Given the state of the Michigan football team right now, it needs more help sooner rather than later.
Thankfully, help is on the way. Head coach Brady Hoke has already assembled one of the nation's top recruiting classes, which features a handful of prospects primed to make an immediate impact.
The Wolverines currently boast the 10th-ranked haul in the nation, according to 247sports.com. Two of the final three spots in the class are likely being held for a pair of dynamic pass-rushers. The third opening could either go to a running back or safety.
Since Hoke and Co. locked up their 15 verbal commitments prior to the start of the 2013 football season, updates have been scarce lately. Any news on the recruiting front usually pertains to targets taking visits, commits shining on the gridiron or who the staff is hoping to land come 2015.
However, there is still plenty to talk about when it comes to the 2014 crop.
Michigan has already addressed just about all of its key needs. The secondary and corps of wide receivers will be getting a much-needed upgrade. Offensive coordinator Al Borges locked up a quarterback to give the Maize and Blue depth at that position. The staff is also building depth along the defensive line and at linebacker.
About the only thing the Wolverines really need now is a pass-rusher who is able to step in and contribute right away. A pair of targets fit that need.
Defensive ends Malik McDowell and Da'Shawn Hand are still on the board. Both are considering Michigan and, barring any surprises, should wind up joining the class of 2014 according to Rivals.com (subscription required). The two would make a lethal combination on the edges. Throwing them into the mix with developing linemen like Frank Clark and Chris Wormley should allow the Wolverines to pressure opposing quarterbacks without blitzing too frequently.
Running back and safety are not really needs at this point, but adding another highly touted recruit would not be a bad thing by any means. Given the struggles that the secondary has endured this season, a safety makes the most sense.
Steven Parker and Kalen Ballage are the names that Michigan fans should be keeping tabs on as national signing day approaches.
Most Important Commits
Jabrilll Peppers is by far the most important prospect bringing his talents to Ann Arbor next summer. The 6'1", 205-pounder already has the size and strength to play at the college level. No redshirt year will be necessary for Peppers.
If the 5-star cornerback is half the player that recruiting analysts expect him to be, there is no question he will make an impact as a true freshman. Do not be surprised if Peppers takes a few snaps on the offensive side of the ball or returns some kicks, too.
Bryan Mone should not have much of a problem getting right into Michigan's rotation of defensive linemen. The Salt Lake City, Utah, product is already tipping the scales at 338 pounds...talk about a potential run-stuffer.
Switching over to offense, 4-star wide receiver Drake Harris is a sign of where Hoke and the staff want Michigan's positional players to look like going forward—tall, rangy and fast.
Until Harris adds some bulk to his frame, though, he will not be able to make significant contributions. Enrolling early will give him a chance to put on the necessary weight, but it is difficult to project him logging significant minutes as a true freshman. Long term, however, the Grand Rapids Christian standout is a potential matchup nightmare for opposing defensive backs.
Most Important Targets
The two biggest targets are Hand and McDowell.
Hand tweeted that his final official visit went well:
Feeling like a gator right now🌴🐊🌴— Da'shawn Hand (@TheHand54) November 9, 2013
Florida certainly helped its cause and is the biggest threat to Michigan. Whether or not the Gators did enough to pass the Wolverines is unknown as of now. Everyone will find out on Thursday when the nation's fifth-ranked prospect—according to 247sports.com—makes his final decision. Hand tweeted that it will not be an easy choice to make:
It's sucks that all 3 schools are great. Hardest decision of my life!! Can't wait til Thursday!— Da'shawn Hand (@TheHand54) November 10, 2013
For McDowell, the official visits are just beginning. The Detroit native will use some trips to see programs around the country. Florida, Florida State, Alabama, LSU and USC are some of the schools with a chance to host the massive defensive end, according to TheWolverine (subscription required).
If McDowell chooses to stay near to home, the Wolverines will likely be his choice. A lot can change during his official visits, though.
Kalen Ballage already has the body of a college player at running back. Honing his skills at one particular position is the next step for the talented athlete. Michigan would likely see him as a running back. Ballage's recruitment is still wide open according to 247Sports.com, so there is plenty of time for the Wolverines to make up ground.
The same goes for 4-star running back Jeff Jones, who has committed to play at the University of Minnesota. Not much is known as it pertains to interest from either side, but the Maize and Blue could make a push for Jones.