The secondary has performed well over the past few seasons under defensive coordinator Don Brown, but they have also been the beneficiaries of an excellent pass rush and were exposed a few times in games last season. In a system where cornerbacks are left on an island nearly every play, it’s important to have talent and depth in the defensive backfield.
Teams replenish that talent by recruiting, of course. Unfortunately, the outlook at cornerback for the 2020 class has not looked promising.
Cornerback recruiting started out hot under Jim Harbaugh, with Michigan landing four 4-stars in his first two full classes. Since then, though, Michigan has only picked up two 4-stars in the six players recruited at the position. Just this offseason, three of those blue chippers left the roster. David Long was just picked in the third round of the NFL Draft, Benjamin St-Juste retired due to a medical hardship and Myles Sims entered the transfer portal.
These developments, along with Lavert Hill being a senior, leave Michigan pretty thin at the position for the future. From returns on the recruiting trail so far, it doesn’t look like there are many options of the same caliber to replace these players.
Michigan is fortunate to have in-state 4-star Andre Seldon in the class already. The recent track record of Detroit cornerbacks for the Wolverines has been stellar, but Seldon is a bit undersized compared to that lineage of players, which is saying something.
Other than Seldon, the cornerback board is basically a shrug emoji. A bunch of the staff’s targets have recently committed to other schools — Dontae Manning and Ryan Watts to Oklahoma, Luke Hill and Myles Slusher (who will probably play safety at the next level) to Oregon, Jalen Kimber to Georgia, and so on.
The one highly-touted player that seems to still be considering Michigan heavily is California 4-star Darion Green-Warren, who de-committed from Oklahoma a few months ago. Since then, he’s gotten a steady stream of crystal balls to USC, which makes sense for a Southern California stud.
There are a few silver linings, however. He recently told The Michigan Insider’s Brice Marich Michigan is “guaranteed to get an official visit” ($). That will allow the staff an excellent chance to make their case. Green-Warren also just transferred high schools from USC magnet Mater Dei to Narbonne. That probably won’t affect his decision too much, but any little bit helps.
After Green-Warren, there are not many other options. 4-star Dwight McGlothern has said he wants to visit Michigan, but he’s a guy that loves the process and says that about every school. Things have been picking up with top 100 prospect Henry Gray, and he recently tweeted that he’ll be on campus on June 7th, so that will be a big opportunity to impress Florida prospect, for whom Ohio State is leading in the Crystal Ball picks.
As for the non blue-chippers, Michigan likes 3-stars Omari Porter, who is from Alabama, and Jahquez Robinson, who is committed to Alabama. 247Sports has Michigan, Stanford and Vanderbilt listed as “warm” on Porter’s profile, so he definitely seems like the rare prospect who is willing to leave the south. Robinson has the offer list of a 5-star, so his low ranking may be due to recruiting services lagging behind, but that just makes it less likely he leaves the Crimson Tide’s class.
Michigan recently offered Texas 3-star Collin Gamble, who just talked with our own Von Lozon and seems intrigued by the new opportunity. But that’s probably because the Wolverines are clearly his best offer. I’ve beat the drum about the staff’s ability to spot talent, but Gamble is ranked outside the top 1000 and doesn’t have too many other schools of Michigan’s quality look to be pursuing him.
One creative solution I’d consider is letting in-state 3-star Cameron Martinez play on the defensive side of the ball. He’s said the option to choose which position he’d play is what’s appealing to him about Ohio State, so Michigan may benefit from giving him that option as well. It looks like the Buckeyes are recruiting him as a safety, but at 5-foot-11, 175 pounds, he may be better suited for corner.
With all of this said, I think it’s time to take a look at Mike Zordich’s efforts on the recruiting trail. When I ranked each assistant coach on their recruiting performance last season, Zordich was dead last. He was not listed as the primary or secondary recruiter for a single member of the class, which included two cornerbacks.
For 2020, he’s at least named as Seldon’s primary recruiter, but when a cornerback from Detroit commits a year and a half before his signing day, it probably was not too difficult of a job. Michigan made some excellent hires to clear out their recruiting zeros this offseason, but they still have one member that’s not quite pulling his weight.
There’s still plenty of time in the cycle to get in with some top targets at the position, but it will take some effort. If Michigan wants to re-establish depth, they should try to land at least two more cornerbacks this class, but the options are not looking great.