Michigan Football: What You Need to Know About the New Recruits
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
The Michigan Wolverines have hauled in another top-10 recruiting class for 2013.
Head coach Brady Hoke and his staff have a solid bunch of young and talented football players that are ready to make their impact at the University of Michigan.
After 27 signed letters of intent, the Wolverines have a complete class, headlined by the nation's No.1 overall running back Derrick Green.
But the Wolverines' group of incoming freshmen has a lot of potential that extends beyond Derrick Green.
Michigan is getting back to its traditional style of hard-nosed football, and the incoming class fits the Michigan mold.
Here is an overview of the Wolverines' recruiting class, including looks at lesser-known players to watch for.
1. The Defensive Front-Seven
Michigan linebacker Jake Ryan is always around the football, and finally he will get some help up front.
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
Michigan's front-seven lost defensive end Craig Roh, defensive tackle Will Campbell, linebacker Kenny Demens and run-stuffing safety Jordan Kovacs, who spent a lot of time up in the box.
The Wolverines needed to revamp the defensive line and linebackers with a group of players that are ready to play.
Headlining the recruits from the front-seven is outside linebacker Mike McCray II.
McCray II is the son of former Ohio State captain and linebacker Mike McCray Sr., so the linebacker blood is there.
While in high school, McCray II played both ways as an outside linebacker and as a tight end. His experience at tight end provides McCray II with great coverage instincts that will help him match up against opposing tight ends and wide receivers.
ESPN.com's scouting report notes that McCray II,
Will fill strong between the tackles as well. He's quick off the spot. He shows the lateral quicks and agility to clear traffic and make plays inside-out on the ball between the tackles, and the good range to make stops outside the hashes. Pursues with a motor. He's quick to fill downhill.
With his combination of athleticism, coverage abilities, instincts and strong play between the tackles, McCray II should have an immediate impact for the Wolverines.
Michigan is also bringing in another 4-star linebacker Ben Gedeon.
Gedeon plays the inside linebacker position and needs to bulk up a bit, since he is only listed at 215 pounds currently. He will probably won't find much playing time this season, but Gedeon is a very smart player.
According to the MgoBlue.com's player bio, "Ben is a very intelligent young man. He was a two-way athlete in high school. We liked him as a linebacker and think he's going to have a great career."
Gedeon was also a running back in high school and should become a strong presence in stopping opposing teams inside running games.
The Wolverines also bring in two talented interior defensive linemen. The two defensive tackles, Henry Poggi and Maurice Hurst Jr., should develop into big interior presences.
Michigan prides itself on being powerful and stout in the trenches, and these two recruits will fit in perfectly.
Poggi and Hurst Jr. are both 4-stars on Scout.com and are big players. Poggi is 6'4" and 260 pounds, while Hurst Jr. is 6'2" and 300- pounds. Hurst Jr. is extremely athletic for his size, which is a big plus for a player that may play some nose tackle.
According to MgoBlue.com, Brady Hoke is very high on Poggi's potential.
Henry is out of Gilman Prep in Baltimore. His father, Biff, is the coach, and really a kid that I think as a defensive lineman has great explosion, great hips, great movement and understands the game. He played both ways. He is a kid that really was ranked highly as what you would see in a defensive tackle and someone who we really like.
Hoke was Michigan's defensive line coach back in the mid 1990s and loves smart linemen, so Poggi will have a big impact under Hoke and Mattison's teachings.
Player to watch for: Taco Charlton
The Wolverines have one more front-seven recruit, 4-star defensive end Taco Charlton.
Charlton is long at 6'6" and already comes in at 249 pounds.
He is very athletic and draws some comparisons to star Michigan State defensive end William Gholston.
Charlton is a physically impressive prospect in the mold of 2010 prospect William Gholston, who signed with Michigan State. He may not have quite the same mass and physical upside as Gholston did, but Charlton possesses excellent size with good natural strength and a frame that can support continued growth.
Charlton produced big statistics during his high school days, and Brady Hoke expects that trend to continue at the next level.
Hoke is excited to have Charlton on campus as an early enrollee,
Taco's another guy who is here early and is a very active defensive end. He'll add some great range and length to our defensive front. He's a guy that we really thought got better every year and think he will continue to. He's an athletic-type guy that we need in the program.
Charlton has potential to shine in Michigan's defensive scheme, as a strong pass rusher that is also versatile.
He is the player to watch for from this group and should become an impact player on defense.
2. The Secondary
Cornerback Blake Countess returns from a knee injury in 2013 and will have a solid group of young players in the secondary around him.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
The Wolverine secondary played surprisingly well last season, despite the loss of Blake Countess for the season.
Michigan has a very strong squad of recruits to boost the secondary immediately and build for the future.
Scout.com rates Michigan's safety recruits 4-stars for Delano Hill and 5-stars for Dymonte Thomas.
Hill is a good-sized defensive back at 6'0" and 198 pounds. He plays very physical defense, which fits the Michigan mantra that Hoke and Mattison are trying to reestablish.
Hoke spoke to MgoBlue.com about Hill,
"From Cass Tech, a young man we really liked a summer ago at a camp we were at, and a high school teammate of Jourdan Lewis and David Dawson. A big defensive back, again, who is physical at the point of attack."
Hill will attack players at the line in bump-and-run schemes and will help out over the top as a safety too. He is fast with 4.4 40-yard dash speed and will thrive in the Michigan secondary.
Thomas will have a more immediate impact in the Wolverines' secondary due to his size, athleticism and readiness for the college level.
He is an athlete that can play multiple positions but will settle into the safety position and feel at home.
Thomas has great coverage speed and instincts to make plays on the football.
He is quick to read and react and flashes very good closing burst when he locates the football. Gets through the trash with good lateral agility. He plays the position fast and pursues with a high motor and little wasted motion to the ball. Has the range to make plays in all three levels of the defense and is a true ball-hawk. He closes hard and with impressive pop. Runs through and is a hitter who will force turnovers and bring an intimidating presence to the position.
Dymonte Thomas has all of the tools to be the standout player in the Michigan secondary for the next four years.
Michigan also has three cornerback talents in Jourdan Lewis, Channing Stribling and Ross Douglas, my player to watch.
Lewis is the most highly regarded cornerback recruit and is a local product from Detroit's own Cass Tech. ESPN.com ranks Lewis as the best recruit from the state of Michigan, so the Wolverines asserted themselves of their local turf.
ESPN.com's scouting report praises Lewis's potential:
He shows good awareness and anticipation skills in coverage. He excels in zone schemes and off-man where he has more space to read, react and close on the football. Transitions with clean footwork and is crisp out of his breaks with good burst. He shows great timing and quickness jumping routes. Lewis has sudden change-of-direction skill to mirror receivers tightly off the line or out of their breaks.
Lewis has everything going for him despite being 5'10" and only 159 pounds. He plays big and can also contribute on special teams as an elusive and dangerous return man.
Stribling is a lesser-known recruit who comes in as a 3-star recruit. He was mainly listed as an athlete but will fit into the cornerback position.
Stribling has length at 6'2".
Hoke really likes his size, "He's a really rangy kid, has length, and we obviously are looking for big corners and think he's someone who's going to fit in really well here."
He may not contribute right away but will develop into a bigger corner that can matchup with taller receivers.
Player to Watch for: Ross Douglas
Ross Douglas is a former Penn State recruit who decommitted due to the Sandusky scandal and quickly committed to Michigan in July and early enrolled.
Douglas played both running back and defensive back in high school, so he is a bit raw as a pure cover corner, but he will give it a run as a freshman and earn some playing time as a nickelback.
After Michigan lost Countess, the secondary lacked depth and that is where Douglas comes in.
He has a lot of potential but needs experience, which he will get as an early enrollee.
As Douglas settles in, his talents will show. He has the ability to become a consistent player and has the instincts to make big plays for the Wolverine defense.
3. Wide Receivers and Tight Ends
Freshman tight end Devin Funchess showed promise in 2012, and now Michigan has brought in more tight ends and receiver depth.
Dave Reginek/Getty Images
The group of wide receiver and tight end recruits is not the strongest, but they will provide much needed depth.
The Wolverines did land a solid tight end that will add to the blocking game and be a big target like tight end Devin Funchess.
Tight end Jake Butt is a product of the Columbus, Ohio area.
Michigan is very happy to have pulled him away from Ohio State.
Butt is a 4-star recruit, who is a complete tight end that blocks and is also a receiving threat.
Scout.com's Allen Trieu says:
Has the height, athleticism and hands to be a real receiving threat from the tight end spot. Does a good job of tracking the ball in the air and can go up high to make grabs in traffic. Runs good routes and isn't afraid to run into traffic. Is a tough, aggressive and willing blocker who just needs to add some strength and bulk to improve in that department.
Hoke really likes big-bodied players that do their work near the line, so he is going to enjoy having Butt.
According to MGoBlue.com, Hoke says,
Jake is an athletic tight end who can block on the line of scrimmage but also get down the field. He has a tremendous ability catching the football and at the same time he can block at the point of attack. A young man out of Columbus, we're glad he's here early.
As an early enrollee, Butt will gain familiarity with Gardner in the passing game and also have early exposure to blocking schemes.
Butt and Funchess have the potential to become a deadly tight end combination.
The Wolverines landed another tight end in 3-star Khalid Hill.
Hill is undersized at 6'2" and 230 pounds when compared to Butt but presents more of a receiving threat.
ESPN.com's scouting report says, "He is a solid route runner best suited as a short-to-intermediate target."
Hill will not have an immediate impact but could see some playing time down the road in short-passing situations.
ESPN.com's scouting report says, "York is a long and lanky redzone threat with a wide catch radius and a penchant for making the acrobatic grab look easy."
It may take some time for these two youngsters to earn playing time, but both of them could develop into consistent targets in Michigan's developing passing game, especially near the red zone.
Player to Watch for: Jaron Dukes
Dukes is the prototypically long and quick wide receiver that every coach wants in his receiving core.
At 6'4" and 200 pounds, Dukes can block effectively and also go up and grab the football over defenders.
ESPN.com's recruiting is very high on Dukes as a weapon for any team's passing game.
The scouting report says:
Dukes is a really good looking player with great size, length, wing span and deceptive elusiveness and top-end speed. He is a more agile, faster and physical version of 2012 prospect and Oregon WR Dwayne Stanford. He looks like a power forward and likes to compete from what we've seen. He has a good surge off the line of scrimmage and a nice weave as he tries to move a defender while coming off the line. He has quick feet for a big guy and more than adequate speed.
Dukes has a ton of upside, and Hoke likes Dukes' physical potential, "He's a guy who's very active in going to get the football and will be very physical."
As Michigan tries to get bigger and more physical in all aspects of the game, Dukes fits perfectly into the Wolverines' plans and will have success on the field.
4. The Backfield & Quarterback
Running back Fitzgerald Toussaint was the feature back in 2012, but his leg injury could hold him out during pre-season training, so look for top recruit Derrick Green to have an instant impact.
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Michigan is transitioning back to the signature Wolverine pro-style offense of the 1990s and 2000s under former head coach Lloyd Carr.
The Wolverines' backfield and quarterback recruits all fit the pro-style offense perfectly.
5-star running back Derrick Green is perfect for the Michigan offense.
Green is big at 6'0" and 220 pounds, yet he also possesses breakout speed with a 4.4 40-yard dash.
He is the total package for the pro-style running offense.
ESPN.com's scouting report describes Green as the ideal pro-style runner:
One of the better power backs this class has to offer. Green is a load and a strong, physically imposing runner ready to make the college jump. He has a well-built, muscular frame with very good upper and lower body strength. He has thick legs and a strong power base. Green is quick to get downhill and attack the hole and he gains momentum fast.
Green will have to step in early if Toussaint is not able to play early in the season, but Green is a workhorse. He is one of the biggest pieces in the future of Michigan's offense.
Hoke knows Green's potential for success and the impact he can have right away:
Derrick is a back out of Richmond, Virginia. He had 1,300-plus yards as a senior and 21 touchdowns and didn't play 18 quarters during the course of the year. He's a guy who was ranked very highly. He is the kind of downhill back that we're looking for and a big back that can break tackles.
Green can do it all and will have to for Michigan, but the Wolverines also have a potential star quarterback for the pro-style offense.
Shane Morris was listed as a 5-star recruit on Rivals.com, but lost his fifth star due to missing most of his senior year with mononucleosis and a poor performance in the Under Armour All-American Game.
Morris is one of the top rated pocket passer recruits in the country and has the arm strength to become an elite quarterback.
He has been surrounded by hype and criticized for his inconsistencies after the All-American game, but Morris will have time to settle into the Michigan atmosphere.
Devin Gardner's switch back to quarterback from wide receiver provides Morris with a year to work with the coaches, understand the new pro-style offense and build connections with teammates at practice.
In due time, Morris will be starting for Michigan and has a whole lot of upside, which Hoke recognizes,
Shane was ranked very highly as a quarterback. We had him in camp and recruited him, and I think he was the first commitment in this class. He played in the Under Armour Game and was ranked as the No. 1 or 2-best pro-style quarterback in the country.
Michigan also brings in 4-star running back Deveon Smith, who has a similar build to Green but lacks the speed. Nonetheless, Smith is a perfect fit in a pro-style offense, since he is a downhill runner.
ESPN.com's scouting report says, "Smith is a strong downhill runner with a decisive style that translates well to the college level".
Smith will have to play behind Green and other running backs; such as Thomas Rawls, Justice Hayes and Fitzgerald Toussaint, but he will be able to pick up tough yards with his power running and have an impact on the team down the road.
Player to watch for: Wyatt Shallman
Wyatt Shallman is a key piece for the pro-style running game.
Every running back needs a fullback who can lead block with a big frame and get physical with opposing linebackers.
Shallman embodies the ideal model of an elite fullback.
At 6'3" and 245 pounds, Shallman comes in with the size and strength needed to have an immediate impact on the running game.
Scout.com also says, "Light on his feet for a big man, Shallman projects as a big tailback at times and a fullback at others. Is a good athlete who catches the ball out of the backfield well."
With the ability to also carry the football, Shallman brings back memories of an NFL fullback hybrid Mike Alstott.
If Michigan really wants to get back to its hard-nosed roots, then Shallman will have a role beyond blocking and will carry the football in the red zone.
Shallman is perfect for the Wolverines' offense and is definitely a player to watch for in the maize and blue.
5. The Offensive Line
Star offensive tackle Taylor Lewan returns for his senior year, but the Wolverines will have to fill three open spots on the offensive line. Luckily, they have the nation's best troop of offensive linemen recruits.
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Michigan's offensive line recruits are one of the strongest groups in the nation, filled with athleticism, size and a Michigan mentality.
Hoke wanted to boost the offensive line with smart blockers that have big potential.
Hoke came through.
The Wolverines pulled in four top-10 linemen recruits at each of their respective positions, an impressive feat.
Leading the way is 5-star recruit and the No.1 rated offensive guard, Patrick Kugler.
Kugler is the intense, hard-playing lineman that Michigan's prides itself on.
He is 6'4" and 285 pounds but has great footwork and the ability to block into the second level.
ESPN.com's scouting report says, "It's not unreasonable to think he can't easily fill out into a 300-pound interior lineman. He is a physical and tenacious run blocker."
Kugler will continue to get bigger and stronger. He will improve on the line but will also be able to have an immediate impact on the team.
This kid is the future star of the Michigan offensive line.
The Wolverines also add two more top-10 offensive guard recruits in Chris Fox and David Dawson. Fox and Dawson are big inside guards who'll come in ready to play at the next level.
National recruiting analyst Brandon Huffman said about Fox on Scout.com,
He’s a guy that you can look at him and talk to him and he’s a really nice kid. But once he puts those pads on, he transforms into this angry guy. He is very nasty. He is a real physical kid.
Michigan is preaching physicality and tenacity up front, and Fox adds to that aura.
Dawson played offensive tackle in high school and will need to time to shift inside, but he is a consistent blocker who is comfortable in run blocking and pass protection.
He displays the tools to be a productive run and pass blocker. In the run game, he does a very good job with hand placement and will work to reroute his hands when he can't initially gain positioning. He maintains a good base and can generate good leg drive to create push.
With Kugler, Fox and Dawson, the interior offensive linemen of the future are set to turn into true Michigan men on the line. When added to sophomore guard Kyle Kalis, the Michigan interior of the offensive line looks great.
But the Wolverines' great offensive line recruiting class does not stop there.
Michigan also has three offensive tackle recruits.
Scout.com rates all three tackles as 4-star recruits.
Kyle Bosch is in Ann Arbor early and ready to show his talent on the edge. Listed at 6'5" and 311 pounds already, Bosch is in proper form for spring ball and the 2013 season.
Hoke is thrilled to have Bosch early and says,
Kyle helps with our needs when you look at the offensive line and where we were when we got here with eight scholarship offensive linemen. The last two classes we've recruited 10. He's a physical player at the point of attack from the Chicago-land area. We're really excited that he got here early.
Bosch could find an immediate role as the offensive tackle opposite Taylor Lewan.
Another offensive tackle that the Wolverines landed is Dan Samuelson. Samuelson may not have an immediate impact but will develop and can play either tackle or guard.
Allen Trieu of Scout.com says, "He is a smart, tough, hard working kid who finishes his blocks and has good natural strength."
The Wolverines like smart linemen that also know how to block, and Michigan is getting the whole package with Samuelson.
Every team needs a long snapper, and Michigan found one in Scott Sypniewski.
Sypniewski is a fast snapper who is quick to get into his protection.
His overall short and long snapping accuracy is good and he is consistent with his snap speed. Scott finished with an average snap time of .74 seconds at Kohl's Midwest Showcase Camp in December of 2011 with his best snap time recorded at .70 seconds.
In special team play, it is very important to have consistency. Sypniewski will be a solid and consistent long snapper for the Wolverines.
Player to Watch for: Logan Tuley-Tillman
Tuley-Tillman is huge.
He is a 6'7" and 307-pound offensive tackle that is extremely athletic for an offensive lineman.
His combination of size, power and agility make him the player to watch for from the offensive line group of recruits.
Tuley-Tillman will compete with Bosch for early playing time but will undoubtedly be a starter once Taylor Lewan leaves.
Tuley-Tillman is a dominant run blocker. He uses his great initial quickness to immediately establish an advantage when drive blocking. He has great size and athleticism for the offensive tackle position at the major level of competition and his long, broad frame should easily be able to support additional body mass over time. This prospect lines up in a three-point stance, demonstrating very good lower body flexibility. His agility and balance allow him to play on his feet in space. He comes off the ball low and hard with an explosive first step, makes good contact with the fit, base and persistent leg drive needed to win the battle in the tranches.
Tuley-Tillman is a complete lineman who will excel in the running game. Now that Michigan has an elite running back recruit in Derrick Green who likes to run near the tackles, Tuley-Tillman will be utilized a lot.
That rounds out Michigan's 2013 recruiting class.
With all of the talent and athleticism, the Wolverines are built for the future.
Now these recruits need to show their skills on the field and work with the coaches to bring back Michigan's traditional toughness and deliver big wins.