Hiring defensive backs coach Steve Clinkscale has to be one of the most propitious moves of Jim Harbaugh’s tenure as head coach of the Michigan Wolverines. The secondary played a pivotal role in the back-to-back beatdowns of Ohio State, in no small part thanks to his tutelage. In particular, his work with the cornerbacks has allowed the Wolverines to employ an NFL-style defense that pass-heavy teams find so hard to crack.
And now his efforts on the recruiting trail have started to take off: He currently ranks 3rd in 247Sports’ recruiter rankings. For Clink, the 2024 class — married with his handiwork in the last two iterations of The Game — presents a massive opportunity to improve upon this.
Here are my picks for Michigan’s top-five cornerback targets in the 2024 class.
1. Bryce West
No surprises here: Bryce West is far and away Michigan’s best cornerback target in the 2024 class. Rated as the best overall prospect from Ohio and bordering on five-star status, West could make an immediate splash for the Wolverine secondary.
Boasting a 10.93-second 100-meter dash, he has the speed to keep pace with the prototypical Buckeye wideout and then some. Speaking of our hated rivals, Ohio State currently holds two Crystal Balls — but those are from Dec. 2021 and March 2022, respectively. On the other hand, Michigan has hosted West on two separate occasions, mostly recent in January. By all indications, Clinkscale has done a phenomenal job connecting with West.
Will he be the next Michigan great to hail from Ohio? We shall find out soon enough.
2. Aaron Scott
Another Ohio blue-chip, Aaron Scott ranks as a top-15 cornerback and is listed as the 124th-best overall recruit in the country. While not as fast as West, Scott possesses enough size, ranginess, and physicality to make up for it.
His native Springfield, Ohio, is only a 45-minute drive from Ohio Stadium, so it isn’t the biggest surprise the Buckeyes currently hold the lead. However, he clearly is interested in the Maize and Blue, having visited Ann Arbor this winter. As far-fetched as it might sound, there is a legitimate shot Michigan can land both West and Scott. I have that level of confidence in Clinkscale. These two have to ask themselves: Which secondary actually showed up to play in The Game these past few years?
3. Ify Obidegwu
Playing ball at the Michigan-friendly St. Frances Academy in Baltimore, Maryland, Ify Obidegwu is another blue-chip corner to keep an eye on. Rated as the 15th-best cornerback and a top-150 overall player in the class, Obidegwu’s recruitment seems like it’s in the earlier stages, with Tennessee, Maryland and Penn State being seen as the leaders so far. But you can’t rule out the Wolverines, considering the numerous Michigan connections built up through the years at St. Frances.
4. Earl Kulp
With a thinner frame and decent speed, four-star Earl Kulp isn’t likely to top many most-coveted-recruits lists. However, Kulp is the kind of developmental prospect that Harbaugh-era Michigan has turned into NFL-caliber talent. The Miami Central cornerback is rated as the 31st-best in the class at his position.
With some additional playing time and guidance from Clinkscale, as well as some strength and conditioning from Ben Herbert, Kulp is a prime candidate to be Michigan’s next great developmental cornerback. The Wolverines appear to be one of his potential choices, as he visited Michigan for the Maize Out drubbing of Penn State in October.
5. Jalen Todd
Much like Kulp, Jalen Todd is a developmental prospect with plenty of upside. Playing for Southfield High, his frame has yet to fill out (6-foot, 165) but he has the requisite range and aggression to add depth to the Michigan cornerback room. With increased mass and speed, he could turn into a solid college cornerback.