It’s officially the Michigan football offseason, but there is still work to be done. Michigan’s 2017 recruiting class is far from done and more additions will definitely be made soon. But with 26 commitments, the class has taken shape.
With Michigan losing 14 senior starters, that opens up a lot of starting spots not only for current young players, but incoming true freshman, as well.
Michigan’s recruiting class is ranked No. 4 in the country right now, according to the 247sports.com composite rankings. And there’s no questioning these prospects have a chance to play immediately.
Of the 26 current commitments, here are the three most likely incoming freshman to make an immediate impact in the 2017 season.
Detroit Cass Tech 5-star WR Donovan Peoples-Jones
A 5-star according to the 247Sports composite, Peoples-Jones is a guy that I have as a “book it” to play in 2017. Meaning, it’s almost a sure thing he will start, or get a significant amount of snaps, from Day One.
He has an NFL-type body and will be more than ready to play right away. Match that with his insane ball skills, leaping ability, and world-class athleticism, and you’ve got yourself a true freshman ready to be an every-down starter.
— The Opening (@TheOpening) November 28, 2016
Peoples-Jones also fills a huge need. Michigan loses its top two senior wide receivers in Jehu Chesson and Amara Darboh, along with another target in tight end Jake Butt. Essentially, Michigan’s top three pass catchers are gone.
That leaves Peoples-Jones with a lot of responsibility, but also an opportunity to prove why he was ranked as the nation’s No. 1 receiver..
Peoples-Jones also did this in the final seconds to win Cass Tech the regional title.
— The D Zone (@TheD_Zone) November 21, 2016
He’s going to be fun to watch.
Bradenton (Fla.) 4-star C Cesar Ruiz
Center Cesar Ruiz is another guy with a body type that’s ready to play at the next level. He also walks into a good situation, because Michigan’s offensive line has struggled this season. And Michigan’s staff made a focus in this class to attack that weakness and build it for the future. Ruiz is the centerpiece of that recruiting effort.
He’s a rare case of a true center coming out of high school. Michigan has a future pro at center in Mason Cole, but he may switch back to his original position at tackle next season, or even to guard, if he wants to play inside in the NFL.
Ruiz is ranked as the nation’s top center. He’s also an Under Armour All-American and that all-star game will be played on New Year’s Day. Several people have said that Ruiz has been the best interior offensive lineman during the week’s practice sessions.
Cole might stick at center, but Ruiz should find a way into this rotation one way or another. If Cole moves back to tackle, then you can book it for Ruiz to start at center. If he doesn’t, things get a little tricky.
Here is Ruiz stonewalling a 5-star defensive tackle.
— Jeremy Crabtree (@jeremycrabtree) December 30, 2016
Detroit King 4-star CB Ambry Thomas
The second one on this short list from Detroit, Thomas is as explosive of an athlete that you’re going to see.
— EliteFootballNetwork (@EliteFBNetwork) August 28, 2016
He lines up on both sides of the ball equally, but Michigan recruited him as a cornerback. With Michigan losing two seniors – Jourdan Lewis and Channing Stribling – at the position, this opens up a competition where Thomas is probably the best athlete with the highest ceiling.
Junior Brandon Watson and freshman LaVert Hill will be the leaders to start going into camp, along with freshman David Long. The big factor here is Jeremy Clark. Clark was Michigan’s third cornerback, but could easily have been a one or two on most teams that don’t have two All-Big Ten cornerbacks, like Michigan did. Clark tore his ACL in mid-September, so if he’s granted eligibility, then he’s the top choice to be the top cornerback.
But, for Thomas, his impact might not come by way of defense in his freshman campaign. It might come from offense and special teams. He is one of the better return specialists I have seen out of high school lately, and is probably one of the best in the country this year, too.
And this highlight is why.