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Michigan football 2021 target board: Running backs

Jay Harbaugh has killed it on the recruiting trail so far, getting Michigan involved with several elite backs.

NCAA Football: Michigan at Indiana Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Given how early Michigan’s 2020 class was wrapped up last year, there have been many more updates than usual on 2021 players. So it can be strange to consider the 2021 class has really only been on deck for a couple weeks following the second signing day earlier this month.

To help prepare you for the targets Michigan will be pursuing this year, I’ve brought back my position previews with the new crop of talented players from across the country. Each day I’ll break down a different position with guys the Wolverines are targeting. While these lists often change with the wind, it’s a good primer for the new cycle. This one is going to be longer, so buckle in.

Here’s a quick refresher on the reasoning behind each section:

There will be five sections, starting with any commits that Michigan already has in the class. Next is the staff’s top overall target at the position. This is a guy who is highly coveted by Michigan that they also have a great shot at landing.

Following the top target will be the section outlining all of the other legitimate targets that Michigan is recruiting at the position. These are the rest of the players with a high chance of joining the class.

The fourth section contains the long shots. These are highly-ranked players with national recruitments that Michigan has offered, but are probably lagging behind with. Wrapping up each preview will be under-the-radar prospects who are three-stars or lower and will serve as back-up options if Michigan misses on guys higher up on their board.

All of these groupings are subjective based on factors like interviews, social media, number of visits, etc. At the end I’ll include a chart of all the uncommitted (with some exceptions) players that Michigan has offered at the position. If you have a question about why a guy was or was not included, ask in the comments below!

A Quick Note about Quarterbacks

Usually these previews would start with quarterbacks, but with Nazareth Academy five-star J.J. McCarthy already committed, there’s no need for a separate article. If the unthinkable happened and Michigan was left without a quarterback late in the cycle for the second year in a row, then it would probably target Bishop Alemany four-star Miller Moss, who had multiple Michigan crystal balls at one point, or try to flip Highlands Ranch four-star Jake Rubley from Kansas State. Michigan was high on both quarterbacks before McCarthy committed.

With that out of the way, we can move on to the main event, the running backs. Jay Harbaugh has done an excellent job recruiting the position, landing high four-stars Zach Charbonnet and Blake Corum, while nailing the evaluation on Hassan Haskins. This is going to be an exciting position to follow, with Harbaugh swinging for the fences with a number of elite backs and looking good to land at least one and possibly two.

Top Target

West Bloomfield (MI) Donovan Edwards - Four-star, No. 33 overall, No. 3 RB

Edwards is one of the top two or three targets overall in the 2021 class. His recruitment is going to be a crazy one, with Michigan appearing to be in the lead but every school in the country going after him just as hard. On the first day after the recruiting dead period ended in January, West Bloomfield hosted Nick Saban, Ryan Day and Brian Kelly as they tried to get in with the No. 3 running back in the country.

Still, Michigan has a large inherent advantage with their close proximity. Edwards has visited campus several times already and will now have two of his former teammates in Ann Arbor with Cornell Wheeler and Makari Paige signing in 2020. Their head coach, former Wolverine Ron Bellamy, will also be in Michigan’s corner and was even recently defending Harbaugh on Twitter after he wasn’t there when all the other head coaches stopped by.

In the Mix

Lakeview Centennial (TX) Camar Wheaton - Five-star, No. 10 overall, No. 1 RB

It’s strange to see the No. 1 back in the nation from Texas as a realistic target for Michigan, but that’s exactly the case. As you’ll see, Jay Harbaugh is going to be busy in Texas for the cycle, and you can’t do much better than Wheaton. Reports have said Wheaton is a different type of kid than most, meaning that he’s not a lock to stay in-state or go to a football factory like Alabama.

Wheaton has legit interest in Michigan and seems very open to the off-field advantages the school provides. Add Brian Jean-Mary as a secondary recruiter with relationships in the state, and it can only improve the Wolverines’ chances.

Hopewell (VA) TreVeyon Henderson - Five-star, No. 27 overall, No. 2 RB

One of the most electric players in the country, Henderson was just bumped up into five-star territory by the recruiting services after being evaluated solely as a running back. He was getting pitched as a defensive back by schools like Clemson, but that was apparently turning him off to the Tigers.

While that snafu has apparently been smoothed over, it’s opened the door for a school like Michigan to step in and try to snag Henderson away from Dabo and the Tigers. The staff has been recruiting him very hard for a while now and hosted him for the BBQ at the Big House this past summer. He recently announced he’d be taking an official visit to Michigan the last weekend of June, traditionally a fruitful recruiting weekend for the staff.

Roger Bacon (OH) Corey Kiner - Four-star, No. 156 overall, No. 10 RB

Kiner and Edwards are going to be linked together throughout the cycle. Right now, it seems like Michigan and Ohio State are going to split the pair, but the Wolverines were the ones out in front for both early. By the time Ohio State offered, Kiner had already visited once and went to the BBQ at the Big House shortly after. Of course it will be hard to hold the Buckeyes off for an in-state kid, but this one looks very possible.

Union (OK) AJ Green - Four-star, No. 225 overall, No. 16 CB

While he’s listed as a cornerback, Green is being recruited as a running back by the staff, and it’s easy to see why. As a sophomore, he set the Oklahoma season record in the 100 meter race at 10.52 seconds and finished third in the state in the 200 meters at 21.46 seconds. These blazing speeds have definitely piqued Michigan’s interest and with Jay Harbaugh and likely Sherrone Moore going after him, they’ll have an excellent shot.

Hillcrest (IL) Mar’Keise Irving - Four-star, No. 248 overall, No. 13 RB

Irving was originally in the Under the Radar section of this preview before getting a big bump and gaining a fourth star in the rankings. This further solidifies Jay Harbaugh’s knack for eyeing talent as you’ll continue to see below. Irving has visited campus multiple times already and recently said Michigan was in his top three along with Iowa and Purdue.

Monterey Trail (CA) Prophet Brown - Four-star, No. 337 overall, No. 23 RB

Brown was completely unranked when Michigan extended an offer to him in January. Since then, he’s debuted at No. 175 in 247Sports’ rankings, pulling his composite score up to four-star status. Jay Harbaugh’s leap of faith with the offer will stand out to Brown, who also holds offers from Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Oregon and USC.

Long Shots

Cy-Fair (TX) LJ Johnson - Four-star, No. 54 overall, No. 4 RB

The staff is apparently really high on Johnson, who visited campus last spring. They have been recruiting him as a top target, but he might be focusing more on local schools at this point. There are no crystal ball predictions in for Johnson yet though, so he could still be open.

Rockdale (TX) Cam’Ron Valdez - Four-star, No. 313 overall, No. 20 RB

Prophet Brown was not the first unranked running back offered by Michigan that eventually became a four-star. Since the staff offered Valdez, his recruitment has blown up with a bunch of offers from other schools. During all that, it seems like he became enamored with some schools closer to him in Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and TCU.

Under the Radar

St. John’s (MD) Colby McDonald - Three-star, No. 918 overall, No. 73 RB

Michigan loves recruiting the DMV area and has had success at St John’s before, landing safety Quinten Johnson from the school a couple cycles ago. McDonald was a recent offer, which tells you how much the staff likes him given how many other top guys they are involved with. He also holds offers from Boston College, Kansas, Louisville, Maryland, Syracuse and Tennessee.

Battle Creek Central (MI) Tyshaan Williams - Three-star, No. 1,159 overall, No. 94 RB

Williams has only received one offer so far from Central Michigan. However, he has visited Ann Arbor a couple times, clearly looking for the opportunity to play for the Wolverines. We’ll see if he gets the chance given the amount of national talent Michigan is recruiting, but he’s a name to keep an eye on.

Class Prediction

This has the chance to be a special class at running back for Michigan as they look to reload their position room with another elite talent or two. I’d predict Michigan lands its top guy in Donovan Edwards and then nabs one of the guys they offered early before they blew up, either AJ Green, Mar’Keise Irving or Prophet Brown. If the dominoes fall their way and Ohio State takes a guy like Evan Pryor first, Corey Kiner could also fall to them.

Offer Board

Tomorrow we’ll be covering a big position of need for the 2021 class, the wide receivers.