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 December.
The early signing period was a new experience for all of college football. Michigan signed 16 players to its 2018 class, setting a foundation for National Signing Day on Feb. 7. At the start of the month, Land of 10 looked at three areas of need the Wolverines needed to address in December. Now, let’s take a look at how they did in those areas.
Solidify the commitments it has
Michigan entered the month with 16 players on its commit list. Of that group, 14 signed their national letters of intent on Dec. 20, which was more than expected at the start of the month. Tight end Mustapha Muhammad of Missouri City, Texas, had planned to wait until February but changed his mind and took care of his business early.
“Yeah, I changed my mind, lol,” Muhammad texted Land of 10. “I’m ready now.”
Muhammad is the highest-ranked player signed by Michigan. He is the No. 135 overall player in the country according to the 247Sports composite, the No. 14 player from the state of Texas and the No. 5 tight end in the nation. His signing is an example of what the early period was designed to do; give players who are ready to end the recruiting process that opportunity. It’s peace of mind for the player and the school, which now doesn’t have to keep warding off other potential suitors.
Quarterback Kevin Doyle is one of the two commits who didn’t sign. He said he is going to wait until National Signing Day and be a part of a ceremony with his teammates at St. John’s College High School in Washington, D.C.
The other unsigned commit is linebacker/safety Otis Reese of Leesburg, Ga. Reese helped Lee County win its first state championship with a 28-21 overtime win against Coffee to capture the Class AAAAAA title on Dec. 15. Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown and linebackers coach Chris Partridge were there for that game. They’ve kept up a relationship with Reese that began well before Reese committed to the Wolverines in June 2016, but he hasn’t made a trip to Ann Arbor since last April for the spring game. Reese has made several trips to Athens, Ga., however, as the Georgia Bulldogs have pushed their recruitment of him.
This is a recruiting battle that wasn’t expected to be resolved in December. It wasn’t, but that’s not due to a lack of effort on Michigan’s part.
Firm up the defensive and offensive lines
Michigan got an unexpected flip when Germany native Julius Welschof decided to accept the Wolverines’ offer instead of Georgia Tech’s. That gives them three defensive linemen in this class: Welschof, Upshaw and Aidan Hutchinson. They are still working on adding a fourth in 4-star prospect Tyler Friday of Ramsey, N.J., who took his official visit on Nov. 25. Michigan has long been considered a favorite by recruiting analysts but is still battling Ohio State and Alabama for Friday, with Penn State and Miami also in the mix.
Friday has said he plans to make a decision in January, ahead of National Signing Day.
There were no new additions among offensive linemen but the Wolverines got an official visit from 4-star prospect Jarrett Patterson of Mission Viejo, Calif., on Dec. 9 and have put themselves in good position to sign him as he decides between Michigan and UCLA. They are also well set up with 5-star prospect Nicholas Petit-Frere of Tampa. Petit-Frere made an official visit on Nov. 25 and then got an unofficial visit from Michigan when the Wolverines moved their practices for the Outback Bowl to Berkeley Prep, Petit-Frere’s school.
Petit-Frere has plenty of options, with Notre Dame, Alabama, Ohio State and Florida also interested. He has been deliberate about his recruitment, but there is no doubt that the added exposure for Michigan is a positive.
“It was pretty exciting for him just to see how everything works with the coaches and the players. They work tremendously hard and with great tempo,” Berkeley Prep coach Dominick Ciao told Land of 10. “It’s just a thrill of a lifetime to have an opportunity to have a school on your campus and watch practice.”
Land of 10 wrote at the beginning of the month: “The Wolverines might not get everyone they want during the early signing period but it’s important that they are positioned to fill those spots in February.”
They’ve accomplished that goal.
Land a couple wide receivers
Michigan got one wide receiver commit in Ronnie Bell, a 6-foot-1, 170-pound, 3-star prospect from Kansas City, Mo., who signed a national letter of intent in November to play basketball at Missouri State but changed his mind and decided he wanted to play college football instead. Bell caught 89 passes for more than 1,600 yards and 21 touchdowns his senior season at Park Hill High School. That’s the good news.
The not-so-good news is that Michigan didn’t get a second commit as it would’ve liked, and it will have to wait until February for Bell’s commitment to become an official signing. NCAA rules prohibit athletes from signing more than one letter of intent in a calendar year.
The Wolverines had official visits lined up with Kyle Philips (Dec. 9) and Chris Olave (Dec. 15), two players from San Marcos, Calif., but Philips canceled after fully committing and then signing with UCLA. Olave canceled his scheduled visit because of a personal matter, and it’s unknown if that visit will be rescheduled in January.
Michigan’s biggest target at the position is 4-star prospect Ja’Marr Chase of Metairie, La., a former Florida commit. Chase took his official visit with the Wolverines on Nov. 25 and passing game coordinator Pep Hamilton made an in-home visit a few days later. Chase took an official visit to TCU, which many analysts view as the favorite, on Dec. 15 and is scheduled to go to LSU in January.