Since Jim Harbaugh’s arrival in Ann Arbor, Michigan has started to rise to the level of Alabama on the recruiting trail. From landing the nation’s top prospect in 2016, to beating out the Tide for 5-star DT Aubrey Solomon in 2017, the two schools have become recruiting rivals.
When it comes to the 2018 class, the off-the-field battles continue. A few mutual players show up on each school’s board, and Michigan and Alabama will duke it out.
Last cycle, the two had minor recruiting battles plus two big ones: the quest to sign Solomon and 5-star running back Najee Harris.
The Tide went on to land Harris, who now is enrolled in Tuscaloosa, while the Wolverines pulled off a big upset when Solomon committed on National Signing Day.
So, who will the two battle for in the 2018 class?
Here’s a look at some of the names.
San Diego St. Augustine 4-star CB Isaac Taylor-Stuart
Having been one of Alabama’s top defensive targets for months now, Isaac Taylor-Stuart became a big-time Michigan target in February.
Months ago, Taylor-Stuart named the Tide his leader. Following a flood of offers in the winter, he became a lot more open-minded about his recruitment — including the possibility of attending Michigan.
A week ago, he posted on Twitter: “Michigan is on fire right now, don’t worry, I’m planning these things out right now.”
— Isaac Taylor-Stuart (@Kingathlete5) April 24, 2017
It’s not just a race between these two. Ohio State and USC also are involved in the battle for this 247Sports composite 4-star player who could be a 5-star player by tomorrow.
Michigan doesn’t have any Crystal Ball predictions in yet, but a visit to Ann Arbor is expected to happen. Once that happens, the Wolverines could become a serious threat to the Tide.
Indianapolis Cathedral 4-star OG Emil Ekiyor
Emil Ekiyor committed to Michigan during a visit on Oct. 22 for its game against Illinois. He announced it the day after his visit, in surprising fashion, because there was only one Crystal Ball favoring the Wolverines.
For a while, it seemed as if no school was going to contend with Michigan. Not even nearby Notre Dame, where his 4-star RB teammate Markese Stepp has committed.
But the nation’s No. 95 overall prospect received an important offer during a visit to Tuscaloosa on Feb. 25.
— Emil Ekiyor Jr. (@bigE__18) February 26, 2017
Following that visit and offer, the Wolverines started to feel the Tide’s presence. The week following the offer, it really felt as if Ekiyor might back off his commitment to consider Alabama.
That never happened, and things between Ekiyor and Michigan seem firm now.
Regardless, the Tide won’t back down here, and it should be at least somewhat of a battle until Ekiyor shuts down his recruitment or signs the papers.
Hightstown (N.J.) The Peddie School 4-star WR Jahan Dotson
Alabama hasn’t landed a top prospect from New Jersey since signing Minkah Fitzpatrick in the 2015 class.
Meanwhile, Michigan has brought in three of the four top prospects in the Garden State since signing Jabrill Peppers in 2014.
The state’s top prospect is 4-star DT Tyler Friday, considered a Michigan lead. Right behind him is Jahan Dotson, the country’s No. 73 overall prospect.
Dotson is another prospect who isn’t down to just Michigan and Alabama, but the two are heavily featured in what’s presumed to be a top group that includes Ohio State and Penn State.
The presumed favorite? Neither the Tide nor the Wolverines. Penn State commands the lead in the Crystal Ball predictions.
But how long will that last?
We see Michigan getting some serious momentum here soon, and if Alabama gets an official visit from Dotson, then it also could get in line for a commitment.
Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy 3-star OT Daniel Faalele
Daniel Faalele could be the most interesting, and anticipated, recruitment of the 2018 cycle.
He’s definitely the biggest, coming in at 6-foot-9, 390 pounds – a frame that just about every school could use to anchor the offensive line of its future.
The school that discovered him? Michigan. The school that has been pursuing him as much as any other school? Alabama.
Faalele, from Australia, hasn’t played a down of American football yet. And if you think his recruitment is any further down the road than his actual football experience, then alter your thinking.
This recruitment probably is going to go down to National Signing Day. And schools probably won’t begin pursuing him too hard until they at least see him in a game.
He dominated his first public appearance, competing at The Opening and Under Armour Camp Series regionals in Orlando, Fla.
Regardless, the two schools with the most momentum around Faalele are Alabama and Michigan.
The Wolverines possess the sole Crystal Ball prediction for Faalele.
Corrections: In the original post, cornerback Isaac Taylor-Stuart’s first name was misspelled. Hightstown (N.J.) was misspelled. Offensive tackle Daniel Faalele’s last name was misspelled. IMG Academy was misidentified in a caption. Land of 10 regrets the errors.