For college football coaches, winning recruiting battles on their home turf is essential. There are very few things that frustrate coaches and fans alike more than losing elite talent to an out-of-state suitor, and the logic makes sense.
With national signing day looming on the horizon, there's one recruit Brady Hoke and co. have to land: defensive tackle Malik McDowell of Southfield, Mich.
The 4-star recruit (and 33rd overall, according to Rivals.com) has great size at 6'7", 290 pounds, and as this film against crosstown rival Cass Tech shows, he's rock solid against the run and can get in the backfield in a hurry. The Wolverines rank 28th in the nation in rushing yards allowed, and while they've done a decent job slowing down opposing runners, adding a player like McDowell could propel them to the next level.
Allen Trieu of Scout.com describes McDowell as having "a rare combination of size and athletic ability. He's a pure playmaker, disruptor and pass rusher. He has to continue to develop, but has an elite set of tools." Speaking of pass-rushing, the Wolverines could use a little help on that front.
They rank just 69th in team sacks this season with an average of 1.9 per game, and they've been even worse in team tackles for a loss, where they currently rank 85th. They've consistently struggled to pressure opposing quarterbacks without a blitz, which has to be a major concern for Hoke and defensive coordinator Greg Mattison.
If Michigan can snag McDowell, he'd join fellow 2014 defensive tackle and 4-star recruit Bryan Mone of Salt Lake City, Utah. Weighing in at a whopping 338 pounds with surprising lateral mobility, Mone and McDowell could become a menacing tandem in the middle.
The existing interior of the defensive line that will be battling for playing time next year is made up of nose tackles Ondre Pipkins and Richard Ash and defensive tackles Willie Henry, Ryan Glasgow, Henry Poggi and Chris Wormley. It's worth noting that Mattison's base defense, a 4-3 under, does have a nose tackle while a standard 4-3 doesn't.
They'll be a very young bunch in the middle, but a standout like McDowell could make a significant impact right away.
McDowell would also add much-needed depth to the defensive line and soften the blow of losing Da'Shawn Hand to Alabama. His commitment to Michigan would also move them up a few spots in the national recruiting race; ESPN.com (subscription required) currently has their 2014 class ranked 10th. Recruiting doesn't always directly foreshadow success, but Ohio State (subscription required) currently sits in the fifth spot. Surely the Wolverines staff would love to leapfrog them.
As you'd expect, McDowell has a long list of major programs chasing his services. He's already visited Alabama and Florida and has scheduled visits to Ohio State, LSU and Florida State in January. Michigan State is also high on his list.
The good news for Michigan fans is that 247Sports.com's "Crystal Ball" feature gives the Wolverines an 82 percent chance of McDowell choosing Michigan. There's no doubt that landing McDowell would be a huge offseason win for the Wolverines.
Don't miss the chance to watch McDowell in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Jan. 4 in San Antonio, Texas.
Follow me on Twitter @TomLogan_BR