Michigan’s 18 commitments in its 2017 class are all important for the program’s future. But which two are the most important short-term and long-term?
Michigan has the best defensive line in the country, by most accounts. But next season, it loses both starting defensive ends and a starting defensive tackle. That creates openings for players inside the program to start, such as junior DE Chase Winovich, junior DT Bryan Mone, and freshman DE/DT Rashan Gary, among others. But, as we have learned this season by the 20-plus true freshmen who have played, Coach Harbaugh isn’t careful about burning freshman redshirts that aren’t quarterbacks.
Current Michigan commit Luiji Vilain is a rare prospect. His explosiveness, and overall ability, is hard to come by from a high school prospect. He’s a defensive end, but he caught a 40-yard touchdown pass and ran untouched into the end zone.
At defensive end, though, he’s one of the better pass rushers in the country. With a great first step and aggressivive hands, he can be a superstar. The comparison to Ezekial Ansah, current Lions defensive end, is almost scary. Not only are they both from different countries – Ansah from Nigeria and Vilain from Canada – but they play their game similarly.
Vilain is an early enrollee, so he’ll be on campus in January, and fans will be able to watch him during the spring game in April.
There may be no true freshman starters, but Vilain has the best shot, especially with his early enrollee status.
Michigan’s current starting quarterback is Wilton Speight, a redshirt sophomore with two more years of eligibility. Speight has been playing at the highest level during the past four weeks, and, if that trend continues, he will be settled in to be the starter until he decides to move on to the NFL. His 6-foot-6 frame, leadership ability, and command of the offense show that he could be an NFL prospect. If he plays well again next season, he could leave Michigan early, since he will already have his degree.
After Speight, true freshman QB Brandon Peters is highly regarded. Coming out of high school, he was the No. 61 overall prospect, and the nation’s third best pro-style quarterback. Jim Harbaugh has a strict policy on burning QB’s redshirts – he doesn’t. There were some rumblings that Peters, at one point, looked like the best quarterback at Michigan. Since Speight’s game improved, though, talk has quieted. Regardless, he should, no question, be the heir apparent once Speight moves on.
After Peters, look no further than long-time Michigan QB commit Dylan McCaffrey. A 4-star from Valor Christian (Colo.), McCaffrey was the top priority for the Michigan staff for nearly a year before he committed in February 2016. McCaffrey is the No. 52 overall player in the country, and the No. 4 overall pro-style quarterback. His 6-foot-5 frame and sneaky speed equate to a sure-fire starting quarterback, if he remains patient behind Peters. His Stanford running back brother, Christian, hit the scene last year as a junior. That might be the same situation for McCaffrey, who will be a superstar in Ann Arbor, Mich., when his time comes.
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