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These are the two most important positions for Michigan’s 2019 recruiting class

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Looking at the situation for Michigan’s two biggest positions of need: wide receiver and safety.

Air Force v Michigan

The Michigan Wolverines’ 2019 recruiting class is almost finished. They have 20 commitments, and while a few recent transfers have opened up space for a few more recruits, the class will likely end up at around 25-27 players.

The lines, both offensive and defensive, are loaded. These were important positions to fill, as having great depth on both sides is vital to the success of the team. But two more positions of need are still in need of players, both in quality and quantity.

Without question, wide receiver and safety are the most important positions to fill in this recruiting class. After the loss of a handful of receivers to transfer this offseason, and Tarik Black’s injury, there is not much depth at the position. Outside receivers are particularly lacking.

As for safety, there are plenty of options on the roster, but few have true star potential. Safety is the one piece missing to complete a truly transcendent Don Brown defense.

So what are the options for Michigan at this juncture? Will Harbaugh be able to get the reinforcements needed this year, or will he and the coaches have to wait until the 2020 class? I’m going to give a rundown of how Michigan looks at each position in the next two years to give a clear picture of how they can solve their roster issues.

Wide receiver

The commitment of 3-star Quintel Kent on Sunday has caused some consternation amongs Michigan fans about the state of wide receiver recruiting.

Michigan has two commitments from wide receivers in the 2019 class, Kent and George Johnson III, both of which are projected to be slot receivers. Both players have already showcased potential that is above their current ranking, but probably aren’t sprouting four inches anytime soon.

The class of 2017 had an argument for the best group of wide receivers in the nation, which included 4-stars Tarik Black, Nico Collins and Oliver Martin, and 5-star Donovan Peoples-Jones, ranked first in the nation at his position. This included three guys over 6-foot-2, plus a polished route runner for the slot in Martin.

Last year, the 2018 class only included one wide receiver, and he was basically an unknown. Ronnie Bell was originally a Missouri State basketball recruit until he switched to play football for Jim Harbaugh.

With the extreme talent in 2017, and the staff essentially passing on the 2018 cycle, a hole in the roster could be open in a couple of years. If DPJ lives up to his hype, he may be gone to the NFL in three years. Black’s second foot injury may push his timetable back, but undoubtedly has the talent to leave early as well. That would only leave Collins and Bell as outside-sized receivers on scholarship.

If the staff misses out on the position again this year, any receivers picked up in the 2020 class will join the team after Black and DPJ potentially leave. We all saw last year how inconsistent freshmen receivers can be, so that situation would hopefully be avoided.

Thankfully, there are still some intriguing options out on the board for the 2019 class. The top target on the board is 5-star Kyle Ford, who received a huge bump following a historic Opening performance. He’s stated his favorites include Michigan, Oregon, Colorado and USC.

Despite not usually being the first school mentioned, USC holds all of the crystal balls. Many of these selections are the result of common sense and strategy. Ford’s a highly touted receiver from Southern California, a demographic that almost exclusively goes to the Trojans.

Oregon, another favorite, has four wide receivers committed already, including three blue chips. A lot of crystal balls rolled in after the highest ranked receiver, Mycah Pittman, committed in late July.

And Colorado is, well, Colorado.

Ford’s former quarterback at Orange Lutheran was a Colorado recruit last year, but he already used up his official early on the Buffaloes.

Michigan has always been included in his group of favorites, but considered a longer shot because of the distance factor. The staff has secured a commitment from Californian Zach Charbonnet already, though, so it can be done.

Ford does also have an official visit planned to Ann Arbor, scheduled for the Western Michigan game on Sept. 8. After only throwing three touchdowns to wide receivers in 2017, Michigan will have to show Ford that they are an environment a receiver can thrive in.

Looking past Ford, the next clearest target is 4-star Connecticut receiver Cornelius Johnson. Michigan is in another classic recruiting battle for Johnson. This is an academic race against Stanford and Notre Dame. Michigan has shown they can go toe-to-toe with Notre Dame, beating them for Christian Turner, DJ Turner, and flipping Cade McNamara in the past couple of years.

Stanford though, has been tougher to beat. Four-star defensive end Stephen Herron just flipped to the Cardinal, and they are trending for top target Aeneas DiCosmo as well.

Michigan has some excellent cards to play, however. For one, Johnson’s mom is from Detroit and a Michigan alum. The Wolverines were one of the first schools to evaluate and offer him, before he flew up the rankings and gained a fourth star. He’s also squarely in Don Brown territory, where Michigan has done very well.

The fight against Stanford will be tough, as Johnson took two visits across the country to Palo Alto this spring and summer. But Michigan is in line to get an official during the season, and just like Ford, if they improve their passing game, they could pull this one out.

Finally, in the same vein as Kent, Michigan could pick up another under the radar Ohio prospect. 3-star Trevon Raphael has a loftier ranking and a higher ceiling athletically than Kent, but has some issues he needs to clear up before he’d be accepted by the staff.

Raphael will only be playing his second year of high school football this season. He’s attended three high schools in four years, only playing at his last stop, Solon. Needless to say, there has not been much stability in his adolescence, so Raphael has not been able to focus on football.

There is also an academic risk. Raphael is taking summer classes, trying to show the coaches his improvement. If the staff is satisfied with his progression, there is little chance they won’t land Raphael if they want him.

Even considering all of the potential hurdles, 247Sports’ resident Ohio expert Bill Greene has put in a crystal ball for Raphael to Michigan, the only prediction.

If the staff ends up without any outside receivers in this class, the 2020 class does look to be off to a promising start at least. Kahlil Branham is already on board, but likely ends up being a slot.

Michigan got a crystal ball from Steve Lorenz for 4-star Josh Downs after he visited for the BBQ. He’s already locked in plans to return for the Penn State game this fall. Two visits in that short of a time span is a great sign. Downs is from Georgia and a former teammate of DJ Turner.

In-state, Michigan has another good shot with a 4-star. Detroit Martin Luther King standout Rashawn Williams is a top target. He had been trending towards Ohio State, with four out of five crystal ball picks to the Buckeyes. But with the turmoil in that program right now, Michigan should seize the opportunity to lock up the local prospect. They do hold the remaining crystal ball after all.

Michigan may also be in the lead for another in-state prospect, high 3-star Ian Stewart. The crystal balls are 60-40 in favor of Michigan, but the Wolverines seem to have surged out in front lately. Steve Lorenz of 247 recently stated that he believes Michigan is the leader and is very close to putting in a crystal ball for them.

Maryland 4-star Traeshon Holden is another name to keep an eye on. He visited for the BBQ and seems to have Michigan near the top of his list.

The 2019 class has a shot to add a high profile star, but if they miss out on their top two options 2020 is shaping up much better to fill that gap.

Safety

This is the one position in which a top tier, blue chip prospect has eluded Jim Harbaugh during his tenure at Michigan. But that might actually end up helping him land one this year, as you’ll see soon.

Michigan has two commits at safety so far, but is looking to add more. 3-stars Quinten Johnson and Joey Velazquez are both enticing athletes who are good shots to outperform their recruiting rankings. Velazquez also looks ticketed to the Viper position, which I won’t really be focusing on in this rundown.

Michigan brought on a boatload of flexible secondary players last year. From early reports, it looks like former 3-stars Sammy Faustin and Gemon Green will be the ones starting out at safety. They also brought in transfer Casey Hughes, but he’ll be gone next season so he doesn’t factor in here.

In 2017, the class included 4-star Jaylen Kelly-Powell and 3-star J’Marick Woods. Brad Hawkins also switched from receiver to safety and is getting a lot of buzz from spring practices and fall camp.

There’s great depth at the position, but lack of star potential. Enter 5-star Daxton Hill, the No. 1 safety in the country and arguably most desired Michigan target; it’s either him or Zach Harrison).

One of the most successful recruiting pitches is offering the chance to play early. Hill would arrive on campus with an excellent chance to start from Day 1. Tyree Kinnel will be graduating this year, vacating his spot at the free safety position. With Hill’s game-changing speed and coverage skills, he’d be the final piece in the Don Brown defense puzzle.

But Michigan has to beat Alabama for him.

For some good news, it seems like Michigan has outlasted all other contenders. Hill’s brother is star Oklahoma State running back Justice Hill, but the Cowboys don’t seem to be much of a factor.

Ditto his other in-state option, the Oklahoma Sooners. Long considered the favorite, the Sooners’ hopes were dashed when Hill opted not to attend their barbeque event at the end of July.

After the Sooners were spurned, similar to Ford, another strategic run of crystal balls occurred. Oklahoma’s percentage plummeted from 80 percent to 28 percent, as Alabama’s rose from six percent to 44 percent, and the lead. Michigan got a few too, and currently sit at 17 percent.

Nobody’s going to blame recruiting experts for picking Alabama over Michigan. They’ve been the premier recruiting program for a decade, and usually get the guys they want.

Hill tweeted a couple of weeks ago that he would be committing soon. This was coming off the heels of his official visit to Alabama, so many assumed the Tide would be the pick. But it’s been a while, and Hill still isn’t committed. He has an official visit to Ann Arbor on Sept. 15, which gives Michigan the last shot.

The longer he doesn’t commit and the closer it gets to Hill’s official visit, the better Michigan’s chances get.

This one will go down to the wire, and if it were to go Michigan’s way, would be one of the biggest recruiting wins in the Jim Harbaugh era.

Another top target for most of this cycle has been 4-star Lewis Cine. The Massachusetts-by-way-of-Texas recruit had been on the staff’s board for a long time before he took his first visit to campus. His June 22 official visit went well, but didn’t really move the needle much in his recruitment.

After visiting Georgia’s end of July event, he’s been trending towards the Bulldogs. They’ve been on fire recruiting the past two years, and will be tough to overcome. At least this commitment, were it to happen, wouldn’t blindside anyone, like their commitments from Isaiah Wilson, Xavier Truss, or John Emery Jr.

During the BBQ at the Big House, Michigan hosted 4-star Josh Sanguinetti, who traveled all the way up from Florida for the event. Sanguinetti was a darling early on in the 2018 rankings, at one point considered a 5-star. However, after some poor testing numbers, he’s dropped pretty significantly.

He was also considered a Miami lock early on, but it looks like the Hurricanes have passed on him. That doesn’t mean he is without suitors, though, as he also has plans to visit Oklahoma, Stanford, Nebraska and others.

In the backup category, Michigan has Jamal Hill, a Georgia gem they unearthed at a camp this June. Hill has offers that say he is not actually a mid-3-star like he is ranked right now. He was invited to camp at Alabama and got an offer later in June.

Being one of the first schools to pursue Hill, Michigan could have an advantage if they wanted to add him to the class. But since he is getting attention from more Southern schools now, this might not be as easy as a pull as Trevon Raphael from Ohio.

The safety depth chart is not as thin as wide receiver, so it is not as necessary to focus on potential 2020 targets. Michigan does have a 4-star they are probably the favorites for, though. Makari Page, out of West Bloomfield, is the most likely candidate to join next cycle.

These two positions could make or break Michigan’s 2019 class. Earlier in the year, people were complaining about the running back recruiting, and now Michigan has one of the best duos in the country. The same thing could happen with the wide receivers later on in the fall.

If Michigan can get one or more of the 4- or 5-star guys they are pursuing at each position, then they will have proven that 2018 was just a blip, and the 2016 and 2017 classes were more indicative of the true recruiting talent of the staff.

These recruitments will be exciting to follow, especially if Michigan fulfills their potential and has a great season. Stay tuned, as I will be providing visitor lists all season for when these essential targets visit campus.