Jim Harbaugh put together his first recruiting class at Michigan on the fly. Harbaugh and his staff were better prepared for Round 2 in 2016, and it showed as they signed 28 players to that class.
Michigan played 23 true freshmen last season, including 20 scholarship players. The class was ranked No. 6 in the country by the 247Sports composite ratings system, and No. 2 in the Big Ten behind only Ohio State. The foundation of Harbaugh’s first two seasons, which have produced 20 wins, have been players recruited by Brady Hoke.
This third season will see a greater influx of players Harbaugh has recruited. Michigan loses 17 senior starters from last season’s team as well as do-everything Jabril Peppers, who has forgone his final season of eligibility and declared for the NFL draft.
So, one year into the system, what does the 2016 class look like now? And how does it fit into the 2017 season?
QB: Brandon Peters; RB: Kareem Walker, Chris Evans, Kingston Davis (FB); TE: Devin Asiasi, Nick Eubanks, Sean McKeon; WR: Kekoa Crawford, Eddie McDoom, Nate Johnson, Brad Hawkins; OL: Ben Bredeson, Michael Onwenu, Stephen Spanellis; DL: Rashan Gary, Ron Johnson, Carlo Kemp, Joshua Uche, Michael Dwumfour; LB: Devin Bush Jr., Elysee Mbem-Bosse; CB: David Long, Lavert Hill; S: Khaleke Hudson, Josh Metellus, Devin Gill; K: Quinn Nordin
Kind of. Maybe. Not exactly. Hawkins ended up going to Suffield Academy, a prep school in Connecticut, after signing his letter of intent. Hawkins and Michigan kept their relationship strong, however, and he re-signed to be a part of this year’s recruiting class. There have also been reports that Asiasi is leaving to return to his native California but nothing has been confirmed by Michigan or Asiasi.
Bredeson started the final eight games at left guard, including the Orange Bowl. Freshmen offensive linemen starting in the Big Ten shouldn’t be underestimated. He should be much better for the experience this season.
No one else would have been considered a regular starter, but Evans finished second on the team with 614 yards rushing. He scored four touchdowns on the ground and added 87 yards on six receptions. Asiasi started twice in an extra tight end formation and, if he returns, will be in line to compete with Ian Bunting for the starting job. Metellus started in the Orange Bowl when Peppers couldn’t go because of injury. That’s a sign he’s got the inside track to one starting safety spot in 2017.
Anyone switch positions?
Onwenu was used on the defensive line as well as the offensive line as the season progressed. The plan is for him to go back to offense this season but his ability to be that versatile as a freshman is a plus.
Anyone in line to make a bigger impact?
A whole bunch of last year’s freshmen should see greater playing time in 2017. The turnover following the loss of a large senior class, plus Peppers, leaves openings all over the field, especially on defense.
The biggest spotlight will be on Gary, the No. 1-overall rated player in the country coming out of high school. He flashed at times last season but now it’s time for him to put what he learned from playing behind a senior-led defensive line and be more consistent and productive.
Evans and McDoom produced 10 plays of 20 yards or more between them last season in backup roles.
Bush, Hill, Crawford and Hudson all played in the Orange Bowl against Florida State, giving them a taste of what’s to come this season.