If there’s a ‘face’ to the 2017 class, there’s no doubt it’s Donovan Peoples-Jones. He’s the headliner of the Pipeline 9, Michigan’s top overall commit and the tip of the spear to one of the best receiving classes any school has assembled.
Last year, that ‘face’ happened to be Rashan Gary, and he headlined a quartet of defensive linemen that also featured Ron Johnson, Michael Dwumfour, and Carlo Kemp. But somehow, Michigan has found a way to match and even surpass what they added a year ago. And it’s all thanks to an 11th-hour addition by five-star Aubrey Solomon.
Credit to Jim Harbaugh here for seeing water where others saw stones, and even as every Michigan fan wrote Solomon off, Michigan’s coach was hard at work trying to sway both Solomon and his family to buy in to what he was building. Solomon brings a rare combination of raw power and speed that will draw some apt comparisons to Rashan Gary; while he’s not as explosive a pass rusher, he’s still a bull in the middle who will be able to make the field in Year 1 and turn into an NFL talent down the road.
Today was the master stroke, but Harbaugh was building this class for years. He added Phillip Paea this April and Corey Malone-Hatcher and Luiji Vilain, two outstanding defensive ends, in June. In July, when James Hudson looked like an MSU lean, Jim Harbaugh turned up the heat and got him to commit to the Maize and Blue in August. Then came pledges from Donovan Jeter, Kwity Paye, Deron Irving-Bey and now Solomon.
What does this do for Michigan’s football team? It reloads a position where Michigan suffered heavy losses to the NFL Draft. It sets up an effective bridge year in 2017 thanks to remaining talent like Mo Hurst and Bryan Mone. But really the fun is going to start - in a big way - in 2018. That group will have a junior Rashan Gary, sophomores Aubrey Solomon and Luiji Vilain, and tremendous depth and experience across the board.
Michigan’s defensive end rotation will be in full swing by then, too, giving Michigan a better pass rush than it’s had yet under Harbaugh. Michigan has added four four-star DE commits in the last two years plus a fifth - Kwity Paye - who’s flown under the radar a bit. Corey Malone-Hatcher is a tremendous two-way defender and Luiji Vilain is almost a five-star pass rusher.
Basically, watch out, college football.