Now that National Signing Day is over and the 2016 class is in the books, members of the Maize n Brew staff give their takeaways and favorite players in the cycle.
Without further ado, here we go:
Your pick for instant-impact recruit not named Rashan Gary
Alex K. - I'm infatuated with the options that are offered with Khaleke Hudson. Not only his highlight strictly a gem, I think he'll be a 'hole-filler' for a number of positions that require assistance, more sooner than later.
Shash - Devin Bush - stepping in immediately as a plus athlete at a position of need. Jake Ryan?
Ricky - I like Kareem Walker. There's a reason Jabrill Peppers had to play running back last year: Michigan badly needed a spark at the position. De'Veon Smith battled the injury bug and Drake Johnson wasn't able to replicate his November 2014 magic. Jim Harbaugh wasn't afraid to put the young guns in there last season — say Karan Higdon over Derrick Green and Ty Isaac — so I see no reason as to Walker won't potentially see a fair amount of field his first year after enrolling early.
Drew - Devin Bush, Jr. Michigan returns a healthy majority of its starters from 2015 and has experienced upperclassmen to fill in most of the spots where the starters have departed. However, the one position group that doesn't have that luxury is linebacker, which must replace Desmond Morgan, Joe Bolden, and James Ross III. The only sure-fire Wolverine to claim one of those spots is Ben Gedeon, who rotated in as a reserve inside linebacker throughout the season. Other than that, though, it's completely up in the air, which means there is a grand opportunity for a true freshman to be the other starting inside linebacker. And Bush is the best bet to claim that spot because, not only is he the highest-rated inside linebacker in Michigan's 2016 class, he's the only one that enrolled early. He's already in the weight room working with Michigan's strength and conditioning staff and will have 15 spring practices to begin learning Don Brown's defensive schemes. So, basically, no other freshman not named Rashan Gary will have the opportunity to start like Bush does, and Bush already has a head start on his fellow frosh.
Nick B. - Gosh, the name I picked ended up surprising myself. I didn't want to choose one of the wide receivers (too easy), or Kareem Walker (also too easy). So I'm going with Stephen Spanellis, late addition and already college-sized road-grader.
Many knowledgeable people will think I'm crazy here, but there are always a few surprises every year, and after looking around the college landscape for a while I've come to realize that offensive linemen play in their first year a little more than people expect. And the line, like wide receiver and linebacker, needs some fresh faces to come in and contribute.
Anthony - Linebacker Devin Bush. As an early enrollee on a team that will be rebuilding its linebacking corps, he is going to have a chance to stand out really early. It may end up being a baptism by fire scenario, but he has the chance to be a day-one starter on the Michigan defense.
Recruit most likely to outperform his ranking
Alex K. - The 2016 wide receiver position is highlighted by the landings of Ahmir Mitchell and Dylan Crawford but three-star wideout Nate Johnson (Independence) is a kid I really like on film. The more I watch, the more he intrigues me in that he has a phenomenal first few steps after he catches the ball. That's vastly important at the next level and he's my commit to have that 'breakout.'
Shash - I really like what I see from Josh Uche on tape. Elite athleticism and a nose for the game. Let's see if Don Brown can mold him into an every down player.
Ricky - Nick Eubanks, depending on what recruiting service you use. 247Sports had him as a three-star, and I really like the size that he brings to tight end. I think he could fill a Devin Funchess-like role during his career.
Drew - Joshua Uche. I was tempted to go with Khaleke Hudson, but, while Hudson was a high three-star verging on four-star status, Uche is a much lower three-star, ranked 705th overall in the 2016 class according to the 247Sports Composite. Therefore, Uche doesn't have as high of a bar to usurp to outperform his ranking, and I think he has a great chance of doing so. Why? Well, Uche is ranked so low because of his size. He's a weakside defensive end that weighs only 212 pounds. That's just way too light, and he'll need to hit the buffet table and weight room to gain 30 to 40 pounds before he can become effective. However, if he can do that and maintain his speed and agility -- not the easiest of tasks -- he could become a special speed rusher and a responsible edge container for the Wolverines. And I don't think I'm the only one that sees that either. How often do you see Michigan, Florida, Auburn, and Alabama clamoring over a three-star like Uche? Exactly.
Nick B. - Sean McKeon. Easy.
Anthony - I think safety Khaleke Hudson will be a pleasant surprise at the next level given his ranking coming out of high school.He looks like a player that will slide into the spot that Jabrill Peppers eventually vacates and has the skill set to do all of the same things.
Recruit that will have the hardest time living up to his ranking
Alex K. - I'm going to say four-star TE Devin Asiasi. He's a versatile kid out of De La Salle, where he played tight end, Y-back, defensive end, and even some quarterback. I still think's he somewhat raw but he was one of my favorite recruits that Michigan landed.
Shash - I'm actually going to say Kareem Walker here. He's clearly talented. But he's entering a committee at running back and will have to perform consistently in pass pro and catching to get the PT he needs to develop. Sky's the limit - just a tough position to break into.
Ricky - N/A
Drew - Brad Hawkins. I want to take a realistic approach to this question because it's not a fun one to answer by any means. With a question like this, the three-stars are cut out at the onset. Most three-stars don't have high expectations at Michigan, so it's not as difficult for them to live up to their ranking. That leaves us with Rashan Gary and the four-stars, and Michigan brought in three four-star wide receivers: Dylan Crawford, Ahmir Mitchell, and Hawkins. To those asking about Eddie McDoom and Nate Johnson, they will be slot receivers. Anyways, that's three wide receivers in the same class for two outside positions. Someone will be left out, and I think that someone will be Hawkins because he lacks top-end speed and won't be a vertical threat. He fits the mold of an Amara Darboh, which isn't a bad thing obviously, but, when he'll be competing against potential explosive playmakers in Crawford and Mitchell, he could be the odd man out down the road.
Nick B. - Relative to his ranking? I would say Carlo Kemp. The other name I considered here was Josh Metellus, who's tenacious but also a little small for a safety. With that said, hopefully I'm very wrong on both counts.
Anthony - Kareem Walker. As the No. 1 running back prospect in this class, people will look to him as the savior of the rushing attack, but we have been down this road before with guys like Kevin Grady and Derrick Green. Not trying to say he will end up a bust, but he has a lot of work to do and things to show. Fortunately for him, he has enrolled early and has a leg up.
Your favorite recruit in this class
Alex K. - Ahmir Mitchell. Michigan has been eons away from 'Wide Receiver U' and obviously the current system isn't really built to breed 1,000-yard receivers. At 6-foot-3 and a shade over 200 pounds I think Mitchell has all the tools to be a star on the outside and the next big WR for the Wolverines. Breakaway speed isn't stellar but he has that Julio Jones archetype.
Shash - Hard to top the troll job from Onwenu, but I like Brandon Peters. He has composure I haven't seen since Henne in a kid that young.
Ricky - Chris Evans. I love the versatility he can offer the Wolverines on offense. He excels in the run and pass game.
Drew - Brandon Peters. Yes, I'm taking the quarterback, and, no, I don't care if you think that's typical. Peters had an excellent senior season and soared up the recruiting rankings as result, finishing as the 61st overall prospect and sixth-best quarterback. But it's more than just the rankings for me. I had an opportunity to watch his first game against Chris Evans' Ben Davis online back in August. Though Peters' Avon fell just short in a highly entertaining game, I came away extremely impressed by Peters' performance and ability. His throws had zip, were on point, and still were completed despite facing enormous pressure. Everyone wants to label Peters as the next Andrew Luck because of the Jim Harbaugh connection, but I was seeing glimpses of Ben Roethlisberger as he continued to shed rushers and blitzers and make plays. I'm not saying that's the quarterback he'll become, but I think he'll become a special, special quarterback under Harbaugh's tutelage.
Nick B. - This is a tough one. Ron Johnson doesn't get enough love. Neither does Kingston Davis. Michael Onwenu is going to be a fan favorite. But I think my absolute favorite is Chris Evans. Maybe it's the sprinter lunge, but he's just so much fun to watch. Was pretty funny in The Losers, as well...
Anthony - I'll be "that guy." Rashan Gary is a badass. I'm not sure how much better he can get other than developing physically. This kid has Ndamukong Suh talent with a humble attitude and hungry work ethic. He's going to be a special player right off the bat.
Who is going to be a star three or four years from now?
Alex K. - Devin Bush Jr. Obviously the linebacking core needs help right away and I think Bush will find snaps. Add that experience and his natural playmaking abilities and he could be an absolute force by his senior year.
Shash - Peters. He's an assassin.
Ricky - Brandon Peters. Jim Harbaugh finally gets his quarterback (unless you count Zach Gentry in last year's recruiting cycle). Peters has a lot of hype surrounding him. If Harbaugh can turn Jake Rudock into a stud, there's no reason he can't do the same with Peters.
Drew - Rashan Gary. Do I really need to explain this one? No? Okay, good.
Nick B. - Maybe I'm just a homer, but I'm really excited about all these guys. Let me say Ron Johnson, though. The guy is a terrific, physical enforcer with the perfect kind of speed for his position. He'll need to bulk up and probably won't see the field right away, but that's status quo so far for Harbaugh and defensive ends - there was no playing time in 2015 for freshmen Shelton Johnson and Reuben Jones (though Reuben moved to linebacker by the end of the season) and a very limited role for Lawrence Marshall.
Anthony - Lavert Hill. It could come sooner than that, but Hill is in the same mold as Jourdan Lewis and should be able to step in and contribute as a starter in 2017 and perhaps be a part of the rotation even earlier than that. I like his game a bit more than David Long's, but if both pan out, the Wolverines will have a stellar secondary for years to come.
Your finals thoughts of the class?
Alex K. - Michigan clocks out at No. 5 according to 247 and I don't know how anyone could be ashamed of that. Not only did the Wolverines pick up star power on offense (Mitchell, Bredeson, Peters, Walker, Crawford, Asiasi, etc.) and defense (Gary, Hudson, Hill, Kemp, etc.) but also landed three-star punter Quinn Nordin. It's a bunch of balance and just wait and see how this domino fall effects next season's class.
Shash - Would have liked another o lineman or two, but M clearly improved their secondary with Long and Hill. They have a game ready lb in Bush, and have talented projects to fill out the class. Oh, and Rashan Gary. Much ink has been spilled about him - but he instantly makes the other 10 players around him on defense that much better.
Ricky - I really like this class. Rashan Gary appears poised to be a playmaker on the defensive line from day one. I also love the versatility that several recruits possess. It was also an excellent cycle to follow, from flip season to the sleepovers.
Drew - Jim Harbaugh and staff did an excellent job in their first full recruiting cycle at Michigan. Not only did they land a very talented class that is headlined by the consensus No. 1 overall prospect in Rashan Gary and considered to be the fifth-best by the 247Sports Composite rankings, they branched out into fertile recruiting regions that have not been kind to Michigan in years past. This 2016 class has six commits from New Jersey, six from Florida, three from California, and two from Alabama compared to just three total from Michigan, Ohio, and Illinois, which is where Brady Hoke did the majority of his recruiting. That's not to say that the Midwest doesn't have talented prospects, but there's little question that California, Texas, and the Southeast produce more. With this class, Michigan established itself as a national recruiting power once again. It proved that it can go into foreign areas and battle big-time local schools for blue-chip prospects. That's huge.
Nick B. - Boom. A+ job by this staff.
Anthony - Gary was the make or break player in this class, so since they nabbed him it is hard not to dub it a huge success. Michigan is no stranger to these great recruiting classes, but the results have not paid off on the field, and rival fanbases have been quick to point that out in recent days. The Wolverines have the coaching staff to unlock the potential of these players, and I full expect them to do so.