After a successful BBQ at the Big House to kick off the month of August, Michigan’s football team has retreated into the submarine in preparation for what many believe will be a successful season for the team in 2016.
While recruiting may be on the back burner for the coaching staff, U-M’s recruiting team remains hard at work in preparation for a final push with a 2017 class that already has 19 verbal commitments. The upcoming class is expected to end up with somewhere around 30 signings, although that number fluctuates daily and could move up or down depending on many different factors.
Starting with U-M’s home opener against Hawaii on Sept. 3, the staff can host players and their families on official visits. Official visits are paid for by the university, eliminating the heavy costs that trips normally take. Once those visits start, the final recruiting stretch begins for the staff. With that in mind, here are the major story lines for Michigan to finish out strong on the recruiting trail:
Win: It’s not really a cop out answer. The funny thing about recruiting is despite all of the time and effort staffs put in to reel in the nation’s top prospects, wins are and will always be king. Elite players will always gravitate towards programs that win on a consistent basis, regardless of what else the football program and school as a whole offer. Michigan’s schedule sets up nicely for them to get off to a good start, but their 2017 class could jump to the next level if they can top the 10 wins they had in 2015.
Juggling official visits: One major negative for the staff this year is a lack of attractive home games to host recruits for. If you’re Alabama or Auburn, you host most of your top targets for the Iron Bowl. The same goes for Michigan and Ohio State, as the Buckeyes will likely have a bunch of their biggest recruits in Columbus for The Game in November. Michigan doesn’t have that luxury this year and will have to improvise to an extent. While it’s sometimes a negative to host kids early in the season for an official visit, the Hawaii game featuring Michael Jordan may be a draw. Besides that, you’re looking at Wisconsin and Penn State as the two marquee home games this season. It will be interesting to see how Harbaugh and his staff dictate which players visit during which weekends.
In-state close: Despite Michigan State winning the Big Ten last season and Ohio State winning a national championship in 2014, U-M is in line to potentially sweep the state’s top five prospects in 2017. In fact, they have a legitimate shot with the top seven players in the state, although they appear to be chasing MSU for Flint four-star prospect Deron Irving-Bey. Michigan invested early in what they believed to be a very strong in-state group in the 2017 cycle, making them a priority quickly. The Wolverines have commitments from Orchard Lake St. Mary’s four-star Josh Ross, St. Joseph four-star Corey Malone-Hatcher, Oak Park four-star JaRaymond Hall, Berrien Springs four-star Phillip Paea and Birmingham Brother Rice three-star Carter Dunaway. They’d love to add the state’s top prospect, five-star Donovan Peoples-Jones, along with defensive back targets Ambry Thomas (Detroit King) and Jaylen Kelly-Powell (Detroit Cass Tech).
Offensive line finish: Michigan has four verbal commitments on their offensive line, and may be looking to sign as many as seven. They have a good problem at this point, as they’re either leading for or are in the race with as many as five top 150 level prospects, including the nation’s top center prospect in Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy four-star Cesar Ruiz.
It may turn into a situation where U-M won’t have room for a couple players that almost any other school in the country would line up to take. Credit goes to offensive coordinator Tim Drevno for recruiting the offensive line exceptionally well, with graduate assistant Al Netter also playing an “under the radar.”
Other names heavily considering Michigan are four-stars Isaiah Wilson (tackle), Tedarrell Slaton (guard), Aaron Banks (tackle) and Henry Bainivalu (guard/tackle). How Michigan will finish out with these players is one of the more interesting and intriguing stories of the cycle for the staff.