We’re thirteen days away from National Signing Day 2017 and recruiting news is starting to come fast and furious. Expect things to heat up in key recruiting races, and a few surprises between now and a week from next Wednesday.
Let’s hit the links:
After re-entering Solomon’s recruitment less than two weeks ago, the Wolverines have made a big splash. On Tuesday, Coaches Harbaugh, Brown, and Partridge spent the day with the Solomon family. Harbaugh, ever inventive on the recruiting trail, even brought his daughter so that Aubrey’s little sister would have someone her own age to connect with. Apparently Harbaugh and crew made a big impression, because Solomon’s mom called the visit “the best . . . ever.” Getting the 5* defensive end prospect back into this recruiting class would be a major achievement for Coach Harbaugh, and would undoubtedly be good for program momentum.
One of the top remaining targets on Michigan’s wide receiver board is 4* Oliver Martin. New passing game coordinator Pep Hamilton visited the 6’1” 185 lb pass catcher Tuesday night, in an effort to develop a rapport and discuss with Martin how he fits into Hamilton’s vision for the passing game. Seeming to move between the center and the periphery of Michigan recruiting over the past few months, it’s not yet clear whether Martin will be a part of the 2017 class. Getting him on campus for a visit would be an indication that the Wolverines are in good shape to factor into Martin’s decision.
Michigan's DB commits possess length and athleticism, getting an early start https://t.co/et3jxb272V— Matt Wenzel (@mwenzel2) January 17, 2017
After having a Top 5 secondary (S&P+) in 2016, Michigan faces the tall task of replacing every starter in the unit. Defensive back was a position of focus for Harbaugh and Co. in this year’s recruiting class, and the recruiting staff delivered. Not only will Michigan see three DBs included in the 2017 class, they’re already on campus because they were all early enrollees. Four stars Ambry Thomas, Jaylen Kelly-Powell, and Benjamin St. Juste will all get a head start on classes and winter workouts - and for good measure. Replacing All-American Jourdan Lewis, Channing Stribling, Dymonte Thomas, and Delano Hill will not be an easy task.
Our very own Haisten Willis brings us this latest report on De’Veon Smith, who impressed at least one draft analyst during the first day of practice for the annual East-West Shrine Games. Smith, who rushed for 846 yards and 10 touchdowns this year, drew the praise of Mike Mayock for his performance during drills against the linebackers. Mayock was impressed by Smith’s ability to quickly change direction, despite being used as more of a power back in college. Joining Smith in the Shrine Game this year is Erik Magnuson, Kyle Kalis, Dymonte Thomas, Channing Stribling, Delano Hill, and Matthew Godin.
Rick Finotti, the former head coach at St. Edward High School, has left his position as a defensive analyst for Jim Harbaugh to take a head coaching position at John Carroll University. The move to John Carroll, the DIII program that knocked off Mount Union (ending their 112 game win streak) and Wisconsin-Whitewater last year, marks Finotti’s return to Northeast Ohio football. Following what was arguably John Carroll’s finest football season, former head coach Tom Arth decided to leave for the same position at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga - creating the vacancy filled by Finotti. Finotti is the third member of Jim Harbaugh’s staff (non-coaching) to leave this off-season, and all have moved on to coaching positions.
In a late night showdown with the conference’s #2 team, Michigan put up a valiant effort but ultimately came up short against Wisconsin. A win would have established some positive momentum for the Wolverines for the first time in the B1G part of the season, but it wasn’t to be. Despite leading by as many as eight points in the second half, Michigan struggled down the stretch when key contributors fouled out on debatable calls. With the loss, Michigan’s route to the postseason gets narrower. The Wolverines return to action on Saturday afternoon against Illinois. The 2:15 PM game will be broadcast on BTN.
The evidence continues to mount that Michigan is losing its most talented class to graduation and the NFL Draft in at least the past decade. The two main pre-draft showcases for seniors are the Senior Bowl and the East-West Shrine Game, with the former being considered the more prestigious. Appearing in the Senior Bowl will be Jourdan Lewis, Ben Gedeon, Amara Darboh, Ryan Glasgow, and Chris Wormley. Taco Charlton received an invitation, but declined to participate. With five players representing the Wolverines, Michigan will have more athletes participating in the game than any other school. Michigan also leads the way with seven participants in the East-West Shrine Game.
In a spot of sad news, former long-time running backs coach Tirrel Burton passed away late Tuesday night. Burton, hired by Bo Schembechler in 1970, was on the staff of various Michigan coaches until 1991. Coaching greats like Jamie Morris during his tenure, Burton was a Michigan man through and through. Following Burton’s departure, his position was filled by another long-tenured Michigan assistant - Fred Jackson.