Entering the 2013 season with the No. 4-ranked recruiting class, per 247Sports, provides ample opportunities for Michigan to find its new rising star.
In 2012, tight end Devin Funchess became one of the Wolverines' most athletic playmaking freshmen. He’ll certainly be a go-to option this fall.
This season, coach Brady Hoke has options such as 4-star running back Derrick Green, a 6’0”, 220-pounder who could immediately transform into a valuable contributor.
As with any well-rounded crop of recruits, Michigan's 2013 haul has playmaking candidates on offense and defense. Someone is bound to make a grand debut.
Green is in held in high regard—and deservedly so. He’s the obvious front-runner for impact freshman honors, but he could be overshadowed on offense by Jaron Dukes and Csont’e York, a pair of 3-star wide receivers.
Offensive coordinator Al Borges loves distributing the ball, and he’ll likely give an early test to Dukes, the 6’4”, 197-pounder out of Marion Franklin High in Columbus, Ohio. He has the size to create separation, a valuable trait for downfield receivers.
Expect him to be used as a home run hitter, not necessarily a safety net (checkdowns, etc.). He’s not a blazer—touting a modest 4.6-second 40-yard dash, according to Rivals.com—but his sheer size and great hands will be useful.
If you can’t catch, we have issues. All of our guys, if you watch them on high-school film, they have great hands, they adjust to the ball, they track the ball very well in the air and they go up and they catch it.
We can judge that on film, so let’s get the best hand-eye coordination guys, guys that can catch the football, let’s bring them in here and let’s develop them in other areas
York, a 6’3”, 190-pounder out of Chandler Park Academy in Harper Woods, Mich., doesn’t have a posted 40-yard dash time on Rivals, but per his own words, he runs it in 4.57 seconds. However, as Hecklinski said, coordination trumps speed. York has the mitts to move the chains, although he probably won’t be much for yards after the catch.
Nonetheless, being a taller target for quarterback Devin Gardner should allow for plenty of production. If given adequate playing time, Dukes and York could prove to be an outstanding one-two freshman punch.
Breakout Frosh on Defense
Dymonte Thomas has a skill set that could be utilized at multiple positions. The 4-star safety has athleticism that would fit well with the rest of the secondary.
At 6’1” and 190 pounds, the former Alliance High of Marlington, Ohio, standout has already impressed secondary coach Curt Mallory, who told TheWolverine.com's Michael Spath that Thomas will be a “major contributor” at nickelback.
Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison loves the 4-3, per Kyle Meinke of MLive.com. Thomas has the range and ability to fill in at safety or linebacker.
Taco Charlton is a strong No. 2 behind Thomas. At 6’6” and 265 pounds, he is comparable to a bull on the loose. The 4-star defensive end out of Pickerington Central in Ohio has Michigan followers anxiously awaiting his debut.
The Wolverines could use help with the pass rush, and Charlton figures to be part of the solution. Getting early exposure will be beneficial for Charlton, who was ranked as the No. 3 weak-side defensive end of 2013 by 247Sports.
As an early enrollee, practicing in spring with teammates such as All-American left tackle Taylor Lewan has accelerated Charlton’s development.
Mattison said the following about Charlton to Meinke:
Sometimes I look at him and I say, ‘You’re too big to play.’ This is a young man that’s 6-6, 270 pounds. He’s getting some valuable reps.
The good thing for Taco is he gets to see two guys that are veterans that kind of know how to play it, and he gets to see what’s right or wrong and so he can learn a little quicker
Like Charlton, Thomas enrolled early. Having those extra weeks of preparation certainly gives them a head start in development.
Follow Bleacher Report’s Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81