Kevin Goheen/Land of 10
Kekoa Crawford (Class of 2016, left), Ambry Thomas (2017, middle) and Brad Hawkins (2017, right) have all contributed on the field as freshmen at Michigan.

Michigan recruiting mailbag: Freshman playing-time expectations and the search for tight ends

Kevin Goheen

Have Michigan football recruiting questions? We’ve got answers. Join us every Wednesday for the Land of 10 Michigan recruiting mailbag to discuss Wolverines recruiting. This week, we discuss which future Wolverines have a shot at playing as freshmen.

Q: Any recruits coming in that could play right away? — John Terlecki via Facebook

A: Absolutely. One selling point for any incoming freshman is the opportunity to play, and that’s what Jim Harbaugh legitimately offers players. He doesn’t guarantee them playing time but he wants to get them acclimated to the college game as quickly as possible. It might be playing special teams, but you see how well that can prepare a player for the next season. Devin Bush, Lavert Hill, Josh Metellus, Kekoa Crawford and others contributed mostly on special teams last season and are now starters who have made big plays for the Wolverines this season.

As far as the players who have so far committed to Michigan for 2018, there are several who could push for time on offense or defense beyond special teams. The difficult part is the fact that there aren’t a lot of players whose eligibility is up at the end of the season, unlike last season, so Michigan will return a majority of its team. Offensive lineman Emil Ekiyor has versatility and the line is anything but a set unit. Linebackers Otis Reese and Cameron McGrone are two others who I think can vie for playing time. The only players I would say are near certain to become redshirts are quarterbacks Joe Milton and Kevin Doyle.

Q: Do they have a chance at the top 2019 recruit from Michigan? — Tyler Martens via Facebook

A: Offensive tackle Devontae Dobbs of Belleville is the top-rated player in Michigan for the Class of 2019, according to the 247Sports composite. Dobbs, a 5-star prospect who is rated as the No. 8 overall player in the country for his class, made an unofficial visit to Ann Arbor for the Michigan State game but there doesn’t seem to be much traction between him and Wolverines at this point. Michigan State is viewed as the leader for him, with Ohio State also in the mix. Cornerback Julian Barnett is Dobbs’ teammate and ranked as the No. 2 player. He, too, is currently seen as leaning toward Michigan State.

The next three players in the 2019 statewide rankings, however, appear to be looking heavily at Michigan. Offensive tackle Logan Brown and defensive tackle Mazi Smith are from Grand Rapids and are teammates at East Kentwood. Detroit King safety Marvin Grant (6-2, 200) could fit the bill as a future viper in Don Brown’s defensive scheme.

Q: Luke Ford or Mustapha Muhammad at TE? — Dennis Andrews via Facebook

A: This one looks to be Mustapha Muhammad, a 4-star 2018 prospect from the Houston area. Muhammad is set to make his commitment announcement Friday before his Ridge Point High School team’s game. He attended Michigan’s opener against Florida in Arlington, Texas, and the 247Sports Crystal Ball projections are all saying Michigan will be his choice.

Michigan already has Luke Schoonmaker as a commit in this class but the loss of 2016-signee Devin Asaisi as a transfer to UCLA and not signing a tight end in 2017 has left a hole in the position that will have to be plugged up in the future.

Q: (Cesar) Ruiz was a good get. Anyone else (like) him that is a likely commit? — John Salemi via Facebook

A: Yes, getting the top-rated center in the Class of 2017 was definitely a good get. Cesar Ruiz is learning the ropes as a freshman. He’s played on special teams and some as an extra tight end while fifth-year senior Patrick Kugler has played center.

Ruiz was the third-highest rated player in Michigan’s 2017 class, behind wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones and defensive tackle Aubrey Solomon, and the No. 47 player nationally. Ekiyor (No. 105) is the highest-rated player in this year’s class of commits but the Wolverines are still recruiting several players in the Top 100, including athlete Bryan Addison of Gardena, Calif., and wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown of Anaheim, Calif.

Q: I read that Michigan may sign three defensive tackles. Is that still a possibility? — Tim Hornsby via Facebook

A: Defensive line as a whole is a group Michigan wants to add to each year, and so far the 2018 class of commits has only defensive end Aidan Hutchinson among its ranks. The Wolverines are going hard after New Jersey defensive tackle Tyler Friday, as well as Baltimore defensive end Eyabi Anoma, St. Louis defensive tackle Michael Thompson and North Carolina defensive tackle Rick Sandidge. Michigan is considered the leader for Friday, but behind other schools for the other three players. Don’t count the Wolverines out for them, but they will have to work to get that many defensive tackles.

Have a question about Michigan recruiting? Tweet us @Landof10MICH or follow on the Land of 10/Michigan Facebook page and ask us there. We’ll try to answer in a future mailbag. Check to see if your issue already was addressed by reading previous Michigan recruiting mailbags here.