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Michigan’s WR board is clearly shifting under Josh Gattis

The staff is targeting almost an entirely different set of players after the new offensive coordinator hire.

NCAA Football: Wisconsin at Michigan Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

The commitment of 4-star Rashawn Williams to Indiana on Monday capped off a quick succession of events that have completely changed what Michigan’s wide receiver recruiting board looks like.

On April 13, 4-star Kalil Branham, the only wide receiver in the class, de-committed. That same day, former in-state 3-star Devell Washington committed to West Virginia. The following day, fellow in-state target Ian Stewart announced his top seven without including the Wolverines.

Michigan led the crystal ball for three of those prospects at one point, and the fourth, Washington, had been to campus several times. So this begs the question, what has happened to Michigan’s recruiting at the position?

The answer is seemingly pretty simple: Josh Gattis’ hire.

Switching out Pep Hamilton and Jim McElwain for Gattis has obviously ushered in a new offensive philosophy we witnessed during the open spring practices. And with it, a change in the type of athlete needed to run said offense.

Looking at Gattis’ recruits at his last two stops, Penn State and Alabama, show there are a couple traits he prioritizes in a recruit — being really tall or being really fast. Not everyone exactly fits this mold, but most possessed a stand-out trait in one of those two categories.

NCAA Football: Michigan Spring Game Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Six of the 13 recruits Gattis signed during this span are over 6-foot-2, with four of them standing 6-foot-4. This is exactly why I believe in-state receiver Maliq Carr has been so receptive to Michigan’s pitch lately. His 6-foot-4 height has many people believing he’ll eventually shift to tight end, but Gattis can prove he’s worked wonders with tall receivers. Juwan Johnson is as tall as Carr, and had a great season during Gattis’ last season at Penn State. But once Gattis left, Johnson dropped off significantly and ended up transferring to Oregon.

There’s a trio of other Michigan targets who stand at least 6-foot-3, all of them 4-stars. They include 6-foot-3.5 Javian Hester, 6-foot-3 Jaden Dottin and 6-foot-3 Alabama commit (who’s recruitment was probably initiated by Gattis) Traeshon Holden.

Now, let’s talk about the guys that embody the #SpeedInSpace mantra.

Many Michigan fans were disappointed the staff didn’t push for native KJ Hamler in 2017, though they already had an amazing wide receiver haul. Well Gattis pushed, and landed, the speedy Hamler, who is 5-foot-9 and ran a 4.43 40-yard dash in high school. From both the measurable and rankings, Hamler was almost a clone of a guy Gattis recruited two years earlier to Penn State, 5-foot-9 Brandon Polk, who ran a 4.36 40-yard dash. Chris Godwin and Mac Hippenhammer also ran sub-4.5 40’s out of high school, and while Jahan Dotson tested badly in the 40 during events, he did run an 11.02 100-meter dash.

Gattis definitely has a type here, and for Michigan, he’s looking to fill it with 5-foot-9.5 AJ Henning, who has been the most touted prospect to respond positively to Gattis’ hire. He recently ran a 4.46 40-yard dash at the Opening Regionals, which makes him perfect for the slot.

Henning visited Michigan in late January and is looking to return again soon, where he’ll presumably see more highlights of Hamler or Alabama’s Jaylen Waddle. Also beneficiaries of this focus on speed are 3-stars Xavier Watts and Cameron Martinez, who have been similarly wooed about their potential in Gattis’ offense.

Every coach has their own ideal type of player in their mind, and there’s a lot of nuance that goes into evaluating prospects. Both Washington and Stewart are above 6-foot-3, but clearly weren’t preferred by Gattis. However, there are some clear trends in Gattis’ recruiting history that have held up and are becoming clearer as his time at Michigan grows longer.

Wide receiver is an important position for the 2020 class, and while there aren’t any current commitments at the position, you have to believe Gattis will find guys he wants in his system.