Each month, Michigan recruiting writer Kevin Goheen will look at the Wolverines’ recruiting to-do list here on Land of 10. This outlook focuses on three concerns for the program’s recruiting efforts in the weeks ahead. In this edition, we look back on what happened in those three areas in January.
Michigan signed 16 players to its 2018 class during the Dec. 20-22 early signing period and used January to finalize its standing for National Signing Day on Feb. 7. The Wolverines have also used the time to get more serious on the 2019 class and make headway on 2020. At the start of the month, Land of 10 looked at three areas the Wolverines needed to address in January. Now, let’s take a look at how they did in those areas.
Get Otis Reese on campus
The Wolverines hadn’t gotten a visit from Otis Reese, their 4-star commit from Leesburg, Ga., since last April but he returned to Ann Arbor for his official meet-and-greet on Jan. 19.
Reese, who is ranked the No. 87 overall player in the country by the 247Sports composite, was one of three commits who didn’t sign his national letter of intent in December, along with quarterback Kevin Doyle and wide receiver Ronnie Bell. Michigan has since added commitments from athlete Michael Barrett and cornerback Vincent Gray, as well as Utah grad transfer Casey Hughes. While the other players are solid in their commitments, Georgia has been paying a lot of attention to Reese and giving him plenty to think about as he contemplates his decision. Reese took an official visit to Georgia last weekend.
The importance of getting Reese to campus can’t be understated. He decision to wait to sign was based in part because of a long season, a season that ended with him helping lead Lee County to its first state championship. Michigan has been patient as he goes through the process, a product of a strong relationship coaches Chris Partridge, Don Brown and Jim Harbaugh have with Reese. Retaining Partridge on staff with a new 2-year contract was a big boost to Michigan’s effort.
Reese’s visit didn’t assure he’ll sign with the Wolverines on Feb. 7, but it definitely helped.
Build on December momentum
Michigan had four top targets not already among their commits — tackles Nicholas Petit-Frere and Jarrett Patterson, defensive lineman Tyler Friday and wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase — but chances are highly likely they’ll go O-fer for the group.
Friday, a 4-star prospect, announced Ohio State as his choice on Jan. 19. Patterson, also a 4-star prospect, is down to UCLA and Notre Dame as his choices. Chase hasn’t officially announced his decision but the majority of recruiting analyst predictions have the Metairie, La., 4-star prospect choosing to stay in-state at LSU. Petit-Frere was the biggest name on the list, a 5-star prospect ranked No. 7 overall in the country who had Michigan among his five official visits. The Tampa native is taking an official visit to Ohio State this weekend. Recruiting analyst predictions have this coming down to a battle between Alabama and Florida.
Petit-Frere, Chase and Friday are all ranked among the top 100 players in the country. The current 2018 class is ranked No. 15 nationally and No. 3 in the Big Ten. It’s a solid class but won’t finish in the Top 10 as Michigan’s 2016 and 2017 classes did. Landing any of those three players would push this class closer to that status.
One bright side to the month was the on-going recruitment of Rice grad transfer Calvin Anderson. Michigan is very much in the race to pick up the 6-foot-5, 300-pound left tackle who has started the last three seasons and is looking for a place that can boost his NFL prospects. Anderson would be an immediate fit for an offensive line that loses Mason Cole and is in need of improved play across the board.
Who’s staying, who’s going
The NCAA limit for Division I football scholarships is 85. Michigan is, by Land of 10’s unofficial count, right at that limit before counting the five more 2018 commits, grad transfer Hughes, or the possibility of grad transfer Anderson.
Tight end Ian Bunting has added his name to the list of players who are transferring out of the program. Bunting has one year of eligibility remaining and will be eligible to play immediately as a grad transfer. Defensive end Chase Winovich announced he is coming back for his fifth year, but Michigan has six other players who have fifth-year eligibility available: fullback Jared Wangler, tackle Juwann Bushell-Beatty, defensive linemen Bryan Mone and Lawrence Marshall, linebacker Noah Furbush and cornerback Brandon Watson.
How many of them return for that final season of eligibility remains to be seen. There could be others who decide to leave the program for one reason or another. Some of the freshmen could be asked to take a grey shirt season, meaning they don’t actually join the team until January 2019 and their scholarship wouldn’t count against the 2018 total.
Michigan didn’t get a lot of clarity in this regard, at least not publicly, in January. Programs go through this exercise every year. More information about which players are leaving to make room for new ones will be forthcoming.