For the second straight year, the Michigan Wolverines were able to wrap up a majority of their recruiting for the class of 2013 well in advance of National Signing Day, which has allowed head coach Brady Hoke and his staff to assess their needs for 2014 earlier than most other programs.
At the moment, Michigan boasts the No. 6 recruiting class, has verbal commitments from 26 prospects and could be adding one more to the haul on Saturday afternoon once 5-star running back Derrick Green (Richmond, Va.) makes his declaration.
The only other prospect on the board aside from Green is 3-star tight end Durham Smythe (Belton, Texas), though the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Stanford Cardinal may have a leg up on the Wolverines. Michigan will host Smythe for an official visit on Feb. 1, while Notre Dame is set to have him on campus this weekend.
Assuming the Wolverines wind up with 27 signees on Feb. 6th, there will be 74 players on scholarship before the 2014 recruits are factored into the equation. The NCAA only allows teams to dole out 85 scholarships, so this will leave Michigan with 11 open spots.
There is plenty of time for that number to change, however, and there will be some natural attrition (i.e. - fifth-years not renewed, players leaving, medical hardships, etc.), which is going to free up more space for additional newcomers.
Michigan already has 4-star linebacker Michael Ferns (Saint Clairsville, Ohio) locked up and offensive tackle Denzel Ward (Chicago) is still committed despite visiting the Florida Gators, but the Wolverines need to rebuild the following four positions through next year's class:
Incumbent starter Devin Gardner will be a fifth-year senior in 2014 if the NCAA approves his request for a medical redshirt, and the other two scholarship players at this position will be Russell Bellomy and incoming 4-star prospect Shane Morris.
The Wolverines will need to bring in at least one signal-caller and should add a second if they feel strongly about the available prospects.
Some targets to watch at this point are 4-star prospects DeShone Kizer (Toledo, Ohio) and Drew Barker (Burlington, Ky.) along with Michael O'Connor (Bradenton, Fla.), Coleman Key (Broken Arrow, Okla.) and Kevin Dillman (La Mirada, Calif.).
None of those recruits have earned offers yet and it could be a little while before any of them get one from the Wolverines.
An in-state prospect that could garner some interest from Michigan with an impressive senior campaign is Tyler Wiegers (Detroit) from Country Day High School.
Although the Wolverines appear to be out in front for Green and are bringing in underrated tailback Deveon Smith, Michigan will need to sign at least one coveted running back to counter the loss of Fitzgerald Toussaint.
Drake Johnson, Justice Hayes or Thomas Rawls could be making some contributions to the Wolverines rushing attack by this time, but if none of them are performing well Michigan should look at a second running back for the class of 2014.
One of the biggest prospects Michigan whiffed on in the 2013 class is 5-star wide receiver Laquon Treadwell (Crete, Ill.), which means the Wolverines cannot afford to miss out on a top-end wideout next year.
Amara Darboh could become Michigan's deep threat this season as a redshirt frosh, but beyond that the Wolverines will be relying on fellow 2012 recruit Jehu Chesson and incoming freshmen Jaron Dukes and Csont'e York.
The Wolverines are already in good standing with Corey Holmes (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) and Artavis Scott (Tarpon Springs, Fla.), who is teammates with one of Michigan's offensive line targets for the 2014 class, Mason Cole (Tarpon Springs, Fla.).
Michigan will make a serious push for current Michigan State Spartans commit Drake Harris (Grand Rapids, Mich.), though the Alabama Crimson Tide and Ohio State Buckeyes will be tough to beat out.
Given the fact Michigan will have no upperclassmen wideouts by the time 2014 rolls around, the coaching staff should make sure next year's haul includes no less than two receivers.
Michigan has not had an elite pass-rusher since Brandon Graham donned the winged helmet, but all of that could change next year.
Current freshmen Mario Ojemudia and Chris Wormley, along with incoming 4-star prospect Taco Charlton, will push the upperclassmen for playing time in 2013, and don't be surprised if one of them winds up starting opposite of Frank Clark come 2014.
The coaches will keep tabs on several defensive ends, though until these two monster prospects are off the board the Wolverines will not turn a whole lot of their attention elsewhere.
Look for Michigan to take at least two defensive ends and look to add depth at defensive tackle as well in next year's crop of recruits.
Note: All rankings are courtesy of Rivals.com.
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