The 2020 recruiting position previews are back! This week I’ll be going over the defensive side of the ball, covering the defensive line, linebackers, cornerbacks, and then the safeties.
If you forgot how these previews work, check out the first edition, which explains the different groups.
Today’s preview will cover a group that’s surprisingly thin at the moment, the defensive line.
Carmel (IN) 4-star DT Cole Brevard
Michigan is very high on Brevard, the top player in the state of Indiana. After offering him in May, Brevard visited Ann Arbor for the BBQ in the July. After planning to visit during the season, he never ended up making it, but recently said he’d make another trip after the bowl games.
Despite the Wolverines’ strong interest in the defensive tackle, I think they still face a tough battle ahead of them. He’s also considering Notre Dame, Penn State, and Wisconsin heavily. The staff still has a lot of work to put in here.
In the Mix
East Kentwood (MI) 4-star WDE Bryce Mostella
Mostella is the defensive lineman who I think Michigan is the most likely to land. He’s a former teammate of Mazi Smith at up-and-coming East Kentwood. Mostella and his family grew up as Wolverine fans, and after he received an offer in May, Crystal Balls rolled in for Michigan.
At 6-foot-6, 235 pounds, Mostella has a long frame with potential to grow. He’s already bumped up to 4-star territory and is a candidate for a break-out and rankings bump down the line.
Port Huron North (MI) 4-star SDE Braiden McGregor
McGregor is similar to Mostella in that he’s an in-state defensive end who was a Michigan fan growing up and got a bunch of Crystal Balls after getting his offer. However, since then other programs have noticed his potential and been hot in pursuit. Notre Dame has been the strongest contender, but Alabama, Clemson, and Ohio State have also offered.
As that offer list shows, McGregor is another player who is probably better than the low 4-star ranking he has right now. Watch for him to shoot up as the cycle goes on.
St. Frances Academy (MD) 4-star WDE Demon Clowney
Clowney is one of four St. Frances defensive linemen that Michigan offered on a spree of the DMV area last winter, so you’ll be seeing a lot of Maryland and Washington DC in this preview.
While not only having one of the best names in the country, Clowney is being pursued by several top programs. Georgia has his only Crystal Ball pick, but Ohio State and Penn State are also up there. Michigan is there as well, despite not having visited campus yet. When he gets to Ann Arbor, it could shake up his recruitment.
St. John’s (DC) 4-star WDE Greg Hudgins
While Michigan has struggled pulling in players from St. Frances, they’re having success with St. John’s out of Washington DC. The growing connections will certainly help with Hudgins.
The 4-star doesn’t seem to be favoring any one school at this point, but took trips to Michigan State and Maryland during the season, so he definitely has interest in those two. He also holds offers from Boston College, Ole Miss, and Tennessee.
Lutheran North (MO) 4-star DT Kevon Billingsley
There hasn’t been much noise on Billingsley, but Michigan apparently really likes the St. Louis tackle, who also plays on the offensive line. Schools like Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Oklahoma have also thrown their hat into the ring, but Billingsley is another recruit whose recruitment seems wide open at this point. If Michigan were to really push, I think they could make a move here.
Damascus (MD) 5-star SDE Bryan Bresee
Bresee is the Rashan Gary of his class so far, a defensive end identified as the premier talent in his class early on, and hasn’t budged from his top ranking since. But instead of Michigan, it’s Penn State and Ohio State he’s favoring now.
Georgia, Clemson, Alabama, and Michigan are the other schools that made the top six he released at the end of November. But, I’d say Michigan is last among those schools right now. Losing Greg Mattison couldn’t have helped, and the staff needs to get Bresee back on campus soon if they want to stay in contention.
Princeton (OH) 4-star SDE Darrion Henry
If Bresee is the Rashan Gary of his class, Henry is the Zach Harrison. While Henry is only ranked in the top 50 instead of the top five, he’s had 100% Crystal Balls to Ohio State for the last year.
But! Henry visited Michigan for the Wisconsin and Penn State games this season, not to mention he was at Michigan State when the Wolverines beat them. He’s personally seen Michigan at their most dominant, which has to stick in his mind. I’d still pick the Buckeyes, though.
Providence Day School (NC) 4-star SDE Jacolbe Cowan
Cowans has always said the right things about his interest in Michigan, but will be a tough pull from North Carolina. Clemson and Georgia are standing out right now, and he has offers from pretty much everywhere. Getting a visit from Cowan would legitimize his interest.
Lake Forest (IL) 4-star SDE Rylie Mills
Michigan, and a lot of other coaching staffs, really like Mills. The problem is that Mills really likes Notre Dame. Every other school is looking up at the Irish right now, who have 100% of his Crystal Ball picks. That love will have to dissipate if Michigan were to have a real shot.
St. John’s (DC) 4-star DT Tre Williams
Williams is another St. John’s product that Michigan is going after. But for now, Ohio State holds 100% of his Crystal Ball picks. Those picks were all made at least a year ago, so either they’re not reflective of his current interest or Ohio State is firmly entrenched as the leader.
Quinten Johnson has called Williams his family before and has been working hard on recruiting him to Michigan. That connection will hopefully be enough to keep the Wolverines in the race.
Under the Radar
Southfield (MI) 3-star DT Bryce Austin
Austin has had some buzz building around him recently, despite not being ranked by all of the recruiting services yet. He doesn’t have a Michigan offer yet, but the local prospect is rising his stock and could be the recipient of one soon. For now, he’s got offers from Boston College, Iowa State, Missouri, Pitt, Purdue, Rutgers, and Syracuse.
The Culver Academies (IN) 3-star SDE Deontae Craig
Craig visited Michigan for games twice last season, but hasn’t received an offer yet. If the staff pulls the trigger, they’ll be in a good spot for the Indiana prospect. He has received offers from Indiana, Michigan State, Northwestern, Purdue, and Tennessee already.
Corner Canyon (UT) 3-star SDE Van Fillinger
Like Austin, Fillinger doesn’t have an offer from Michigan, but is certainly looking to earn one. He’s called Michigan his dream school growing up, so the Wolverines are already in good position. In-state Utah and Utah State are his only offers so far, but he’s reported interest from Texas, USC, UCLA, and Washington as well.
St. Thomas More (CT) unranked DT Jeffrey M’ba
French transplant Jeffrey M’ba is an enigma. Michigan offered him before he had even played a game in America. He originally planned to play for St. Frances in Baltimore, but something got screwed up in his admissions and he had to wait three months to come to this country. He ended up at St. Thomas More, where Charles Thomas played last season.
M’ba was also supposed to be part of the 2019 class, but reclassified to 2020, which will be helpful since he’s still such a raw prospect. Even though he doesn’t even have a ranking on the recruiting sites, M’ba has offers from Florida, Maryland, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, and Virginia Tech. Clearly coaches think they can mold M’ba into a terrifying defensive tackle. He just has to get on the field more.
St. Frances Academy (MD) unranked DT Jonathan Wallace
Wallace is the last of the St. Frances defensive line crew to be offered by Michigan (M’ba is included in that group since he was planning to go there when he got his scholarship). Again like M’ba, Wallace is unranked but holds some intriguing offers.
Besides the Wolverines, Wallace has been offered by Wisconsin and West Virginia. Who knows where this recruitment will go, it’ll probably take another season on the field for him to get more recognition.
Michigan’s board along the defensive line is worryingly short of many legitimate targets right now. This may be an indication of Greg Mattison’s declining presence on the recruiting trail as he got older. Losing him means that Michigan will have to build relationships with the prospects they are in the race for all over again. But with the program still without a new defensive line coach, it’s difficult to start that process.
On the other hand, if Michigan makes a splash with their hire, like Josh Gattis or Anthony Campanile, then they could get attention from recruits who weren’t considering the Wolverines previously.
Regardless, defensive line needs to be a priority for the next couple of cycles. The 2017 defensive line class is turning into a mess with only one significant contributor so far, and 2018’s three-man class included two long-term projects with high bust rates. 2019’s haul was a bounce back to the norm with what looks like two immediate contributors in Chris Hinton and Mazi Smith.
Depth is so important along the line, though, so Michigan will need to repeat that haul for the next couple of classes to get back to the performance fans have come accustomed to over the last few years.
Tomorrow I’ll be talking linebackers.