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Michigan football 2021 target board: Wide receivers

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Michigan has some big shoes to fill at wide receiver this cycle with plenty of work still to do on the trail.

NCAA Football: Michigan at Penn State Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

In the last two classes, Michigan has loaded up on the speedy slot bugs, even before Josh Gattis arrived. Now that the cupboard is stocked with the players who can get separation underneath in the speed-in-space system, Michigan could use some taller guys on the outside to stretch the field and give Giles Jackson, Mike Sainristil and crew more room to operate.

In this 2021 wide receivers preview, you’ll see an emphasis on taller guys that still have the speed to get open downfield.

Top Target

St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes (VA) Malcolm Johnson Jr. - Four-star, No. 166 overall, No. 31 WR

Gattis identified Johnson early as one of the top guys he would be pursuing in 2021, and the recent rankings update echoed that sentiment, bumping him up almost 150 spots. Johnson is a big-time track star, and has the height at 6-foot-1 to split out wide. He visited for the Notre Dame game last fall and should be back on campus again soon, although he plans on taking until signing day to make a decision.

In the Mix

Mater Dei (CA) Cristian Dixon - Four-star, No. 153 overall, No. 29 WR

Dixon received his offer from Michigan last month and soon became the target of some of the California natives on the roster like Giles Jackson. The first step to prying him away from the West Coast will be getting him on campus, but Notre Dame holds the crystal ball lead so he seems open to leaving home.

Frederick Douglass (KY) Dekel Crowdus - Four-star, No. 205 overall, No. 35 WR

While Gattis needs outside receivers, that doesn’t mean he won’t be going after some slot guys as well. And there may not be a better player suited for Gattis’ style than Crowdus, who has a 4.4 40-yard dash and 43-inch vertical. Michigan had high interest over the summer after he visited for the BBQ, but an injury hampered Crowdus’ junior season at IMG Academy so we’ll see how hard they keep pursuing.

Northwest (MD) Kaden Prather - Four-star, No. 300 overall, No. 54 WR

At 6-foot-3, Prather is more in the mold of the traditional outside guy than anyone listed so far. He holds offers from almost every major school in the country, and Penn State leads the crystal ball right now. Michigan needs to get him on campus to continue to stay in the race for Prather, who they really like.

Monarch (FL) Jaden Alexis - Three-star, No. 421 overall, No. 74 WR

Alexis is another track guy who runs a 10.86 100-meter dash, which he has translated into a 4.41 40-yard dash. After recently receiving his offer from Gattis himself, Alexis has been planning a trip to get up north, although no date has been set yet. Along with Alabama, Georgia, Penn State and others, Alexis holds offers from Brown and Harvard, so academics will not be an issue.

East Lansing (MI) Andrel Anthony - Three-star, No. 461 overall, No. 81 WR

It would be sweet for Michigan to pull Anthony out from East Lansing right under the Spartans’ nose like John Beilein did with Brandon Johns a few years ago. And that possibility is looking likely, with two of the three crystal balls reading Maize and Blue. Anthony has visited campus a bunch of times and is probably the Wolverines’ to take if they push hard.

Long Shots

Mount Saint Joseph (MD) Dont’e Thornton - Four-star, No. 48 overall, No. 6 WR

An early commit to Penn State, Thornton backed off his pledge before the season started. However, he has been back to their campus a bunch of times since then and seems like the rare de-commit that will end up with his previous team. Michigan likes him and will shoot its shot, but I don’t expect much.

Cardinal Gibbons (FL) Troy Stellato - Four-star, No. 127 overall, No. 22 WR

Stellato was miring in the high three-star range far too long after he was receiving offers from major schools across the country, but that issue has now been rectified. Part of what attracted him to powerhouses like Clemson and Ohio State is his 4.42 40-yard dash speed. Michigan offered at the end of last month, which is probably too late to get in the game.

Pace Academy (GA) Jayden Thomas - Four-star, No. 178 overall, No. 36 WR

While only standing 6-foot-1, Thomas possesses the body control and leaping skills to be a quality option on the outside. Michigan dialed down its recruiting pursuits in Georgia in 2020 and lost the state’s main recruiter in Chris Partridge, but it will try to strike gold again in the Peach State with Thomas.

Under the Radar

Junipero Serra (CA) Devin Kirkwood - Three-star, No. 541 overall, No. 42 ATH

After receiving his offer from Michigan in early December, Kirkwood named them his early leader. Schools like Notre Dame, USC and Arizona State are targeting the 6-foot-2 receiver highly, though. We’ll see if he makes the trip across the country to visit campus.

Southfield (MI) Robert Army - Three-star, No. 653 overall, No. 107 WR

A two-way athlete, Army may better project to safety in college, but I’m going to throw him in here. He transferred from Detroit Renaissance as a sophomore to play at Southfield A&T, where he is teammates with tackle target Caleb Banks. Army does not have an offer yet, but has visited campus a couple times.

Northmont (OH) Markus Allen - Three-star, No. 895 overall, No. 138 WR

Allen’s recruitment has picked up lately and is one of the biggest potential risers in the Midwest. Along with Michigan, he’s also picked up offers from Michigan State, Pitt, Cincinnati, Wake Forest and others. Current Wolverine Gabe Newburg went to Allen’s high school, but Allen moved to the area after he was there so that won’t mean much here.

Nazareth Academy (IL) Landon Morris - Three-star, No. 1,080 overall, No. 160 WR

Morris, along with 2022 top-40 player Tyler Morris, are J.J. McCarthy’s favorite targets at Nazareth Academy. That connection is probably what led to Morris’ offer, although he has also received one from Iowa State and Toledo following Michigan. If Michigan needs to appease McCarthy somehow, I could see Morris being an addition to the class.

Class Prediction

It feels like the Wolverines are still waiting for a wide receiver to emerge for which they have a clear lead. There are plenty of notable options, but the staff will have to work to get them on campus in the spring and fall if they want to keep being a factor.

I’d say it’s likely Andrel Anthony eventually ends up in the class, along with Malcolm Johnson Jr., although that is less of a certainty. That’d give Michigan two legit guys who could play on the outside.

After that, look for someone like Jaden Alexis, Devin Kirkwood or Markus Allen to join, give or take how many spots the staff is reserving for the position.

Offer Board

The next position covered features several guys who could end up in Michigan’s class, the tight ends.