Heading into next season, the Michigan Wolverines claim one of the best safety rooms in the country. Rod Moore, Makari Paige and R.J. Moten are all back and all started games last year. Their ability to produce likely won’t be a question in the 2023 season — it’s Michigan’s ability to replace them.
Michigan isn’t considered a favorite to land any of the following prospects below, but the recent success of the position group and the program overall should help land at least one of these recruits.
1. KJ Bolden
A five-star and the top ranked safety in the 2024 class, KJ Bolden is Michigan’s top target at the position. Yes, he’s from the south and hasn’t visited Ann Arbor since last year’s BBQ at the Big House, but thanks to his relationship with Steve Clinkscale, I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss Michigan’s chances with him.
As noted in a recent Recruiting Roundup, Bolden shared a piquant story about an exchange Bolden had with Clink in the fallout of Michigan’s most recent demolition of Ohio State. In the same interview Bolden also noted he has a “great relationship” with Clink. One can hope that relationship continues to the point where they get him on campus again, which would be a huge step.
2. Jordon Johnson-Rubell
IMG four-star Jordon Johnson-Rubell’s style is eerily similar to one of the best Michigan defensive players in recent memory — who also happens to be his favorite player — Jabrill Peppers. Just listen to his scouting evaluation from 247Sports’ Andrew Ivins:
“Might be on the smaller side, but plays bigger than the numbers suggest as he’s physical in the hole and comfortable carrying out tasks near the line of scrimmage.”
Does it not sound like he could be describing Peppers? In fact, it’s possible Johnson-Rubell might be even faster, having run a 4.6 40-yard dash as an underclassman.
He is slated to visit Ann Arbor later this month, so hopefully that sets up Michigan for potential success in this one.
3. Jaylen McClain
Continuing with Peppers comparisons, New Jersey native Jaylen McClain is another phenomenal safety prospect to watch. A voracious tackler and ball hawk, McClain is a safety’s safety. From setting the edge on run plays to breaking up the deep ball, he plays outstandingly all over the field. His rating as the 23rd-best safety in the country is an obvious underestimation.
With his New Jersey connections, Chris Partridge could give Michigan a leg up on the competition and a fighting chance to land him.
4. Ricardo Jones
Standing at 6-foot-3, Ricardo Jones has the frame to play linebacker while possessing the speed of a cornerback. That’s why he is ranked as a top-10 safety and top-100 recruit overall.His closing ability and football IQ are also quite impressive.
Hailing from the heart of Georgia, Jay Harbaugh and the Wolverines have their work cut out for them. But with the size and athleticism he brings to the table, Michigan would be remiss to not try.
5. Kyan McDonald
Rounding out the list is Seattle O’Dea’s ascendent safety recruit, Kyan McDonald. According to 247Sports’ Brandon Huffman, McDonald possesses consummate coverage abilities, giving him the potential to line up against slot receivers:
“He shows his lockdown coverage ability, ball skills and closing speed and you can see how technically sound he is. He’s smooth in his backpedal, fluid hips and tracks the ball well while rarely needing to grab his receiver.”
McDonald recently made a trip to Atlanta to visit Georgia Tech, so he doesn’t seem averse to playing far from home. The key now is getting him to make a slightly shorter trip to Ann Arbor.