The 2018 recruiting cycle has been frustrating to say the least. During this time the last two years I was already blaring “Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I’m Yours)” and marveling over the recruiting spoils as the seemingly (talent) rich, got richer.
However, after one down season, Michigan fans find themselves searching for any glimmer of optimism. National Signing Day has come and gone and Michigan’s 2018 class rests at 21 (per 247Sports’ Composite). Sigh.
Simply, what the hell do we have to do to get some good news?
Look no further than the defensive line commitments; yes, this isn’t an area of immediate concern and yes, there are a few long term projects, but my optimism surrounding this group persists. Michigan has become ‘D-Line U’ thanks to Don Brown and Greg Mattison and it’s nice to see that the well isn’t going dry any time soon.
Ranking: 557th Nationally, 24th SDE per 247Sports’ Composite
Hometown: Bradenton, FL
The ⭐️⭐️⭐️ defensive lineman (@TaylorUpshaw91) hails from Bradenton, Florida!#GoBlue #BlueBloods18 pic.twitter.com/fg6Ig5OEwP— Michigan Football (@UMichFootball) February 7, 2018
Taylor Upshaw’s first season playing football was 2016 and he has only played 19 games total of organized football in his life. Open the door, look at the porcelain bathroom appliance, and let that sink in. Most of you reading this have more high school experience than Upshaw, but most of you aren’t the children of former NFL players either.
Upshaw is a raw talent, with a great frame, and tremendous upside. He reminds me of an unpolished Ezekiel Ansah for several reasons: 1) they both play uncharacteristically vertical and tend to watch too much, 2) they both picked up football late in life and rely heavily on arm tackling, and 3) they are both 6’5 physical specimens that jump off the screen.
Ansah is 30 pounds heavier, but don’t let that discount Upshaw whose own high school coach admits Upshaw is still growing into his body. At the collegiate level, Upshaw could project to be a defensive tackle or defensive end, but he is without a doubt an investment project.
He is already enrolled at Michigan and surrounded by two of the best defensive minds in football. However, Upshaw still needs time. Anticipate a redshirt for the 2018 season, but he could begin to see rotational time in 2019 or 2020.
Ranking: 112th Nationally, 6th SDE per 247Sports’ Composite
Hometown: Dearborn, MI
.@aidanhutch28 is a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ defensive lineman and the No. 1 recruit in the state of Michigan!! #GoBlue #BlueBloods18 pic.twitter.com/KyVhgg2czG— Michigan Football (@UMichFootball) February 7, 2018
The Michigan legacy commit (his father, Chris, was an All-American STUD at Michigan) and top rated Michigander is a deceivingly good player with elite quickness and a high motor.
Hutchinson’s burst off the line of scrimmage is the first thing that catches the eye as he is regularly bull rushing into opposing linemen before they have even come out of their stance. An excellent lineman athlete, Hutchinson’s quick feet are exceptionally evident when he lined up at tight end in high school.
The athleticism is inarguable, but what jumped out to me the more I watched film was the increasingly high motor this kid plays with. He is a grinder. It is never just one move, two seconds of explosion, and that’s it. Hutchinson keeps chasing until the play is finished, which occupies and wears down opposing linemen. His motor conceals some technique and flexibility concerns, but I guarantee Greg Mattison would rather coach a player on technique than effort.
4 DE Aidan Hutchinson (Michigan) with the SACK!!!!!!!! pic.twitter.com/KPoVZ0WQt8— NCAAF Nation (@NCAAFNation247) January 6, 2018
Hutchinson has long arms and a frame that could easily support 10-15 more pounds of muscle. As a high school junior, Hutchinson was an inch shorter and only weighed 234 pounds. As long as his explosion isn’t impacted, this weight will only increase his positional versatility.
Please don’t hold this against me Aidan and Chris (and Wolverine fans across the country), but Hutchinson’s game directly reminds me of Joey Bosa. Bosa was the fourth ranked SDE in his high school class and stood at 6’5, 270, with a tremendous motor. Sound familiar?
Expect Hutchinson to see rotational relief duties in 2018, with his role and workload and increasing every season.
Ranking: 315st Nationally, 15th ranked SDE per 247Sports’ Composite
Home Country: Germany
Last, but certainly not least: Let's give a big welcome to defensive lineman Julius Welschof! @JuliusWelschof becomes the first player from Europe to sign a LOI to play football at MIchigan. ➡️〽️#GoBlue #BlueBloods18 pic.twitter.com/0T51jTOQ7o— Michigan Football (@UMichFootball) February 7, 2018
Willkommen in Michigan, Herr Welschof!
Julius Welschof is the product of Michigan’s trip to Rome last spring and for someone who has never played competitive football against elite peers, the buzz around this kid is surprising. Why are scouts so high on this seemingly ‘long term project’ type of player?
Firstly, Welschof is a former champion skier, soccer, and tennis player, whose diverse sports background has yielded exceptional footwork and balance. This will allow him to adjust to defensive end techniques and further improve his bend on the edge.
Secondly, Welschof is fast. Despite his long frame, he is surprisingly agile and has even clocked a 40-yard dash at 4.55 seconds. Combined with his footwork and athleticism, Welschof is able to use his speed to exploit less athletic tackles.
But one glaring issue is the lack of experience and transition to Division 1 football that scared off other Big 10 schools. He is a workout warrior and superb athlete, but that doesn’t always transition to on-the-field success. As far as a comparison, I’m taking an IOU.
Welschof isn’t a project to the extremes of Upshaw because of his elite athleticism, but there will still be an adjustment period. Given the depth of the Michigan defensive line, expect a redshirt season in 2018 and rotational (obvious passing downs) playing time in 2019.
With these three talented recruits and as my colleague Trevor laid out last week, Michigan can still win the off-season with key transfers. The aforementioned Stevie Wonder hit states, “Oh, you’ve got the future in your hand,” and regardless where this 2018 class is ranked, they’re ours.
Who do you think will have the best career at Michigan?
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