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The foundation: How Jim Harbaugh’s 2016 recruiting class has fared so far

In Jim Harbaugh’s first full recruiting class, the foundation was built for what we’ve seen the last few seasons.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 29 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl - Florida v Michigan Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The hype around Jim Harbaugh and Michigan Football seemed to be at a high people were not used to coming off of his first season with the program, where the team got out to a nice start in its rebuild right off the bat with a 10-win season and bowl game victory.

That hype certainly translated to the recruiting trail, where Harbaugh and his staff were able to bring in talent that is already set to play on Sundays and a heck of a lot more that should join them when this season is over.

The 2016 recruiting class was ranked eighth nationally and second in the Big Ten behind, you guessed it, Ohio State. Here’s a full rundown of each of the commits and where they are at now.

Five-star DT Rashan Gary

Gary made things interesting for Michigan and took his decision all the way up to National Signing Day 2016, where the Wolverines were able to nab a commitment from the nation’s top overall recruit. When on the field and healthy, Gary was disruptive and often times still found success while fighting through double and triple teams. Fans always dogged him for the lack of the pure sack numbers, but he was in the backfield a lot and did a nice job in his role in Don Brown’s defense. The Green Bay Packers made him the No. 12 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.

Four-star OT Ben Bredeson

Bredeson committed to Michigan in June 2015 and was an immediate factor on the offensive line, starting eight games at left guard as a true freshman and holding down a spot that he still does to this day. Fast forward to 2019, and Bredeson is considered one of the best interior linemen in the country and is a two-time captain of the Wolverines.

Four-star QB Brandon Peters

Peters had the distinction of being Harbaugh’s first true full-cycle quarterback recruit while at U-M and hype was sprung upon him early on, with his head coach at one point even saying himself he had traits that reminded him of Andrew Luck. Peters may go down as one of the bigger “what if” players of the Harbaugh era, as the staff did not have him ready to go early enough in the 2017 season, which arguably cost them at least one or two wins. Peters finally was put in later in the year and showed promise, but was knocked out of the Wisconsin game with a concussion and never really returned to form after that. He would transfer out of Michigan after the 2018 season and is now set to start at Illinois this year.

Four-star CB David Long

Long very quietly became one of the better Michigan cornerbacks in recent memory after his freshman season and made 26-straight starts at cornerback in the final two years of his career in 2017-18. Long was a two-time All-Big Ten performer before declaring for the NFL Draft after last season and was selected in the third round by the Super Bowl runner-up Los Angeles Rams.

Four-star TE Devin Asiasi

This was one of the more shocking departures we have seen, as Asiasi transferred after his freshman season to be closer to home at UCLA. He played in all 13 games as a true freshman in 2016 and was set for an expanded role moving forward, but decided that it was time to move on. He had to sit out a year, but made his UCLA debut last season with six catches for 130 yards and one touchdown.

Four-star OG Michael Onwenu

Onwenu is another offensive lineman near the top of the list here that the Wolverines definitely hit on. He made nine starts in 2017 and started all 13 games at right guard last season, earning All-Big Ten honors. He has proven to be every bit the athlete he was billed as coming out of high school, even at 350 pounds. Onwenu has very quietly become one of the team’s best players, which is always a sign that an offensive lineman is doing his job well.

Four-star RB Kareem Walker

Walker stands out as one of the biggest disappointments from this class, mostly because he was originally an Ohio State commit and then switched his pledge to the Wolverines. However, he could not stay academically eligible and we never saw much of him before he transferred out of the program to Fort Scott Community College in 2018. Walker from there would transfer to Mississippi State, where he enrolled in February 2019.

Four-star WR Kekoa Crawford

Crawford would play in all 13 games as a freshman in 2016 with four receptions for 47 yards and a touchdown. His sophomore season saw him make 17 catches for 243 yards and a touchdown. However, Crawford would leave the program and was left off the 2018 roster heading into camp before eventually transferring to Cal for the 2019 season.

Four-star CB Lavert Hill

Another nice hit for the coaching staff came in the form of Hill, who is a two-time All-Big Ten selection and was named an AP All-American after last season. Heading into the 2019 season, Hill has made 25 starts in 36 games at cornerback in his Michigan career and is considered one of the best players at his position in college football heading into this year.

Four-star WR Brad Hawkins

Hawkins originally was committed in this class as wide receiver, but this was not where his Michigan story would begin. He would wind up going to prep school before enrolling in the Class of 2017 and switching to safety at Michigan, where he developed into a solid player in 2018 and now is considered one of the team’s most improved defensive players heading into the 2019 season.

Four-star DE Ron Johnson

Johnson never wound up making an impact at Michigan. He played in the 2016 debut against Hawaii, but that was it in his career after not seeing the field in 2017 or 2018. He entered the transfer portal as a grad student earlier this offseason and joined Rutgers.

Four-star DE Carlo Kemp

Kemp came into Michigan as an end, but made the switch to defensive tackle and started to come into his own as a junior in 2018, making 12 starts in 13 games. He is, by all accounts, one of Michigan’s most improved players this offseason and he was voted as a team captain for the 2019 squad by his peers in the locker room.

Four-star LB Devin Bush Jr.

Bush, all things considered, may have been the biggest hit from this class. The No. 10 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft of the Pittsburgh Steelers (who traded up to get him) played in 39 career games in Ann Arbor and made 25 starts in the middle of the defense. He was a Consensus All-American selection last season and was one of the captains of the team as a junior. He was very much the heartbeat of the 2018 Wolverines and his athleticism and instincts were among some of the best we have ever seen at his position in the program.

Four-star RB Chris Evans

Evans was an All-Big Ten honoree in 2017 and was a stalwart in the backfield from 2016-18, but academic issues forced the University of Michigan to suspend him from playing football for the 2019 season. He could still be back, as he has a season of eligibility remaining. When on the field, he showed an ability to both run effectively and catch the ball out of the backfield, so it would be interesting to see how his skill-set translated if he ever gets to play in a Josh Gattis offense.

Three-star TE Nick Eubanks

Eubanks has been quiet so far in his Michigan career with 10 career catches in 18 games played, but he might be in for an expanded role in 2019 in the new offense. Coming out of high school, he showed the combination of athleticism and playmaking ability that we like to see at tight end, but had to improve his blocking. It seems that was an emphasis for him during the 2019 offseason and it will be interesting to see what his role is moving forward. For now, the jury is still kind of out.

Three-star WR Eddie McDoom

McDoom, who’s name made him a fan-favorite early on in his time with Michigan, appeared in 25 games in his Michigan career from 2016-17 with 16 receptions for 140 yards and 203 yards rushing in his career. Michigan enjoyed using him on jet sweeps and in the screen game, but he transferred out prior to last season and is now with the University of South Florida.

Three-star S Khaleke Hudson

Hudson was one of the players that was named an early sleeper candidate in this class and he proved that hype correct and them some. Hudson has played in 39 games in his career with 24 starts at the viper position, which was made popular by Jabrill Peppers. He might be better at that spot than Peppers was and is a two-time All-Big Ten honoree. He has been named a team captain for the 2019 season.

Three-star LB Elysee Mbem-Bosse

Mbem-Bosse never amounted to much of anything at Michigan and left the program in Nov. 2017. He would eventually be involved in a police investigation after tweeting some strange and cryptic threats toward Jim Harbaugh.

Three-star WR Nate Johnson

Johnson, who would switch to cornerback at Michigan, was kicked off the football team in Oct. 2017 after being arrested on campus for striking a woman. He would later plead guilty to one count of domestic violence and battery and spent four days in jail and six months of probation. He would transfer to Arizona Western College and is now on the Grand Valley State roster as a wide receiver.

Three-star K Quinn Nordin

Nordin, the player that Harbaugh still gets roasted for sleeping over with, has appeared in 25 games at Michigan with 23 starts handling field goal and extra point duties. He would lose his job last season to Jake Moody, but both players have been battling for the kicking job in 2019 and it has apparently been a neck-and-neck battle.

Three-star DE Joshua Uche

Uche, who finally gets a shot at a staring role in 2019, has appeared in 26 games in his Michigan career and was an All-Big Ten honorable mention last season. He has primarily been an edge rusher in his career, but is expected to get the nod at strong-side linebacker and Michigan plans to use him all over the field this season. He might sneakily be one of the team’s best players on defense by the team the year is over with.

Three-star RB Kingston Davis

Davis transferred out of Michigan after his freshman season and only had two carries for 17 yards in 2016. He would transfer to Independence Community College, but was then kicked off of the team there, the details of which people should read for themselves here. Davis would receive an opportunity to play at UAB in 2018, but was suspended indefinitely by the team and eventually removed from the roster after an incident where he wound up being charged with domestic violence by strangulation or suffocation.

Three-star OG Stephen Spanellis

Spanellis has been a fixture on special teams for Michigan in his career, where he has played in 26 games. He has also been a reserve on the offensive line and would play center in the Outback Bowl against South Carolina in 2017. He is expected once again to be one of the key bench players on the interior of the line.

Three-star S Josh Metellus

Metellus is a two-time All-Big Ten honoree that has played in 34 games in his Michigan career with 25 starts to his name. Of the recruits in this class, he is probably the player that has outperformed his ranking the most and has become an extremely important piece on the back-end of the defense. He was named an alternate captain ahead of the 2019 season.

Three-star TE Sean McKeon

McKeon, who is currently penciled in at the top of the tight end depth chart, has played in 30 games at Michigan with 16 starts. His career totals heading into his senior season have him at 47 catches for 433 yards and four touchdowns.

Three-star DT Michael Dwumfour

Dwumfour has played in 23 games in his Michigan career and has made two starts. Heading into 2019, he is a player that we have not heard much about and might be on the outside looking-in for playing time.

Three-star S Devin Gil

Gil is another player, like his former high school teammate Metellus, who has surprised given his recruiting ranking. He has played 26 games in his college career and has 14 starts and had 33 tackles (3.5 for loss) and 1.5 sacks last season. He is right in the mix for playing time at linebacker again for 2019.

Three-star LB Dytarious Johnson

Johnson committed in 2015, but never officially signed with the team. He is now playing for Eastern Illinois and made 10 starts at linebacker for them in 2018.

The Verdict

Harbaugh’s first full recruiting class at Michigan was a terrific one with the fruits of his staff’s labor still paying off heading into the 2019 season. To have a class where 17 of the 24 guys come in and not only establish themselves as contributors, but also have stars at both the top and bottom of your class rankings speaks to Michigan’s ability to not only recruit at a high level, but to develop talent, as well. As far as some of the misses go, there were some bad apples here and they did not hesitate to let them walk out of the building when they needed to.

Bush, Metellus and Gil were high school teammates and the other two were thought to essentially be throw-ins to the class in order to secure Bush’s services, but both guys have held their own and will play key roles this season.

The fact that there is a decent amount of star power in this class already in the NFL and that there are still plenty of major contributors left is great for the Wolverines and a good sign moving forward that this staff knows what it’s doing.