The ink has barely dried on Michigan football’s 2018 commit’s letters of intent, but that does not mean it is too early to look ahead to what should be an incredibly important 2019 class.
While the most recent class disappointed some fans, it was more about building depth and filling a few needs rather than hitting a home-run. And Michigan added some great pieces that will help the team in the future.
The 2019 class however, will need to account for what should be a fairly large group of departures from the roster in ‘19 and especially ‘20. So far, Michigan is off to a strong start with the 2019 class, having landed five commitments with 5-star defensive end Christopher Hinton leading the way.
Looking over the roster, here is how I rank the positions of need for the next recruiting class.
5. Wide Receiver/Tight End
These are two positions that are almost identical in terms of need and both look really strong for the immediate future, especially with Tarik Black still having four years of eligibility. Michigan having landed 4-star tight end Mustapha Muhammad in the last recruiting cycle keeps tight end from being higher on the list.
We learned all too well last year that wide receiver is not a position where you want to be relying on true freshmen for the bulk of your production. So while Michigan is set at both positions for ‘18 and ‘19, this is more about ensuring Michigan has guys ready to step up as sophomores and juniors in 2020 and 2021.
Tight ends Sean McKeon and Muhammad are Michigan’s future at the position, after the criminally under-utilized Zach Gentry is gone after next season. We know by now just how much Harbaugh and company like to use tight ends, so Michigan needs to continue to add options there.
Michigan could get away with taking only one receiver and one tight end, but they’d have to be acquiring future studs at both spots.
4. Defensive Tackle
This one seems far fetched because of some of the recent success at this position, but the graduation of Mo Hurst and the likelihood of an early departure from Rashan Gary quietly makes this a position of need.
Aubrey Solomon is going to be the guy in 2018, and there is no reason to expect him to disappoint. He seemed to get better as the season went on, and at 6-foot-3 and 290 pounds, he has NFL starter written all over him. He could even be another early departure risk if his development continues on schedule.
A promising sophomore, Mike Dwumfour saw limited action last year but did manage to impress in limited reps. He will be a part of the rotation for the next 2-3 years, and could end up surprising a lot of people.
Phillip Paea and Donovan Jeter are 2017 recruits who will get every chance to crack the two-deep this year, and coaches are likely counting on getting significant minutes from one or both of them. Jeter is listed at defensive end, but was getting looks on the inside before going down with injury.
After that, Michigan does not have a scholarship player listed at defensive tackle on the roster. Now, that is not to say that there won’t be position changes. Some of the young bloods like Taylor Upshaw (6-foot-5, 240), Aidan Hutchinson (6-foot-6, 260), and Julius Welschof (6-foot-6, 248) could certainly be moved inside to fill the depth chart, but their size will make them more valuable on the outside where length is valued at a premium.
For now, it looks like a logjam at defensive end with a need to add a traditional tackle prospect.
Much like on the defensive line, there are a lot of options that could see a positional shift to mitigate a lack of depth at safety.
Tyree Kinnel and Josh Metellus will likely start the season manning both spots, but neither inspired much confidence last year and could be challenged by sophomores Jaylen Kelly-Powell and J’Marick Woods.
Kelly-Powell looks like he could be destined for the Viper role after the departure of Khaleke Hudson, so that leaves converted wide receiver Brad Hawkins and Woods for safety depth. There is a lot to like about Woods’ potential, who can lay the lumber at 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, but he needs some work on his play recognition and coverage before he can be an every down option.
A guy like incoming freshman defensive back Myles Sims would certainly be interesting as a ridiculously rangy free safety, but it’s possible the coaching staff is hoping he becomes the tallest human to ever play corner.
The Wolverines could use at least one guy the staff sees specifically playing one of the safety spots.
2. Offensive Guard/Center
With the departure of O-line Swiss Army knife Mason Cole, Michigan is without a surefire stud interior lineman for the first time in almost a decade. Though Cesar Ruiz and Ben Bredeson have both had their moments, neither is as polished as Cole was throughout his career, even when he was playing out of position.
Expect Ruiz to take over at center next year and perform exceptionally well for the next three years. He has all the tools to be the next great one on the interior, and was not given a 5-star rating out of high school because of his ferocious dance moves and weight room acumen.
Bredeson is a bit of an enigma. He has looked dominant at times, while completely lost at others. With the arrival of Ed Warriner as Offensive Line coach, Bredeson will have a proven teacher for his last two years in the program, and I believe it will pay dividends for his development. He could be one who takes a major leap this year at one of the guard positions, or even potentially at right tackle, as he has everything you look for in a college lineman.
After those two, there are no real proven options on the interior. Mike Onwenu has an absurd amount of potential, but was not ready for the likes of Penn State and Wisconsin last year. Stephen Spanellis, Andrew Vastardis and Jon Runyan Jr. are all lower-rated young guys who could make an impact on the inside. Runyan Jr. played a little right tackle last year, but is likely better suited at guard.
Aside from those guys, Michigan fans have to hope and pray for the development of Chuck Filiaga as soon as this year. He could be too valuable as a tackle prospect though, and may have to move outside this year just due to the lack of proven options there for the 2018 season.
Missing out on Emil Ekiyor moves this position group up into the top three, as he could have cracked the two-deep as a freshman and seen significant playing time in 2018.
1. Running Back
This is the clear-cut biggest need for Michigan in 2019, as Michigan does not have anyone on the roster that you could say are solidified contributors once Chris Evans and Karan Higdon are gone.
At this point, we can’t rely on Kareem Walker becoming the player we all hoped he would become, so Michigan needs to find someone to eat up some carries as soon as this season. Walker has all the talent in the world, it just remains to be seen that he can stay out of the doghouse and on the field long enough to contribute.
There is plenty to like about former 4-star O’Maury Samuels, and physically he is ready to play right now. He is well-positioned to be the third back this season, with every opportunity to carve out a critical role in this offense.
The fact of the matter is that after Samuels, the depth chart is filled with a few 3-star guys with a combined zero carries — redshirt freshman Kurt Taylor and true freshmen Hassan Haskins, Michael Barrett and Christian Turner. I personally like the idea of running backs with a chip on their shoulder, and you have to think Michigan is going to hit on at least one of these guys. My money is on the 5-foot-11 Georgia back Christian Turner.
When Ty Isaac went down with an injury last year, Michigan’s running attack lost a lot of steam, and as a by-product put an increased workload on Higdon and Evans, slowing both of them down towards the end of the season.
Michigan needs to hit on Samuels, at least one of the freshmen and still need to bring in as close to a sure thing as possible in 2019 to be in good shape moving forward.
Running back is the biggest need for U-M in 2019 in my opinion — what’s yours?
What is Michigan’s greatest recruiting need for 2019?
This poll is closed
Wide Receiver/ Tight End