The 2019 recruiting cycle isn’t over quite yet, but with Michigan’s class essentially sewn up, I’ve fully turned my attention toward the 2020 cycle. After reviewing how the recruiting board looks at each position a couple of weeks ago, a clearer picture of the 2020 class has taken shape.
With that information, I’ve decided to put my neck out on the line and make a few predictions based on Michigan’s recent recruiting history. Trying to predict the recruiting game is usually futile and this is mostly to highlight trends I’ve noticed, but it’ll still be a fun exercise.
Next February around this time, we can revisit this and see how prescient or erroneous I was.
1. Michigan will sign a prospect who isn’t a 5-star right now, but will be by the end of the cycle
There are 34 players rated as 5-stars for the 2020 class, per the 247Sports composite. As things stand right now, I don’t think Michigan is in position to land any of them.
That doesn’t mean they won’t sign any 5-stars in the class, though. There’s still about a year before the final recruiting rankings will be finalized, and there will be plenty of movement.
The Michigan staff has proven they are among the best talent evaluators in the country, oftentimes offering some low or unranked player fans gripe about, only to see them shoot up the rankings as the cycle moves on.
So this prediction is about recognizing the coaches’ ability to identify talent and betting it will pay off again this year.
As for the current 5-stars, there is still plenty of time to change their minds. At this point last year, nobody would have predicted Daxton Hill would end up a Wolverine. I’d say their best chances are with landing Julian Fleming thanks to Josh Gattis or flipping Myles Hinton from Stanford. Players like Johnny Wilson, Darnell Washington and Dwight McGlothern have expressed interest in visiting as well.
2. Michigan will allow another 5-star offensive lineman to sign somewhere else
The state of Michigan produced two highly touted offensive linemen in the 2019 class, Logan Brown and Devontae Dobbs. Brown ended up as a 5-star and the No. 4 tackle in the country. Dobbs fell a bit in the final rankings, but still ended up in the top 50 and as the No. 1 guard nationally.
Losing those two caused a lot of griping and endless questioning from the fan base about why they didn’t sign with the Wolverines. I think they just simply didn’t like the program for one reason or another and wanted to go somewhere else.
Unfortunately, there’s another highly touted offensive lineman in-state for 2020 that looks to have the same attitude. Justin Rogers has already grabbed attention for his scattered stance on the Michigan program. He’s not included them in a top group of 13 schools, but also said they were one of his top three programs.
The one clear thing is he loves the process. He’s very open to visiting schools all over the country, from Georgia to USC to Texas. His willingness to visit all these schools tells me he doesn’t want to go to school a half hour away from home.
When he commits to Georgia or Ohio State or wherever, there’ll be a lot of consternation and incessant questions about a chance of a flip until he signs his LOI. Michigan is in too good of a position with other offensive linemen to get hung up on one in-state player, though. The 2019 offensive line class turned out just fine without Brown or Dobbs.
3. On the other hand, Michigan will sign at least 6 in-state players
After landing 14 players from the state of Michigan in the last two classes, the staff only signed two in-state players in 2019. I expect that to revert back to previous levels in 2020.
There are already two Michiganders on board, 4-star Andre Seldon and 3-star linebacker Cornell Wheeler. They are both gregarious and energetic leaders in the class, which will help pay dividends with their in-state peers.
The Michigan staff has 11 offers out to what I’d call legitimate unsigned targets in the state. They only need four more to sign to hit this mark, and they look to be the favorites for at least that many.
That list includes Rashawn Williams, Bryce Mostella, Cameron Martinez and Ian Stewart. There are others, like Makari Paige and Braiden McGregor, who definitely have Michigan in their top two or three, but it’s hard to say who is the leader right now.
This is all to say there is a lot of interest between the Michigan program and players from Michigan at this point, and I think the staff capitalizes.
4. Michigan will sign a running back from Ohio
This is definitely my most specific prediction, but there’s surprisingly a lot of options for Michigan. In my running back position preview, I named four backs from the state of Ohio, including the overall top target, 4-star Michael Drennen.
The main thesis of that article was Michigan and Ohio State both need running backs for 2020, and are battling for several. The Buckeyes already have one committed, and they can’t land everyone they’re targeting, so there will be opportunities for the staff to swoop in and pick someone up.
Besides Drennen, the other running backs I listed were 4-star DeaMonte Trayanum, who may play linebacker, 3-star Jutahn McClain and 3-star Miyan Williams. Michigan’s interest in McClain and Williams are a little lower than Drennen and Trayanum right now, but that could change.
I think the coaches would pull out all the stops to land Drennen, but if he goes off the board to Ohio State, then they move on to Trayanum. Either way, there will be an Ohioan in the backfield in 2020.
5. The class will get above 22 players
After the 2019 class ballooned to 27 players, much higher than what was initially expected, there will be a scholarship crunch for the 2020 class.
Michigan only has 11 players whose eligibility expires after next season. But there will always be attrition, and Michigan has gone through quite a bit in the last couple of years. Some non-contributors will receive handshakes after their four years expire, some guys will declare early for the NFL, and some players will just straight up transfer for various reasons.
I believe there will easily be at least 11 guys who fall into those categories above. It’s the nature of the beast at a big-time program this side of Clemson. Guys blow up and leave early, or get beat out by a younger recruit.
Harbaugh has also shown his affinity for taking large classes. He’s taken 26, 30, 20, and now 27 players in his four full classes at Michigan. The 2018 class was his only outlier. While 2020 may stay on the lower side of 25, based on history it’ll be bigger than most expect.
6. Michigan won’t repeat as the top class in the Big Ten
The staff took advantage of the turmoil happening at Ohio State to sign a top 10 class (as of now) and the best class in the conference for the first time since before Urban Meyer arrived. But I don’t think that streak will last long. The unfortunate reality is Ohio State is red hot in the 2020 class, holding the No. 3 class with an average rating of 94.02 across seven players.
It’s tough sometimes to determine which players have legitimate interest in the Buckeyes, and which were just crystal balled by their writers because they were offered by the staff. But they are definitely contenders for several elite recruits and look poised to bounce back after their dismal (for their standards) 2019 class.
The ramifications from the Zach Smith scandal don’t seem to have extended very far and they have a new coach glow in Ryan Day, while Meyer still has a heavy hand in the athletic department.
The one way I could see this derailing is if Day shows he’s not ready to be a head coach and they stumble during the season. Michigan should be in the No. 2 spot in the conference like usual, battling with Penn State.
This sounds depressing, but it’s the reality. As long as Michigan keeps its class in the same realm as Ohio State, they’ll be able to compete. They closed the talent gap in 2019 and need to, you know, beat them once in a while to truly catch up in recruiting.
We’ll see if these predictions come true in the coming year. If they do (they won’t), I’d say Michigan would be on track for another top 10 class in line with 2019. The ride will be fun as the staff looks to build on their current six-man class.