Michigan’s season is right around the corner, and with a recruiting class sitting in the mid-teens, it’s crucial for the Wolverines to get off to a hot start if they want to maintain the quality of class that has become the standard for Jim Harbaugh.
Right now, Michigan’s class is sitting at 15th in the country, with only four five- and four-stars combined, compared to 11 three-stars. There is still going to be a lot of shuffling of the rankings throughout the fall season due to the extended Covid layoff, but that’s still a class that’s lacking in star power.
There are still a few big fish out there, but several of the prospects Michigan is still pursuing could be considered sleepers with the potential to rise following a strong senior season.
Three-star Quinshon Judkins, Pike Road (AL)
Three-star Demond Claiborne*, King William (VA)
Four-star Dane Key, Frederick Douglass (KY)
Three-star Cody Hagen, Corner Canyon (UT)
Five-star Josh Conerly, Rainier Beach (WA)
Three-star Mark Nabou, O’Dea (WA)
Five-star Walter Nolen, Powell (TN)
Four-star Deone Walker, Cass Tech (MI)
Three-star Kenneth Grant, Merrillville (IN)
Three-star Isaiah Hastings, Clearwater Academy International (FL)
Three-star Mason Graham*, Servite (CA)
Three-star Lemar Law*, Bayside (VA)
Three-star Robby Harrison, Emerald (SC)
Three-star Joshua Josephs, North Cobb (GA)
Four-star Lander Barton, Brighton (UT)
Five-star Domani Jackson*, Mater Dei (CA)
Four-star Austin Ausberry, University Lab (LA)
Four-star Ephesians Prysock, Bishop Alemany (CA)
Three-star Zeke Berry*, De La Salle (CA)
Three-star Amorion Walker*, Ponchatoula (LA)
Three-star Andre Stewart*, North Cobb (GA)
Three-star Damani Dent, Terry Parker (FL)
From this non-exhaustive list, a few conclusions can be drawn. The first is Michigan still wants to add more defensive linemen and defensive backs to their class based on how many guys at each position they are still recruiting.
There are no defensive prospects who weigh more than 240 pounds in the class right now, which will need to change if Michigan wants to have success with a 3-4 scheme in which all three down linemen weigh at least 280 pounds.
The good news is they have a lot of options left. Walter Nolen is always going to be a longshot, but after him there’s in-state Deone Walker, who could play on either side of the line, Kenneth Grant, who has the body to play nose and has visited multiple times, and Isaiah Hastings, the Canadian who was on campus for the BBQ at the Big House.
Defensive back is interesting because Michigan already has three quality cornerbacks committed, so the need is really at safety. However, only one of the prospects above is listed as a safety, that being Damani Dent. Several of them, including Ausberry, Prysock, Walker and Stewart may better project to that position in college, though.
The glaring hole in this list is at linebacker, where Michigan only has one commit in low three-star Aaron Alexander. The coaches love Barton, but getting him away from Utah is going to be tough. After him, there aren’t many options. Four-star Robby Snelling is on the periphery, but hasn’t been talked about much in a while. If Michigan lands Josephs, they’ll probably keep Micah Pollard at inside linebacker instead of putting him at the edge spot.
This list also shows Michigan will be working hard to flip prospects from other schools as the season goes on. Anybody with an asterisk next to their name is currently committed to another school. From USC and Notre Dame to Boise State and Wake Forest, the difficulty of getting a guy to flip will vary and depend heavily on how Michigan is performing.
Speaking of the Wolverines’ season, they will have a good chance to make a strong early impression on recruits. Their first four games are all at home, with two of the games against MAC schools and one against Rutgers.
The fourth game is, of course Washington, which will be a big early test. If they can beat the Huskies and get to 4-0, they’ll pick up some momentum going into their first road test against Wisconsin.
The Washington game is the second biggest home draw of the year, following The Game at the end of the season. While the Ohio State game will likely be a big recruiting event like usual, it appears Michigan is trying to get as many guys on campus for the Washington game as possible, probably because the chances of them getting embarrassed are much lower.
So far, Michigan has three five-stars in Walter Nolen, Domani Jackson and Josh Conerly slated to attend, along with top targets Lander Barton, Joshua Josephs and Amorion Walker. Put on a good show for those guys and they could have something cooking.
They’ll only have three home games after September, so there will probably be a higher number of recruits visiting for those games compared to normal years.
This is a make or break season for Michigan football in a number of ways, including recruiting. Frankly, the staff did an incredible job keeping last year’s class together and even adding key pieces like Rayshaun Benny and Donovan Edwards late given Harbaugh’s contract uncertainty. But they can’t keep that up forever and without on-field performance to point to, we’re looking at a class that ends up in the 20s nationally.