Following last week’s look at the recruits Michigan is pursuing hardest on defense, it is time to move to the offense. This side of the ball is much less clear. There are not many prospects standing out, especially at the skill positions.
This is mostly because of Michigan’s depth chart. The 2017 wide receiver class may be the best in school history, and Michigan took three running backs last year while only losing one to graduation.
Recruits are looking at this and struggling to see how they can make an impact early. This does not mean Michigan is totally out on top rated talent. The situation is just a bit more muddled on this side of the ball. Let’s take a look at Michigan’s top priorities at each position group.
Michigan has already secured a four-star quarterback for the fifth year in a row, and that is not including the transfer of former five-star Shea Patterson. Needless to say, Michigan has recruited very well at this position.
But in the last two cycles, Jim Harbaugh has made it clear he wants to take multiple signal callers. Having so many talented quarterbacks is a good thing, but also leads to a lot of attrition with players transferring out who didn’t win the starting job. Taking multiple quarterbacks is a good way to protect yourself from expected attrition.
So after receiving a commitment from four-star Cade McNamara, Michigan is not totally done looking for this class. This can be a challenge, though, as many top rated guys don’t want to be the second banana at a position where you can only play one person.
That being said, I’m going to cop out and say that nobody leads right now as a candidate to be the second quarterback in this class. If I had to guess, Michigan will only take McNamara, or a rising three-star that hasn’t been connected to Michigan yet.
For a while, it seemed that in-state three-star Sam Johnson would be the perfect fit for the class. He is a slightly lower rated prospect, and a pro style passer, which complements McNamara’s dual-threat style. A bunch of Crystal Balls came in for Boston College a couple weeks ago, but they recently took a quarterback themselves. If Johnson must choose between being the second quarterback at BC or Michigan, his local Wolverines probably have the edge.
Four-star Graham Mertz is a Wisconsin commit, but that seems to be very soft. Michigan has been in continuous contact with him, but he seems reticent to join a two-quarterback class, especially when other programs are already pursuing him with clearer depth charts.
As discussed above, Michigan took three running backs last cycle, so this is not a top priority for the staff. They are still going after some top guys, as Harbaugh has shown he likes to use a rotation of three running backs. Having a deep stable of backs is important.
The one running back that has stood out the most for the 2019 class is five-star Quavaris Crouch. This would be a huge recruiting win for Michigan if they could sway Crouch to leave the south and wear the Maize and Blue. Crouch has shown a lot of interest for the Wolverines throughout this process, but it is always hard to pull elite talent from the SEC footprint. Right now, Clemson and South Carolina are split on the Crystal Balls.
Besides Crouch, four-star Zach Charbonnet from California is another top target. Michigan has also been targeting four-stars John Emery Jr. and Khafre Brown, and three-star Kyren Williams.
Like running back, Michigan is currently loaded at this position. But the 2017 receivers will be juniors when commits from the class get to campus, so it is important to replenish the depth chart with more elite talent now, especially after only taking three-star Ronnie Bell in the 2018 class.
I believe the wide receiver the staff likes the most is four-star Kyle Ford from California. Michigan has been in on Ford for a long time, but pulling a top rated receiver from southern California is not easy. USC will have something to say about this recruitment before it is all said and done.
Michigan is currently looking at several other top rated receiver prospects. Four-stars John Dunmore and John Metchie visited this weekend despite the cancelled spring game. Michigan hopes to bolster its Connecticut pipeline with three-star Cornelius Johnson, who has been rising quickly up its board.
This is the position group that I expect to see an uptick in recruiting success soon. Prospects will start to notice how Harbaugh has developed a former quarterback (Zach Gentry) and a random three-star from Massachusetts (Sean McKeon) into all-conference quality players. Frankly, it is surprising elite tight ends haven’t been lining up to play for one of the most tight end friendly systems in the country yet.
A player that may soon be electing to join this system is three-star Luke Deal. Reports are that the coaching staff is in love with Deal, as they view him as the perfect fit for the offense. A South Carolina native, Michigan will have to fight off Clemson for his services. Clemson has all of the Crystal Balls currently, but Deal visited this weekend so Michigan hopes to catch up ground.
A trio of California four-stars also reside at the top of Michigan boards. Isaiah Foskey plays at De La Salle, the school that produced former Wolverine tight end Devin Asiasi. Michigan loves players from that system, as they actually utilize tight end. Ethan Rae and Jude Wolfe are also possibilities.
This position has been a sore spot among fans, considering the poor play last season. Nevertheless, there is good news here!
Michigan has supposedly revamped their recruiting strategy, and it seems to be paying off. They are in the race for a boatload of quality tackles this cycle. They have already received the commitment of four-star Trente Jones, but are looking to add two or three more.
Right now, four-star William Harrod is the staff’s clear priority. He is considered a huge Michigan lean, with all 14 Crystal Balls in Michigan’s favor. He’s stated he hasn’t decided between committing over the summer or on signing day, but with Michigan so clearly in the lead, expect his pledge sooner rather than later.
Other tackles that Michigan is in good shape with include four-stars Trevor Keegan and Xavier Truss, and three-stars Jack Stewart and Spencer Brown, the latter being committed to Michigan State for now. Five-star Devontae Dobbs remains a mystery, but Michigan doesn’t look to be a major factor in his recruitment.
Michigan has been focusing on tackles more this cycle than guards and centers, which is understandable considering they have more proven players at those positions. Michigan may take one or two here.
The 2019 class currently has one spot filled with four-star guard Nolan Rumler. There have been whispers that Rumler’s commitment is a tad shaky, but he reaffirmed his pledge on Twitter this weekend.
Other than Rumler, the interior line board is fairly empty, so I’m going to cheat a bit and include three-star Karsen Barnhart here. Listed as a tackle on 247Sports, Barnhart is only 6-foot-4 and probably a better fit for the inside when he gets to college. Initially a Michigan State lean, Michigan has made up a lot of ground after making him a priority. The Wolverines seem poised to turn this recruitment in their favor, and Crystal Balls are starting to flip for the good guys.
Besides Barnhart, there are not too many prospects with whom Michigan is involved. Cursory targets include four-stars Evan Neal, EJ Ndoma-Ogar and Will Putnam. One name to look out for is three-star Zach Carpenter, who is another visitor from this weekend that just received an offer.
Like I said in the defensive post, Michigan’s board is a living organism, constantly shifting, adding and dropping guys. But the main takeaway from this exercise is Michigan is in a much better shape this cycle for higher ranked players. As the process moves along, it looks clearer that the disappointing 2018 class was an outlier.
Look forward to commitment posts and scouting profiles from plenty of these prospects in the future!