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Michigan Football Recruiting: Taking a look at 2016's needs

With the 2015 class in the rear-view mirror, it's time to evaluate needs for the 2016 cycle.

Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

With Michigan's 2015 recruiting cycle officially signed, it's time to turn our focus to the 2016 class. As of today, the Wolverines have 16 available scholarships to give, but about four more could open up with the usual attrition, meaning this should be a class of around 20 players.

They have quite a bit of needs to fill in this cycle, so let's dive in a little deeper.

Quarterbacks: 1-2

It's been well documented that Jim Harbaugh loves to stockpile quarterbacks, as he took multiple players at the position throughout his tenure at Stanford except for one year. Heading in to 2016, the Wolverines will have five already on campus in Shane Morris, Wilton Speight, Alex Malzone, Zach Gentry and recent transfer John O'Korn.

With that being said, it would be a huge surprise to see them take a pair of signal-callers. They have already shown interest in some of 2016's top prospects in five-star Jacob Eason and four-star KJ Costello. Quarterback is not a pressing need, but they should be able to grab at least one pretty good prospect in the 2016 cycle.

Running backs: 1

The depth chart at running back will still be pretty deep in 2016, with Derrick Green, DeVeon Smith, Ty Isaac, Drake Johnson and Karan Higdon in the fold. Some have speculated that they may want to take two, but they have bigger needs elsewhere that need to be addressed with a third straight year of semi-limited scholarships.

Their biggest need at that position is speed. Johnson and Higdon have decent speed, but they are not exactly burners. A back that can break one off for a big play and catch the ball out of the backfield is a near-must for them in this class.

Fullbacks: 1-2

The fullback is an important part of any pro-style scheme, especially in the type of offense that Harbaugh wants to run at Michigan. Joe Kerridge and Sione Houma won't be around forever and Wyatt Shallman's role in the new offense is unclear to this point.

Harbaugh and company will need to address this position after missing out on flipping 2015 prospect Reagan Williams from Stanford.

Wide receiver: 2-3

A huge need for the Wolverines in the class is a gamebreaking, playmaking wide receiver that's currently not on their roster heading in to the 2015 season. The bodies that they do have right now are unproven and have potential, but they can't afford to wait and see if they pan out or not.

Drake Harris, Moe Ways and Freddy Canteen can still end up being very good, but Michigan needs more than one home run threat in this class. I fully expect them to go after wide receivers pretty hard in this cycle. They will certainly take two, if not possibly three.

Tight ends: 1-2

The number of tight ends they end up taking will depend on what happens with Jake Butt, Ian Bunting, AJ Williams and Tyrone Wheatley Jr. this season, but after missing out on Chris Clark this year they need to at least bring one very good tight end into the mix.

Harbaugh's system relies heavily on taking advantage of matchups in the middle of the field. Tight end will continue to be of huge importance for Michigan and it would not surprise me if they took two. Nasier Upshur and Luke Farrell would be two players that fit.

Offensive line: 3

Any success Michigan has up front will largely depend on the development of the offensive line. It's important to have depth at that position and offensive coordinator Tim Drevno will make that a priority in the 2016 class. They seem pretty solid depth-wise at offensive tackle if the guys they have stick there, so interior offensive lineman should be a big focus moving forward.

Defensive end: 1-2

Michigan was able to nab a pair of defensive ends in the 2015 class in Reuben Jones and Shelton Johnson, but both figure to be strong side players. Regardless of what side they end up playing on, the defensive end position is not particularly deep either and has a fair amount of unproven guys.

The two guys who will be in the mix here and are likely on the top of the list are Rahshaun Smith and Connor Murphy. Both have become two of the more coveted pass rushers in the 2016 class and it will be interesting to see what happens with them in regards to the Wolverines.

Defensive tackle: 1

Of all of the position groups on the roster, defensive tackle is probably the deepest. Michigan did not recruit any interior defensive lineman in the 2015 cycle, so there is room to take one in 2016.

The top prospect on everyone's list is Rashan Gary, who figures to be one of the top players in the country regardless of class standing. He is a five-star kid that has ties to the Wolverines in Jabrill Peppers and Juwann Bushell-Beatty and his former high school coach, Chris Partridge, was hired to Michigan's staff in a recruiting role. Expect the Wolverines to make a huge push for his services.

Linebackers: 3

Linebacker is a huge position of need for the 2016 cycle. Michigan has four seniors on the roster at that position and will have to reload there after missing out at the position in their 2015 class. A transfer from 2014's four-star Michael Ferns hurts them there as well.

On the outside slots, I'd expect Harbaugh's staff to go after more hybrid pass rushers in the vein of Keisean Lucier-South, who they missed on in 2015. Nobody on the current roster really has that skill set in their back pocket, so we'll see what direction the staff decides to go here.

Cornerbacks: 2

Outside of Jourdan Lewis and Blake Countess, 2015 is going to be an interesting year to find out if the Wolverines have anyone else who can be productive at the position. There are quite a few guys who look like they could take that next step, but nothing is set in stone.

It's important for Michigan to bring in two corners for the 2016 class. They have already been busy on the recruiting trail offering several defensive backs, so they are aware of how big a need they have at the position, as well.

Safety: 1

Safety is not really a huge need for Michigan in 2016, especially with Jabrill Peppers sliding over to that position. It's possible they do not take any at all, but it wouldn't be a shock to see them take one just for depth's sake. Defensive backs are pretty versatile in a lot of cases, so they could very well recruit some corners that have the ability to make the change like Peppers has.

Kicker/Punter: 1

We do not know if the staff will even use scholarships at this spot, but they could definitely afford to add a punter to the mix in 2016. Andrew David was brought in this year on scholarship and looks to be the starter at kicker for the next four seasons.


This class will be Harbaugh's staff's first shot at putting their stamp on the program entirely, so it will be fun to follow. If I had to rank their positions of need, I'd say linebacker, cornerback, tight end and wide receiver, in that order.