Each month, Michigan recruiting writer Kevin Goheen will look at the Wolverines’ to-do list. This outlook focuses on three concerns for the program’s recruiting efforts in the weeks ahead. In this edition, we look at what Michigan has to do as it completes the 2018 recruiting cycle and turns its attention to 2019.
The Michigan recruiting class for 2018 stands at 16 players and is expected to grow by at least four more players on Feb. 7, National Signing Day. That total could be more as the Wolverines put a cap on the 2018 recruiting cycle. The rest of February will see focus shift to 2019 and beyond. Michigan has already got a good start on the future with four players committed to the 2019 class.
Here are three things Michigan needs to accomplish this month:
Sign Otis Reese
Michigan lost one high-end 2018 recruit to a SEC school when Emil Ekiyor flipped to Alabama in October and signed with the Crimson Tide in December. It doesn’t want to lose another of its top recruits to another SEC power, but it has a battle with Georgia to land 4-star linebacker Otis Reese. He has been committed to Michigan since June 2016 and took his official visit to Ann Arbor in January, but Georgia has recruited him hard over the last year.
The Bulldogs have the home-state advantage with Reese, who is from Leesburg, Ga., and helped his Lee County High School team win the Class 6A state championship, its first state title. Michigan is leaning on its long relationship with Reese, a relationship that is strong with hcoach Jim Harbaugh, defensive coordinator Don Brown and assistant coach Chris Partridge. Brown has told Reese he foresees him playing in the viper role of Michigan’s defense. Reese played safety for Lee County and fits into the scheme with his ability to cover and play against the run.
Reese is ranked the No. 87 player in the country by the 247Sports composite, which would make him the highest-ranked player in Michigan’s class and the only one ranked in the top 100. The Wolverines have put a lot of time and effort into his recruitment, and they believe he can be a great player for them. All they have to do now is sign him.
Don’t let up on Calvin Anderson
Graduate transfers in college football are taking on the look of NFL free agents these days, and there might not be a player more sought after than Rice left tackle Calvin Anderson. He’s got size (6-foot-5, 300 pounds), experience (a 3-year starter), and he graded as one of the top pass protectors in college football last season according to Pro Football Focus.
Michigan coaches went to Houston three times in January to visit Anderson, starting with a lunch that included Harbaugh. Offensive coordinator/line coach Tim Drevno has been a part of all three visits, including one this week. Anderson made an official visit to Michigan last weekend.
Improved offensive line play is a key factor in Michigan’s desire to win the Big Ten in 2018. It hasn’t won the conference title since sharing it in 2004 with Iowa. The Wolverines need better play across the board on the offensive line and must replace starting left tackle Mason Cole and center Patrick Kugler. They signed seven lineman in the 2016 and 2017 classes combined but in order to rise above Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan State in the East division standings an experienced player like Anderson gives them an edge.
Anderson is motivated to show NFL scouts how good he is. Michigan would give him a place to show off those skills against one of the toughest schedules in the country. Texas, TCU, Oklahoma, and Auburn are other schools showing the most interest in Anderson, who has said he wants to make a decision by March 25, his birthday.
The Wolverines need to keep up their pursuit of Anderson and give him every reason to join them.
Start making headway with in-state 2019 prospects
There are nine 2019 players from the state of Michigan currently rated as 4-star or higher prospects by the 247Sports composite, including 5-star tackle Devontae Dobbs of Belleville. Two players are committed elsewhere — No. 2-ranked Logan Brown (Wisconsin) and No. 3 Julian Barnett (Michigan State) — and only one of the nine — No. 6 Marvin Grant — is considered by recruiting analysts to be heavily favoring Michigan.
The Wolverines signed seven of the top eight players from the state in 2017, and three of the top five in the class this year. They’ve signed the top-ranked player from the state the last four recruiting cycles (2015: Brian Cole, 2016: Michael Onwenu, 2017: Donovan Peoples-Jones, 2018: Aidan Hutchinson). There is plenty of work to do with the top in-state players for 2019. Passing game coordinator Pep Hamilton made a visit to Belleville in January to see Dobbs (playing left tackle in video below) and teammate Barnett as well as other players in a talented program.
Michigan can’t rest on its name within the state boundaries. There is too much competition for players, and 2019 could be a very good year for the state.