After back-to-back top-ten recruiting classes, Michigan's football program is once again a major player in the minds of the most coveted prospects across the country.
Out of the 14 prospects of the 2014 class to garner 5-star status, two have already given verbal pledges, which means there are a dozen still up for grabs. The Wolverines are in excellent position to land Da'Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va.), Jabrill Peppers (Paramus, N.J.), Adoree' Jackson (Gardena, Calif.) and Elijah Hood (Charlotte, N.C.).
Adding any one of the four would vault Michigan up the team rankings for the class of 2014, but which elite talent do the Maize and Blue need to land in order to keep themselves on pace to annually contend for national titles?
The most obvious answer is Hand, and for good reason. Hand is the No. 1 overall prospect in the country and by far the most dominant defensive lineman available right now.
The 6'4", 245-pounder could play anywhere along the defensive line at the next level, and under the tutelage of Greg Mattison, Hand would be the top-end pass rusher the Wolverines have been missing since Brandon Graham graduated in 2009.
Michigan is already in Hand's top five, though signing him is not exactly a necessity given the the fact the Wolverines are serious contenders for 4-star defensive end Malik McDowell (Detroit, Mich.).
Hood, a multi-purpose athlete Michigan would like to line up at running back, is the most likely of the four to wind up donning the winged helmet next year.
While Hood would add great depth to Michigan's backfield, there is not a pressing concern to land another highly-toutred running back. Incoming freshmen Derrick Green and Deveon Smith will both make a push for playing time this season, so Hood may not be put in a position to make an immediate impact.
There is a dire need for a dynamic cornerback, though. Rising redshirt sophomore Blake Countess will be the Wolverines top defensive back in 2013, but beyond him there is not a lot of proven talent.
Both Peppers and Jackson would address this concern for at least the next three seasons. Peppers is by far the most electric of the two, which should make him Michigan's top target until his recruitment comes to a close.
Not only does Peppers have amazing speed and coverage skills, the nation's No. 2 overall prospect also possesses the large frame head coach Brady Hoke and his staff are looking for.
At 6'1", 215 pounds, Peppers is already built to play at the college level. Peppers will be a shut-down cornerback wherever he decides to take his talents, and the Wolverines need a game-changer to shore up their secondary.
Although the Stanford Cardinal are atop Peppers' top five at the moment, Michigan could shoot up his list once he makes a visit to campus.
Peppers' recruitment is far from over and the only trips on his itinerary at the moment are to the Ohio State Buckeyes and Stanford this coming spring. This battle will be a long one, however—it is one the Wolverines must win to bolster their Big Ten Conference and national title aspirations.
Follow me on Twitter: @Zach_Dirlam