National Signing Day may be more than 10 months away, but Michigan is already building its 2018 recruiting class.
Three recruits already committed, and the Wolverines will look to add anywhere from 17 to 23 more recruits to a 2018 class that is anticipated to be smaller than Jim Harbaugh’s first two classes in Ann Arbor.
In terms of which recruits should Michigan target with those remaining spots, the list is long and wide — as is the amount of possibilities for Harbaugh & Co.
But, which positions should Michigan focus most on?
To answer that question, here are three areas where the Wolverines should — and likely will — concentrate much of their efforts on for the 2018 class.
Both cornerbacks and safeties should get a heavy focus in this upcoming class. Michigan doesn’t have many safeties on campus — upcoming junior Tyree Kinnel is the upperclassmen and is joined by four underclassmen in upcoming sophomores Khaleke Hudson and Josh Metellus, and freshmen J’Marick Woods and Jaylen Kelly-Powell.
The issue here isn’t who will start. The group includes potential superstars in Hudson and Metellus and two freshman with high expectations.
The issue is depth.
If one goes down, there isn’t much of a “next-man-up” process. Metellus is slotted to play the viper position, excluding him from one of the exclusive safety spots going forward.
So for 2018, players such as 247Sports composite 5-star prospect BJ Foster and 4-star prospects Shayne Simon and Isheem Young will be targeted. As will several others.
As far as cornerbacks go, Michigan lost three starters from the 2016 team in Channing Stribling, Jourdan Lewis and Jeremy Clark. The Wolverines added just two cornerbacks to their 2017 class in Ambry Thomas and Benjamin St-Juste and have just six total scholarship corners on the roster.
Again, it’s another depth issue. The star power, and the potential, is there … but it’s top-heavy. Michigan should add three corners, and, maybe, three safeties.
A defensive back class of five-plus should be the main goal.
Last week, Michigan lost its thought-to-be future superstar in upcoming sophomore Devin Asiasi, who transferred back to his home state of California and UCLA.
It also lost John Mackey Award winner — and the best statistical tight end in school history — Jake Butt to graduation.
And the Wolverines didn’t add a tight end on scholarship in their 2017 class.
So what is left on campus?
The two big names are juniors Ian Bunting and Tyrone Wheatley, Jr., joined by redshirt freshmen Sean McKeon and Nick Eubanks, and redshirt sophomore / converted QB Zack Gentry.
But, without Asiasi or Butt, there are no real stars in that group. Eubanks has the best chance to be a vertical threat, Wheatley, Jr. is the big man at 6 feet 7, and McKeon is the best blocker.
But zero incoming freshmen, the Wolverines could add three tight ends in 2018.
Currently, Michigan is the heavy favorite to land Jacksonville (Fla.) Providence 4-star recruit Will Mallory and is in the race for 4-star prospects Jeremy Ruckert (Lindenhurst, N.J.), Mustapha Muhammad (Missouri City, Texas), Brevin Jordan (Las Vegas), and 3-star recruit Zach Sheffer (Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.).
Expect Michigan to land three.
Michigan did add two running backs in 2017, 4-star recruit O’Maury Samuels and 3-star recruit Kurt Taylor. But both have underwhelming film and the ultimate goal, 5-star RB Najee Harris, ended up at Alabama.
Michigan’s top 2018 RB target, T.J. Pledger, already eliminated the Wolverines in the race for his recruitment. Regardless, the Wolverines must gear up and land a difference-maker at tailback.
It doesn’t need to be a Harris-type; there simply isn’t one of those this cycle, anyway. But there are options out there for the Wolverines to target who can be a change of pace from Michigan’s slow run game of years past.
Three prospects — Fabian Franklin (4 stars), Asa Martin (4 stars) and Lyn-J Dixon (3 stars) — stand out most on paper and film. However, it’s highly unlikely the Wolverines are able to land all three.
If we had to pick one, it’s Martin. His film shines with superstar potential. He has tremendous vision between the tackles, his speed and burst on the outside match his skill running up the middle, and his elusiveness makes him a hard back to bring down.
The former IMG Academy star returned home to Decatur (Ala.) Austin High for his senior season, and expect the Wolverines to push hard for him.