Brady Hoke has done it again by putting together yet another wonderful recruiting class for the Michigan Wolverines. The 2013 class received many positive grades throughout the recruiting world, including an impressive No. 5 spot from our friends at 247Sports.
Now with many focused on what is going to happen in 2014, it is time to toss a few predictions out there for the most recent group of Wolverines.
What do you expect from some of the guys who decided to take their talents to Ann Arbor?
I think that there is a defensive lineman in this class that can remind fans of a former Michigan great. There is a running back that will have a freshman season for the ages. A two-way player will become a difference-maker immediately and help the team win some of the biggest games of the regular season. Also, some 4-star quarterback is going to pull off something no Michigan quarterback has been able to do in over a decade.
Let's take a look at the bold predictions for the 2013 Michigan Wolverines recruiting class.
The Wolverines had success last season with a freshman tight end with the emergence of Devin Funchess, who caught 15 passes, five of which went for touchdowns. Even though he will return this season as the starter at the position, you would be foolish to count out Jake Butt for early playing time.
The kid can flat out catch the football and will add another receiving threat to a team that is desperate to find playmakers at the position. His size at 6'6" and ability to control his body when high pointing the football is impressive. The 4-star recruit is more of a receiver that is trapped in a tight end's body.
I expect to see Butt on the field quite often next year in the new look offense for Michigan, and wouldn't be surprised at all if he ends up with similar production Funchess had his freshman year.
Think fast. Name the last Michigan Wolverine who finished with at least six sacks in a single season. If you are stumped, it was Brandon Graham back in 2009.
That means Michigan has gone three long years without a true pass-rusher to help anchor the defensive line and help take things to the next level. Graham was actually extremely productive throughout his career at Ann Arbor and it helped him get selected in the first round of the NFL draft in 2010.
With question marks surrounding the current players on the defensive line, it leaves the opportunity for almost anybody to emerge and become the guy who can put pressure on the quarterback. Taco Charlton should be able to step in and fill that role once he gets comfortable with the college life.
Comparisons to future NFL player William Gholston have been floating around when it comes to Charlton, as he shares the same body frame as the former Michigan State star. His athleticism is off the charts and he has the ability to contribute right away in the pass-rushing department. This is why he was one of the six Wolverines to enroll early.
Be patient with Charlton, as he is still fresh out of high school, but just know he will be special once he figures things out.
Much of the running game production the last three years has come from quarterback Denard Robinson. Now that he is no longer on the team and the offense is leaning more towards a pro-style attack, an actual running back is going to have to carry majority of the load in the ground game.
A lot of excitement has been generated with Fitzgerald Toussaint saying he will participate in spring practice, meaning he is far ahead of schedule after breaking his leg last year. However, this is the same back that wasn't himself at all last season even before the injury, averaging under four yards a carry and not rushing for at least 100 yards in one game all season.
This is why Derrick Green will likely see majority of the action in the backfield this year. He has the size at 6'0" and 220 pounds to carry the load and just watching him on film, he looks like a college back at the high school level. Green runs with incredible balance and will fit the Big Ten style perfectly with his aggressive running and ability to break tackles.
We saw last season that freshmen runners can in fact carry an offense with guys like Kenneth Dixon, Todd Gurley and Duke Johnson having success. This season will all be about Green and what he can do for Michigan.
Dymonte Thomas, arguably the top Michigan recruit of the 2013 recruiting class, could play either side of the ball, but will likely play the safety position for the Wolverines.
It is hard to ignore all of the flashy offensive plays he pulled off in high school, but if you dig deep enough, you quickly realize that this is a playmaker on the defensive side of the ball as well. He attacks the football and plays the game with high energy which will help with the transition to defense. Thomas flies all over the field and when going for a tackle, he usually runs through the ball-carrier.
As for the game-changing ability, he has above-average ball skills and has shown that he can strip the ball quite nicely and cause his fair share of fumbles.
I get the feeling that Thomas is going to be a difference-maker and will end up with a few clutch plays in his freshman year that help seal victories for the Wolverines. Let's predict a forced fumble in the game against Notre Dame and a late-second interception return for a touchdown against the Ohio State Buckeyes.
Michigan hasn't won a national championship since 1997 and has experienced many growing pains just to get back to this point. Head coach Brady Hoke has done a fabulous job in the recruiting department to feel confident about the future and has now discovered the quarterback that will soon lead the Wolverines to the promise land.
Everybody say hi to Shane Morris.
He has all the tools to be the next great college quarterback and is an absolute perfect fit for the pro-style offense. The arm strength is there, he throws an accurate football, he reads the field well and, while he isn't Devin Gardner-athletic, he can move around the pocket well enough for his size.
Whenever you have a true elite quarterback leading your team, you are already ahead of the game and put yourself in position to become a real contender.
It has been a while since Michigan has been in the national championship conversation. But with the keys soon to be given to Morris, don't be surprised if a crystal football is being dropped off to Ann Arbor within a couple of years.