The sky isn’t falling, but it’s … hazy. Quarterback Kevin Doyle de-committed. Linebacker Otis Reese is wavering. After closing out the last two recruiting cycles with exclamation points, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh goes into Wednesday fighting to avoid more question marks.
“They aren’t poised to close as strong this year like they did in his first full class in 2016. There is no Rashan Gary on the horizon,” noted Brandon Huffman, national college football recruiting editor at 247Sports.com. “But I think Michigan is still decently pleased with how this class fills out.
“Aidan Hutchinson and Cam McGrone are two players they signed in December, and both were terrific at the U.S. Army Bowl. Myles Sims and Joe Milton are already enrolled and on campus. So there are some pieces here to like.”
And some pieces that need shoring up yet. Which, if you dig late-inning drama, should make for an interesting closing frame going into National Signing Day.
Georgia is coming hard for a flip of Reese, a 4-star linebacker and Wolverines commitment from Leesburg, Ga., a prep teammate of Michigan defensive tackle Aubrey Solomon. The offensive line room is uncomfortably thin at tackle, which puts the spotlight on 5-star get Nicholas Petit-Frere from Tampa, Fla.; 4-star prospect Jarrett Patterson from Mission Viejo, Calif.; and big Texan Calvin Anderson, a promising grad transfer from Rice who can solve a Rubik’s Cube behind his back:
This was awesome watching Rice LT Calvin Anderson and his photographic memory solving a Rubik cube behind his back pic.twitter.com/3wFkgHXEHz
— Jay Feely (@jayfeely) September 7, 2016
Regardless of how the Reese and tackle sagas land, the Wolverines’ 2018 haul is shaping up to be the program’s smallest since 2015 and the first full-cycle Harbaugh class to rank outside 247Sports’ composite national top 10. Michigan’s harvest ranked No. 17 as of Tuesday morning; the Wolverines pulled in the No. 5 and No. 8 classes in 2017 and 2016, respectively.
“I think it’s more a numbers game,” Huffman continued, “but I also think it could correlate with staff turnover.”
“This class is good. It wasn’t as good as the year before, but it’s good enough to keep them in the [Big Ten East] race.”
— Recruiting analyst Tom Lemming on Michigan’s 2018 recruiting haul
Down? Yes. Out?
Not a chance, chief.
“It’ll still be a top 20 [group] and it’s a good, solid class,” veteran recruiting analyst Tom Lemming offered. “They loaded up there. They’ve done really well. This class is good. It wasn’t as good as the year before, but it’s good enough to keep them in the [Big Ten East] race.
“I would say Milton would be a sleeper at quarterback. He’s very athletic. They’re going a little bit away from the pro-style guys — they’re going after these read-and-react type quarterbacks who have been winning national titles. [Milton] is a very athletic guy who can do a lot of things.”
That goes double for Sims, a 4-star defensive back from Atlanta’s Westlake High School with a 6-foot-3 frame and a 36.4-inch vertical leap.
“Good athlete — that school is loaded and loaded again for next year,” Lemming said. “The Atlanta area is super-loaded in talent right now, and [Sims] is one of the best players.”
The winter of 2018 is about quality more than quantity, Lemming stressed, about patching specific holes.
Linebacker. Tackle. Quarterback.
“If [Mississippi transfer] Shea Patterson is allowed to play, I think Michigan will be the team that’ll give Ohio State a run for their money [in 2018],” Lemming said. “Because they’ve got talent everywhere, except at quarterback.
“They had bad quarterback play. Harbaugh’s always had good quarterback play. I just think he needs that quarterback. I don’t know if Patterson is great, but he’s very good. You see in college the difference of what a quarterback can do.”
Or can’t do, as 2017 proved time and again. The hard way.