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Checking the status of Michigan’s recruiting pipelines

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An in-depth look at Michigan’s recruiting strategy in certain areas across the country.

NCAA Football: Outback Bowl-Michigan vs South Carolina Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

A couple weeks ago, I looked at Michigan’s in-state class for the 2019 recruiting cycle. Now, let’s turn our focus nationally to see where the program has been collecting talent.

Every coaching staff has a couple areas across the country where they have built relationships and connections. However, their strategy must always be adapting and evolving to reflect positional needs and concentration of talent that changes every cycle.

Here, I’ll give an overview of the pipelines where Michigan is recruiting heavily, where they are primed to start reaping rewards and where their influence is fading.

Openly Flowing

Georgia

The Peach State has developed into one of the most talent rich states the past few years. Michigan was one of the first programs to recognize this and start building relationships with local high schools.

Despite the bad taste that Otis Reese left in the mouths of many fans on signing day, Michigan has been able to pull several players from the state over the last couple of years. Michigan has secured a commitment from seven Georgians in the 2017-19 classes. Among those are two five-stars, defensive tackle Aubrey Solomon and defensive end Chris Hinton.

Michigan has also made a great impression on Grayson High School players, a powerhouse in the state’s largest classification. The team is loaded with 2019 prospects, with a whopping 12 players rated as a three-star or better, according to the 247 Composite.

Michigan has earned the commitment of one of those blue chips so far, four-star offensive tackle Trente Jones. Jones is the former teammate of 2017 signee Kurt Taylor, who played at Grayson his senior year. They are also pursuing Jones’ current teammate, four-star safety Kenyatta Watson II.

The future in the state looks bright as well, as Hinton may not even be the most talented football player in his family. His younger brother, Myles Hinton, is a five-star offensive tackle. Landing his elder brother will undoubtedly have a major impact in this recruitment.

New England

One of the biggest advantages of hiring Don Brown, besides the terrifying defenses, is his connection to the Northeast. Since Brown arrived in 2016, Michigan has been recruiting the region aggressively, and unearthing some gems.

Michigan has added six players from Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island in the past three cycles. This includes standouts like Tarik Black, Ben Mason and Sean McKeon. Football in New England is not of the highest quality, so these players have been mostly underrated. However, it is clear that these guys can compete with the best.

This pipeline looks strong for the future, too. Michigan is pursuing several highly touted prospects from these states, including four-star offensive tackle Xavier Truss (Rhode Island), four-star quarterback Taisun Phommachanh (Connecticut), and four-star safety Lewis Cine (Originally from Massachusetts, playing in Texas his senior year).

Looking even further, Michigan is heavily in the mix for 2020 offensive tackle Kevin Pyne, who is a five-star and the No. 2 overall prospect. Don Brown’s sterling reputation in the area will continue paying dividends for Michigan down the line.

IMG Academy

Arguably the greatest collection of high school football talent in the country, any coach would be foolish to ignore Florida’s IMG Academy. Harbaugh thankfully has not. He famously held spring practice at the school in 2016, and it has paid off.

Michigan inked two four stars during that cycle, center Cesar Ruiz and linebacker Jordan Anthony. Following them is three-star linebacker Charles Thomas, who has been a leader in recruiting his peers for this current class.

Thomas’ teammates — four-star running back Noah Cain, four-star guard Evan Neal and three-star center Charles Turner — are also being pursued by Michigan. The possibility of landing this much talent from just one high school is why every coach makes IMG a priority.

Priming the Pump

The DMV

Like New England, the area including Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia has been somewhat overlooked by major college programs, but home to plenty of football talent. Michigan has two players on their roster from this area, offensive linemen Stephen Spanellis and defensive end Luiji Vilain.

For 2019, Michigan is recruiting several prospects from the region. Currently, they are the heavy favorites to land the services of four-star offensive tackle William Harrod (Maryland). They are also pursuing four-star wide receiver DeMarcco Hellams (Maryland), four-star athlete Litchfield Ajavon (Virginia) and four-star defensive end Joseph Wete (DC).

The real impact has not been felt on the recruiting trail yet, though. Michigan has an excellent connection with St. Frances Academy, a perennial powerhouse in Maryland, thanks to their head coach, Biff Poggi.

Poggi, who is the father of former fullback Henry Poggi, became the head coach at St. Frances after spending a season as Michigan’s special teams coach in 2016. Before that, he coached Gilman, another dominant school in Maryland, for 19 years.

Michigan is recruiting a couple St. Frances players this cycle — four-star linebacker Shane Lee and four-star offensive tackle Darrian Dalcourt. But the 2020 class is what Michigan is really excited about, as evidenced by the five offers they have already handed out to their players.

This is not the only school in the DMV that Michigan has been generous with in giving out 2020 offers. The staff has offered three players out of St. John’s College HS in Washington D.C. so far. This was the home of former quarterback commit Kevin Doyle. Thankfully his decommitment does not seem to have damaged the relationship with the school.

One final reason that targeting Maryland in 2020 is a good idea — defensive end Bryan Bresee. Bresee is the top ranked player in the country for his class right now. He looks to be a Big Ten battle, as Penn State and Ohio State are also some of his top suitors.

Missouri

This is an area that most people would expect to see on this list. Michigan hasn’t signed anyone from Missouri since 2012, when Ondre Pipkins and Jehu Chesson committed. However, 2018 produced two more Missouri commits, three-star running back Hassan Haskins and three-star wide receiver Ronnie Bell.

The 2019 class offers a chance to bring in an even better haul. Michigan has been making strides with the Trinity Catholic program, home of the top two prospects in the state. Five-star athlete Isaiah Williams and four-star wide receiver Marcus Washington both have a great shot to land in this class. Michigan has also offered their teammate, 2020 running back Mookie Cooper.

Establishing themselves at this program will pay off massive benefits moving forward for the Wolverines.

Drying Up

New Jersey

Michigan has recruited this state extremely well since 2014, when Jabrill Peppers headlined the class. Since then, Harbaugh and staff have cleaned up in the Garden State. In 2016, his first full recruiting cycle, Michigan nabbed four of the top eight players in the state, including Rashan Gary, the No. 1 player in the nation.

In 2017, Michigan again grabbed the top player in the state, linebacker Drew Singleton. They also had a head start with Cesar Ruiz, who was from New Jersey before he headed to IMG for his senior year.

The impact of hiring Chris Partridge was evident in how successful Michigan was recruiting the state. His connections after being the head coach at Paramus Catholic were essential in inking all of these top recruits.

However, as time passes, Partridge has become more focused on other parts of the country, most notably Georgia. He also may be losing some of his contacts in New Jersey. Last cycle, Michigan missed on big targets in the state, like Tyler Friday and Shayne Simon. This was the first class since 2013 without a player from New Jersey in it.

Michigan does not seem to be emphasizing the state much for the future, either. They have only offered five players in the state so far, and do not seem to be involved in any of those player’s recruitments.

While recruiting New Jersey has been good to the team in the past, it’s clear they are focusing their efforts elsewhere.