clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Michigan’s top 2019 recruiting targets: Defense

An in-depth guide of who Michigan is pursuing the hardest this cycle on the defensive side of the ball

Michigan v Purdue Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

With basketball season over and the spring game looming, recruiting season is about to heat up quickly. To get ready for a summer of official visits, satellite camps, and Big House barbecues, we’ve created a quick primer that covers the top targets for the 2019 cycle at each position for the Wolverines.

This will be split into separate posts for the offense and defense. Let’s start with the defense first.

Defensive End

Michigan already has three defensive ends on board; Chris Hinton, Stephen Herron and Gabe Newburg. Not satisfied, and preparing for a possible Herron flip, the staff is pursuing several other highly touted prospects at the position.

Marcus Hicks is the player that Michigan is going after the hardest right now. The four-star out of Kansas is the top ranked player in his state, and 254th overall. He’s an excellent run defender and a powerful pass rusher.

Michigan made Hicks’ latest top group, and he just visited for junior day. On top of that, he already wears a winged helmet in high school. Oklahoma will be the Wolverines’ biggest competition

Narrowly missing the top spot is in-state four-star Michael Fletcher, who Michigan has been trending strongly for lately. Fletcher is a long, twitchy athlete, but still very raw.

Michigan is also in the mix for some elite talent, including five-stars Kayvon Thibodeaux and Zach Harrison. Not to mention three-star Aeneas DiCosmo, who got several Crystal Balls to Michigan after his visit to Ann Arbor

Defensive Tackle

As one of the positions that substitutes the most, building depth at defensive tackle is important. Given that Michigan is about to lose two fifth-year seniors and took arguably zero last class (depending if Taylor Upshaw moves inside or not), this is one of the most critical positions to fill.

The top of the board here is strikingly clear, and it reads Mazi Smith. The four-star out of East Kentwood, Michigan has long been pursued by the Maize and Blue.

Initially a lean to Notre Dame, Michigan has been the benefactor of a wave of crystal balls for him recently. This is excellent news, as Smith is a menace inside, both defending the run and rushing the passer. If Michigan can keep this momentum going, they will add to an already stacked defensive line.

Other defensive tackles the Wolverines are pursuing are the nation’s number one player at the position, five-star Ishmael Sopsher, as well as four-star Rodas Johnson.


Michigan has signed several elite linebacker prospects in the last couple of classes. This year should be no exception, with several talented prospects looking to join three-star Charles Thomas in the class.

A perfect fit for Don Brown’s blitz-heavy terror squad, four-star Lance Dixon is the staff’s most coveted linebacker. The Michigan native is dangerous off the edge, combining elite acceleration and closing speed with violent tackling.

This is another case of Michigan swinging the recruitment of a local stud in their favor. Dixon is looking to stay near home, and was showing more interest towards Michigan State until the Wolverines stepped in and made him a priority. There is still ground to make up in this race, and Penn State is also lurking, but Michigan is in a good position to take the lead.

A promising development among linebackers, five-star Brandon Smith. He recently visited, and Michigan looks to have jumped right into the thick of the race. Additional targets at the position include four-stars Drake Thomas and Shane Lee, and three-star Marcel Lewis.


With five defensive backs brought in last cycle, this is not a major positional need right now. However, Michigan has some prospects that they really like and won’t hesitate in adding one or two to the class.

The cornerback that Michigan seems to have the best chance at landing is three-star Tyler Nubin. Michigan has come on strongly for the Illinois product. So much so that some were anticipating him committing during Michigan’s junior day last month. That didn’t come to fruition, but Michigan should still be at the top of Nubin’s list.

Michigan also has the benefit of being Nubin’s most high profile offer to date, overshadowing the likes of Illinois, Iowa State, Minnesota, and Purdue. It is safe to say that they are in the driving seat of this recruitment.

Other cornerbacks on Michigan’s board include four-stars DJ Turner II and Adonis Otey, and three-star Jalen Frazier. Julian Barnett, the four-star Michigan State commit, has been a mystery about his relationship with Michigan, along with his teammate Devontae Dobbs.


The depth chart at safety is similarly full with all of the commitments from defensive backs in 2018. Michigan does seem to be pursuing safety a bit harder than cornerback though. There are several more top names that have been linked to Michigan this cycle.

Michigan is going after another top ranked player from the plains states, this time Oklahoma. Five-star Daxton Hill has been receiving a lot of love from the Wolverines lately, and he has been reciprocating. Hill had an outstanding visit for junior day, and has opened up the door for Michigan to make a move.

Stealing Hill from the Oklahoma schools will be tough, but Michigan has an opportunity to make a splash here. Seeing how early and well former three-stars Khaleke Hudson and Josh Metellus have performed begs the question what the ceiling is for the second-ranked safety in the country.

Besides Hill, Michigan has four-stars Tyler Rudolph, Litchfield Ajavon, and Lewis Cine near the top of the board. Lately, three-star Kyle Hamilton has been getting a lot of attention nationally. Four-star Marvin Grant was considered to be a heavy Michigan lean for a long time, but the staff seems to have moved on from him to pursue other prospects at the position.

Recruiting is extremely fluid. Unsurprisingly, the attitudes of seventeen and eighteen year old high schoolers change with the wind. Michigan will fade with a lot of names on this list, and will end up with commitments from players not covered here.

This is still a good starting guide to survey the landscape of Michigan recruiting. The offensive counterpart will be coming out soon, so make sure to check back for more.