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Latest transfer brings early departure total from 2017 football recruiting class to 20 players

The 2017 class was supposed to define the Harbaugh era, but it hasn’t worked out.

Penn State v Michigan Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Former four-star defensive end and top-100 prospect Luiji Vilain has entered the transfer portal, making it another member of the Michigan Wolverines’ fifth-ranked 2017 recruiting class that didn’t finish his college career in Ann Arbor.

At this point, the struggles in developing and holding on to some of the top players they brought in are well-documented. It does paint a picture of why the program is lacking upperclassman talent at a handful of key positions, though.

Vilain’s transfer is the 14th from a class that signed 30 players. Early NFL Draft declarations and opt-outs from the COVID-impacted 2020 season bring the total to 20 players from the class who ever suited up for their senior years at Michigan.

Three members of the class opted out (Ambry Thomas, Dylan McCaffrey, Nico Collins) before this season was even played, leaving Vilain and Chuck Filiaga as the top players from the class still on the roster. Given that Vilain was a depth piece at best and Filiaga entered the year as a first-time starter, there just was not a heck of a lot left from the top of the 2017 haul of talent.

Here is a look at every player that Michigan signed during the 2017 cycle and when they decided to leave the program.

Michigan Football’s 2017 recruiting class

Player Position Rating National rank Pos. rank Departure?
Player Position Rating National rank Pos. rank Departure?
Donovan Peoples-Jones WR 5-star 12 1 NFL Draft (2019)
Aubrey Solomon DT 5-star 23 2 Transfer (2018)
Cesar Ruiz OC 4-star 47 1 NFL Draft (2019)
Luiji Vilain DE 4-star 57 5 Transfer (2021)
Drew Singleton OLB 4-star 79 5 Transfer (2018)
Ambry Thomas CB 4-star 90 12 Opt-out (2020)
Jordan Anthony OLB 4-star 106 8 Transfer (2019)
Chuck Filiaga OT 4-star 112 13
Tarik Black WR 4-star 116 15 Transfer (2020)
Dylan McCaffrey QB 4-star 123 5 Opt-out (2020)
Nico Collins WR 4-star 138 23 Opt-out (2020)
Oliver Martin WR 4-star 181 29 Transfer (2018)
Josh Ross ILB 4-star 211 9
James Hudson DT 4-star 231 13 Transfer (2018)
Deron Irving-Bey SDE 4-star 249 9 Transfer (2018)
Jaylen Kelly-Powell S 4-star 250 21 Transfer (2020)
Corey Malone-Hatcher WDE 4-star 268 19 Medical retirement (2017)
O'Maury Samuels RB 4-star 269 20 Transfer (2019)
Donovan Jeter SDE 4-star 289 12
JaRaymond Hall OT 4-star 301 30 Transfer (2017)
Benjamin St-Juste CB 4-star 338 39 Transfer (2019)
Andrew Stueber OT 3-star 365 35
J'Marick Woods S 3-star 383 28 Transfer (2019)
Brad Hawkins WR 3-star 425 66
Joel Honigford OT 3-star 441 46
Phillip Paea DT 3-star 459 38
Kwity Paye DE 3-star 487 29
Ben Mason ILB 3-star 817 32
Kurt Taylor RB 3-star 918 50 Transfer (2018)
Brad Robbins P 2-star N/A 16

As good as the 2016 class was for Michigan, the 2017 cycle was supposed to be the one that propelled Jim Harbaugh’s program to greater heights. Transfers happen frequently in the current landscape of college sports, but the misses and departures have done a number on the depth chart over the last few seasons.

Michigan lost a lot of games this season because it wasn’t talented or well-coached enough in a number of areas. They followed up the 2017 cycle with a 2018 class that ranked 22nd in the country.

Much is made about whether rankings matter or not, but the teams that consistently compete at the top of the Power Five stack consecutive elite classes on top of retaining and developing those players. Harbaugh has continued to recruit well even into times of recent uncertainty, but the biggest key to getting the program back on track is holding onto your blue-chip players and turning them into pros.