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Meet Michigan’s newest pass-catchers: first came the talent, now there’s depth

The Wolverines add depth to the receiving corps with four 2018 commits.

NCAA Football: Michigan at Purdue Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports

The Michigan coaching staff reeled in one of the highest-rated wide receiver recruiting classes in the nation in 2017, bringing in Donovan Peoples-Jones, Tarik Black, Nico Collins and Oliver Martin. We saw glimpses last season of the skill that Peoples-Jones and Black bring to the table, and with virtually the entire receiving corps returning this unit is only going to get better.

This 2018 class was about adding depth, and that seems to be exactly what Michigan has done by bringing in tight ends Mustapha Muhammad, Luke Schoonmaker, and Ryan Hayes, along with wideout Ronnie Bell.

Let’s take a look at what each will bring to the table.

MUSTAPHA MUHAMMAD, four-star tight end (Missouri City, TX)

The top-ranked pass-catcher in this class for Michigan is Muhammad, who signed his National Letter of Intent in December and was named to the Under Armour All-America Game back in January. The 6-4, 244-pounder ranks No. 6 nationally at his position and signed with the Wolverines over UCLA and Clemson, among others.

Muhammad was a priority for Michigan in this class, given the importance of the tight end position in the offensive system, and it seems the newcomer agrees, calling Michigan “the closest thing I can think of to a perfect fit.”

He told “The environment, family vibe, coaching staff, pro-style system, connection for post grad, NFL pipeline, nearby mosques and very large Muslim population in the surrounding areas of Michigan, the culture, the fans — the team, the team, the team — are all reasons I am a Wolverine.”

During his varsity career, Muhammad caught 68 passes for 1,040 yards and 12 touchdowns. He also showed the ability to make key blocks, both along the line and out in space. He is the type of player that could see early playing time, competing with Sean McKeon, Tyrone Wheatley Jr. and Zach Gentry.

LUKE SCHOONMAKER, three-star tight end (Hamden, CT)

Schoonmaker is the fourth Michigan commit out of Connecticut in the last two years, joining Tarik Black, Ben Mason and Andrew Stueber from the 2017 class. Standing 6-6, 229, he should fit into the offense much like Zach Gentry. He has decent size and speed, and he played some quarterback in high school as well — completing 57% of his passes for 1,079 yards and seven scores.

As a receiver, he caught 27 passes for 454 yards and three touchdowns, while also adding 623 yards and 13 scores on the ground. Schoonmaker will be a versatile option for Michigan at the tight end position, likely being able to split wide as well.

Signing his NLI back in December, Schoonmaker is the third-ranked player from the state of Connecticut.

RONNIE BELL, three-star wide receiver (Kansas City, MO)

Long considered a basketball recruit, Bell flew under the radar of most football recruiters and coaches, and then completely shifted directions with his college decision when Michigan came knocking. In mid-December, Bell decommitted from Missouri State, where he was headed to play basketball, and four days later he was a verbal commit to the Wolverines — the only program to offer him.

A relative unknown, Bell is a quick and shifty receiver who makes guys miss — judging by his highlight film. The 6-1, 170-pound (and that’s gotta be soaking wet) wideout tallied more than 1,600 yards receiving during his senior campaign.

In 2018, Michigan returns nearly its entire receiving corps, so I don’t see Bell making an early impact, but given some time to get stronger and learn the system, he could be a slot guy or end-around weapon in his sophomore or junior season.

RYAN HAYES, four-star tight end (Traverse City, MI)

To me, Hayes is probably the biggest question mark in this group. Originally committing back in May 2017, his future position with Michigan was still up in the air before ultimately being listed as a tight end on the team’s official site.

According to his high school coach, Tim Wooer, Hayes is a versatile athlete, standing at 6-7 and 262 pounds. “Once he decides to just focus on just one sport his ceiling is going to be through the roof,” said Wooer.

Hayes is a big-bodied tight end who is strong enough to stay in and block on run plays and quick enough to catch some passes. In short, he’s just the type of player Harbaugh needs to operate in his offensive system.

Hayes is currently listed as the No. 5 recruit in the state of Michigan, according to 247Sports. An important thing to note with Hayes’s four-star ranking by 247Sports is that he is currently still listed as an offensive lineman. He signed his NLI back in December.

Given Michigan’s current situation at wideout and tight end...


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