the high school graduation process and join the Michigan football team in January.
Early enrolling into a football program provides a huge advantage compared to those who come in during the fall. It allows the players to get into the strength and conditioning program earlier, focus on a weight regimen and familiarize yourself with the scheme.
On defense, Michigan saw three new members enroll early and all have an opportunity to come in and contribute right away. They are Bryan Mone, Michael Ferns, and Brandon Watson.
Who They Are
Recruit: Bryan Mone
Position: Defensive Tackle
Star Rating: ★★★★
Michigan was fortunate enough to discover Mone very early in the process before his recruitment blew up. This, combined with one of his best friends Sione Houma already on the team, put Michigan over the top for his services. Considering his location and talent, Mone only received nine scholarship offers with Stanford being the only West Coast power who offered.
It is alarming how little Mone was recruited, especially with the lack of attention from the West Coast. However, committing almost a year before National Signing Day and shutting down the recruiting from other schools adds a lot to that as well.
According to 247Sports, Mone is rated the number one player in the state of Utah and the ninth best defensive tackle in the country. Michigan is hoping this top-ten hidden gem they discovered pays dividends for them.
Fun Fact: Mone attended the same high school as Baltimore Ravens' defensive tackle Haloti Ngata. His coach during the prime years of his Baltimore career? Greg Mattison.
Where He Fits
Coming in at prime weight already -- weighing over 300 pounds -- Mone has the opportunity to get himself into playing shape early without worrying about adding weight. It goes without saying that the coaching staff may expect him to drop a few pounds as the season goes on, but he is in a much better position already compared to undersized freshman who must take a redshirt year to put on weight. Mone has an excellent chance at seeing some playing time early on in the season. A game one starter is also a very real possibility. With losing Jabreel Black and Quinton Washington, combined with junior Ondre Pipkins recovering from a torn ACL injury, the opportunity for playing time is there.
Recruit: Michael Ferns
Position: Inside Linebacker
Star Rating: ★★★★
The first commitment of the 2014 class, Ferns along with quarterback Wilton Speight are considered the heart and soul of the 2014 recruiting class. Taking a page out of freshman Shane Morris' book, he immediately began recruiting other players to Michigan. Starting the Project 135 initiative on Twitter, it was something that captivated the Michigan fanbase and made Ferns an early fan favorite without even playing a single down for Michigan.
Ferns was heavily recruited in high school. Earning over 20 scholarship offers from the likes of Alabama, Ohio State and others, Michigan made an early impact with Ferns that really stuck with him throughout his short process. Ferns is another product of Michigan getting involved early.
Ferns ranks in the top-10 of a very talent-heavy state of Ohio, especially in the 2014 class. He also ranked as the seventh best inside linebacker in his class.
Where He Fits
With both inside linebacker positions manned by James Ross III and Desmond Morgan as well as having established backups in Joe Bolden and Ben Gedeon, early playing time might be difficult to come by for Ferns. Barring injury, Ferns' more likely to see the field next season.
Does this mean that Ferns is destined for redshirt status? Not necessarily.
Ferns has great athleticism and build that could prove to be valuable for the special teams. This isn't the ideal situation in which to burn an eligibility year, but Ferns will be the next best thing available if anything happens to linebacker depth chart.
Recruit: Brandon Watson
Star Rating: ★★★
A recruit who flew under-the-radar for almost the entire process, is an example of someone who worked hard for the offers he had. Similar to freshman Channing Stribling's path to Michigan, Watson earned his scholarship offer during a summer camp with the Michigan coaching staff. Watson, along with fellow high school teammate and early enrollee Freddy Canteen, committed to Michigan less than two weeks after the offer.
Not heavily recruited in high school, Watson saw only five scholarship offers with Michigan clearly being the best opportunity for him. He is ranked as the 20th player in the state of Maryland in his class and the 64th cornerback in the 2014 class. Not bad for someone who only saw a handful of offers.
Tape for Watson was not available, a double-tape featuring Canteen and Watson cut ups is the next best thing.
Where He Fits
Watson might have the biggest disadvantage out of all the early enrollees in this class. He is coming into a group of defensive backs that have plenty of talent and plenty of depth. Also, not to mention Jabrill Peppers coming into the picture. Watson will probably be compared, albeit unfairly, to Peppers. The coaching staff showed last season that it wasn't afraid to play freshman corners, as we saw Stribling and Jourdan Lewis see plenty of game action. However, that was due to the fact that Michigan didn't have much depth behind returning starters Blake Countess and Raymon Taylor.
Coming into next season, the situation is reversed with Michigan having plenty of talent and depth on roster. This doesn't necessarily mean that Watson is guaranteed to be redshirted, but it is also unlikely that he might see valuable playing time but enrolling early to get a jump of the defensive scheme helps his case. Watson could be held in the same light as Ferns, a talented player who may have to wait his turn to see valuable playing time. If he is all the coaching staff hype him up to be, he might not have to wait very long.