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Michigan football 2021 target board: Defensive ends

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Michigan is in the mix for several top defensive ends this cycle.

Michigan v Maryland Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

With all of the attention paid to defensive tackle, it can be easy to forget Michigan could also do some restocking at defensive end. By the time this group arrives on campus, Kwity Paye and Aidan Hutchinson could both be in the NFL, leaving a lot of unproven talent behind them. There is a large number of players Michigan is in the mix for without a clear tier fully developing yet, but hopefully this preview will help sort the guys out a bit.

Top Target

Saguaro (AZ) Quintin Somerville - Four-star, No. 69 overall, No. 4 SDE

Michigan entered the race for Somerville with a bang last April when he visited campus and came away with a glowing report. He plans to narrow his list down to a top five in the spring and take all of his officials before committing in June. I expect Michigan to get one of those officials, with Florida State, Georgia and Washington also likely. A lot will depend on how these trips go, but if Michigan gets him up on a good weekend they can make a lasting impression.

In the Mix

Highland Springs (VA) Kelvin Gilliam - Four-star, No. 111 overall, No. 5 WDE

Fresh off a visit to Ann Arbor at the beginning of February, Gilliam saw a healthy rise in the rankings thanks to a recent updates from ESPN and 247Sports. South Carolina and Oklahoma will be getting visits soon, but Gilliam seems relatively wide open. He should be a guy the staff continues to pursue aggressively.

Oak Park (MI) Rayshaun Benny - Four-star, No. 126 overall, No. 16 OT

This is a unique recruitment, with Michigan the first and only school so far to recruit him exclusively for defensive line, which is his preference. I’ve included him in this preview since he mostly plays defensive end on his junior tape, but at 6-foot-5, 275 pounds already, he definitely has the potential to move inside in college. Being in-state and pitching him for the position he actually wants to play should put Michigan in an excellent position here.

Northeast (PA) Elijah Jeudy - Four-star, No. 170 overall, No. 12 WDE

Michigan was included in Jeudy’s top six schools back in December, with Penn State and a quartet of SEC schools. However, schools like Georgia have jumped into the race since then and secured an official visit, so it’s hard to tell how consistent Jeudy’s list is. Either way, Michigan will have to fight to receive a critical official visit if it wants a shot at Jeudy.

Blair Academy (NJ) Aaron Armitage - Four-star, No. 205 overall, No. 13 SDE

Once the crystal ball leader, Michigan has conceded its lead to Penn State and then Notre Dame in recent months. Armitage visited for the BBQ at the Big House where he picked up those predictions, but a dream offer from Notre Dame may have shaken up his recruitment. Michigan will have to pick up the slack left by Anthony Campanile and Chris Partridge to stay in the race.

Erasmus Hall (NY) Jahzion Harris - Four-star, No. 208 overall, No. 14 WDE

Another prospect from the East Coast, it has been reported the Michigan staff is working hard to bridge the gap between Campanile and Partridge to avoid a drop-off while recruiting Harris. Michigan picked up Harris’ teammate William Mohan last cycle, which has helped loosen the grip Ohio State has held on Erasmus Hall for years.

Hutto (TX) Landyn Watson - Four-star, No. 293 overall, No. 16 WDE

A former LSU commit, Watson planned a March visit to Ann Arbor soon after receiving his offer from Michigan. That shows a lot of interest on Watson’s part, so we’ll see how big of a move the staff made following his trip.

Suffield Academy (CT) Kechaun Bennett - Four-star, No. 318 overall, No. 23 SDE

Another prospect with a March visit on the docket is Bennett, who hails from Don Brown territory in Connecticut. An outstanding wrestler, Bennett is also high on Notre Dame, Penn State and Georgia Tech, indicating academics may also be important to him.

Mansfield (MA) TJ Guy - Three-star, No. 692 overall, No. 38 WDE

While still committed to Boston College, Guy outlined his plans to visit Michigan twice, including an official in June. Given that a committed prospect usually doesn’t plan out extensive trips to other schools, Guy soon backed off from his Boston College pledge and now seems to be Michigan’s for the taking. While he’s lowly ranked, Don Brown has a good track record of going after guys like this, including Josh Uche and Kwity Paye while at Michigan.

Long Shots

Quince Orchard (MD) Demeioun Robinson - Four-star, No. 48 overall, No. 2 WDE

Michigan made a recent top 13 list for Robinson in early January, but is still considered a long shot like his teammate Marcus Bradley is at defensive tackle. Robinson will have to get on campus for Michigan to stay in this race.

Central Catholic (PA) Elliot Donald - Four-star, No. 120 overall, No. 10 SDE

Donald took an early trip to Ann Arbor back when he was a sophomore and has the Wolverines in his top eight. However, it will be tough to overcome the pull of local Pittsburgh, where his uncle Aaron Donald was a star.

Ocean Lakes (VA) Naquan Brown - Four-star, No. 155 overall, No. 10 WDE

Yet another defensive line prospect from Virginia, Brown put Michigan in his top 10 schools thanks in part to a spring visit last year. Brown has laid out this year’s spring visits, which include Maryland, Texas A&M, Alabama and LSU. Michigan has yet to be included.

Under the Radar

Bishop Hendrickson (RI) Jason Onye - Three-star, No. 464 overall, No. 27 WDE

Onye is another classic New England Don Brown recruit and even attends the same high school Kwity Paye did. Michigan looked to be out in front, but a Notre Dame offer may have changed the equation. Onye has an official visit scheduled for Ann Arbor for June, so if Michigan can hold off the Irish until then, it’ll have a good shot.

Nazareth Academy (IL) Ryan Keeler - Three-star, No. 485 overall, No. 33 SDE

A teammate of J.J. McCarthy’s at Nazareth Academy, Michigan was the beneficiary of a few crystal balls after Keeler visited campus. However, it looks like Michigan may have backed off a bit to pursue other targets.

Class Prediction

As I’ve outlined in many of these prospects’ descriptions, Michigan is featured in a lot of top lists of schools, but ones early in their decision process. A few guys that I think have Michigan in their top two or three include Quintin Somerville, Kelvin Gilliam, Rayshaun Benny, Aaron Armitage and TJ Guy. I believe Guy and Benny will eventually end up in the class, along with a top-ranked guy like Somerville or Gilliam. Spring visits will be essential in defining this position more.

Offer Board

The next preview in this series will tackle the linebacker position.