Upwards of 20 of the nation's top high school prospects visited the Big House last weekend to watch the Michigan Wolverines take on the Michigan State Spartans, and junior offensive tackle Denzel Ward (Chicago, Ill.) left as the No. 2 verbal commitment of Brady Hoke and Co.'s 2014 recruiting class.
Ward has always been a fan of the Wolverines, but the reason the 6'9", 285-pounder committed was his comfort with the university and staff.
"I always was a Michigan fan," Ward said on Tuesday in an interview with Tim Sullivan of TheWolverine.com. "It was more of a comfort level with me, and I knew I was comfortable with it being so close to home at such a great institution and a place where it fits me perfectly. I'm not just a guy who likes to hold out but also a guy who's solid on his word."
One of Michigan's current commits, 4-star offensive tackle Logan Tuley-Tillman (Peoria, Ill.), sold Ward on the future of the program, in addition to inspiring the Hales Franciscan High School standout to improve upon the Wolverines' 2013 recruiting class.
"[Talking with Tuley-Tillman] was more of a seal-the-deal thing for me," Ward said. "I was already sold on it from day one, but it helped seeing someone else who came from basketball. He has also strived through football and believes in the future of the program.
"I also want to have a better class than theirs, so I'm on the job [as a recruiter] as soon as the playoffs are over."
Ward's high school coach, Randall Townsel, believes the early commitment will only help Denzel develop on the field prior to his arrival in Ann Arbor come 2014.
"By committing early, this is allowing Denzel to just become a good football player, and just get used to the game, and the pain of it, and the grind and learn to love it," Townsel said.
It is great to see that Michigan picked up a solid left tackle prospect, but Ward is not likely to see the field right away, considering the Wolverines' strong groups of offensive linemen in their previous two classes and Denzel's need to develop his footwork and overall blocking ability. Ward will, however, give the Wolverines some much needed depth along the offensive line in a couple of years.
Sticking with offensive linemen, David Dawson's (Detroit, Mich.) decision to decommit last week made quite a splash and left a big hole in the Wolverines' current class of senior prospects.
Michigan wants to take another offensive lineman before filling Dawson's spot with a player at another position. Unfortunately, the number of potential candidates to fill the void at offensive guard is decreasing quickly.
The Wolverines are not going to be able to flip the nation's No. 2-ranked guard, Khaliel Rodgers (Elkton, Md.), from the USC Trojans; 3-star offensive tackle David Knevel (Brantford, Ont.) has already taken three official visits and revealed that neither of his two remaining trips will be to Michigan and 4-star recruit Na'Ty Rodgers (Pomfret, Md.) is favoring the South Carolina Gamecocks and Maryland Terrapins right now.
"I'm going to take a good look at [Michigan]," Rodgers told Adam Friedman of Rivals.com on Monday. "If I like them, I like them. If I don't, then I don't. I'm not going to try and force it because they offered me now, late in the process."
It is unclear where Michigan's coaching staff will turn if they miss on the three aforementioned prospects, but the Wolverines appear to have a backup plan in case 4-star wide receiver Laquon Treadwell (Crete, Ill.) opts to take his talents elsewhere.
Treadwell planned on making an unofficial visit to Michigan last weekend until a death in the family intervened.
The nation's No. 1 wide receiver and No. 23 overall prospect will take his five official visits once Crete Monee High School's football season concludes. Treadwell will visit the Michigan State Spartans, Oklahoma State Cowboys, Oklahoma Sooners, Ole Miss Rebels and Michigan one more time before making a final decision, according to TheWolverine.com.
Rivals' recruiting guru Mike Farrell still believes the Wolverines are the favorites to land Treadwell until someone else blows him away on one of his official visits.
"The passing of his uncle this past weekend kept him from a big visit weekend in Ann Arbor," Farrell said. "But I still think the Wolverines are his future home until he actually takes one of the two trips he wants to take to OU and Oklahoma State."
All that being said, Michigan is keeping tabs on unranked wide receiver and current Central Michigan Chippewas commit, Da'Mario Jones (Westland, Mich.), who enjoyed his third visit to the Big House last Saturday.
The Wolverines are unlikely to take Jones unless Treadwell winds up verbally committing elsewhere.
Check back in the coming weeks for more updates on Michigan's recruiting classes!
Star ratings from Rivals.