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Should Michigan fans be worried about a “Down Year” on the trail?

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Michigan Signing of the Stars Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

‘How Michigan and Penn State are recruiting at Ohio State’s level (almost)’

‘Michigan recruiting taking a step back’

Those are just a couple articles about Michigan’s 2018 recruiting class, and there are clearly differing opinions about it.

Michigan’s class is currently ranked at No. 19 by 247Sports and No. 16 by ESPN.

The general consensus, the overall perception is that this class is a disappointment, that it has been a “down year” for Michigan football on the recruiting trail. While I dismiss that notion yet, it very well could be a down year compared to the past Harbaugh era recruiting classes.

I covered the NFL Draft for three seasons, assigning grades to each team and critiquing every move right after the draft. What I learned from that experience is it’s nearly impossible to judge a draft class until at least a year or two down the road. I apply this logic to not only Michigan’s 2018 class, but to teams that did “better” than them on the trail, and “worse”. We simply don’t know yet.

At the same time, star rankings do matter. The past decade, Alabama has landed the most five star recruits, and they also have the most National Championships in that time span.

On the flip side, Jim Harbaugh made a good point that offers another perspective about the star ranking system.

“Every year at the Super Bowl, they go through that don’t they?” Harbaugh said in December. “They go through both rosters and go through what their stars were coming out of high school.”

The truth is somewhere in the middle of star rankings mattering and what Harbaugh said.

Here’s what matters more, here’s what fans should be worried about in regard to Michigan football. Winning in 2018. Winning does wonders to have great recruiting classes.

Michigan finished the 2017 season with an 8-5 record. The simple math of the matter leads to recruits flipping to Georgia, like prized recruit Otis Reese did this morning. Recruits think about the “what have you done for me lately” side of things more often than not, instead of looking at the future trajectory of the program.

While 8-5 was a disappointment by U-M standards and Harbaugh’s, the future trajectory of the program could still be firmly on the right track. Michigan had the youngest team in the nation last season, and unfortunately for them growing pains can lead to some losses. Combine growing pains with quarterback woes, the equation led to an 8-5 record. The good news is, Michigan may very well have the formula to change the equation and string together more wins and consistency in 2018.

A better year from Michigan in 2018 is all it will take to land more four and five star recruits. For this class, three things happened. A.) Players decided to go elsewhere because of how Michigan performed in 2017 B.) Michigan decided to recruit players harder other teams didn’t have as much interest in, which leads to the assumption they have some of these players ranked much higher than some other colleges do. C.) Because Michigan had such a young team in 2017, quite a few starting positions are somewhat locked up going into 2018, this allows for a program to take more chances than they normally would the following recruiting class.

  • Michigan landed quarterback Michael Barrett, who will be playing running back at U-M. Barrett rushed for over 1,000 in 2017 and 2016. He was only a three star because a lot of teams don’t know what position he should move to. Barrett’s ability is higher than that of a three star.
  • Vincent Gray is an intriguing three star cornerback. Gray has physicality and speed to his game, and he’s 6-2. Having a tall cornerback with these attributes screams of a sleeper pickup.
  • Are you hoping for the next great Michigan tight end? Four star Mustpaha Muhammad just might fit the bill. Muhammad can really stretch the field and will be a difference in the passing game.
  • Four star quarterback Joe Milton could very well be the most athletic QB in the class, and he’s a game who loves competition, definitely a Jim Harbaugh type of guy. When things are all said and done Milton could ultimately be Michigan’s quarterback of the future. Although ranked the 9th best quarterback in this class, it’s conceivable Milton could wind up being the best in the class.
  • Three star Julius Welschof, a kid from Germany who learned about football from YouTube videos. The 20 year old has played football in Germany the past four seasons and he could be an immediate difference maker for Michigan. He has all the physical attributes you’d want in a defensive end. He’s 6-6 248 lbs and far more agile than most people of his stature. Welschof could ultimately be a five star type recruit that other colleges missed out on, that Michigan had the fortitude to recruit.

Those are just a few examples, and there are others to suggest this class could be ranked a little lower than it should be. At the very least, a class ranked in the top 20 isn’t necessarily a bad class.

And here’s something else to factor in if you’re worried about this being a “down year”... Michigan landed Ole Miss transfer quarterback Shea Patterson, Utah transfer cornerback Casey Hughes, and could land highly coveted Rice grad transfer Calvin Anderson, who’s going to be a good offensive tackle in the NFL when things are said and done.

Oklahoma went to the College Football Playoff in 2017, they had the most junior-college transfers in the country, and they only signed one recruit ranked in the top 60. Point being, the transfers Michigan have/could have would make their off-season a lot better than it is has been perceived to be.

Where would Michigan’s class be ranked if it could include these transfer players? Much higher, obviously. While their 2018 class ranking is what it is, their off-season ranking is in the top ten, factoring in the additions of Patterson and Hughes.

In conclusion, fans shouldn’t be worried about this class. Ultimately, evaluation of it is subjective until evidence proves who these players are at the collegiate level. “Just win, baby.” As Al Davis would say. Winning takes care of almost everything. To the victors go the spoils, to the victors go the top ranked recruits. Expect Michigan to win more in 2018, and for the subsequent recruiting classes to be ranked higher.