Michigan Football Recruiting: What You Need to Know for National Signing Day
National signing day can't come soon enough for the Michigan Wolverines, who, after stumbling to a 7-6 finish in 2013, are in desperate need of someone—anyone—capable of remedying their woeful offense.
Adding Drake Harris, a 247Sports 4-star receiver, should prove helpful for Team 135 quarterbacks. Landing another 4-star running back, say, Jeff Jones, certainly wouldn't hurt Michigan, which remains on the lookout for consistent producers out of the backfield.
Lawrence Marshall, a 4-star defensive end, should add depth to what could be the Wolverines' most competitive position in 2014.
And, of course, all eyes will be on Jabrill Peppers—not that they haven't been—come Feb. 5, when Brady Hoke's third full recruiting class signs on the dotted line.
Let's talk letters of intent, flips, schemes and freshmen—it's time to shift gears to recruiting season.
*Player information is provided by 247Sports.
Top Remaining Targets
Malik McDowell, 4-star defensive end
Vitals: 6'7," 290 pounds
High School: Southfield (Southfield, Mich.)
Position info: No. 3-ranked SDE, No. 1 overall in Michigan, No. 37 overall
As of Jan. 12, 247Sports predicts Michigan to win the sweepstakes.
Assuming he signs, McDowell would join a deep pool of skill at defensive end. Just last year, Brady Hoke landed Taco Charlton, so McDowell will definitely face a great challenge when it comes to cracking the starting rotation.
Throw in Matt Godin, Frank Clark, Mario Ojemudia, Chris Wormley and Keith Heitzman, and Team 135 finds itself with plenty of options for the fall.
McDowell has been high on Hoke's list for some time. Securing the in-state juggernaut would be a win on multiple levels for Hoke, who'll have to fight off the Spartans' Mark Dantonio if he wants to rule the Mitten's recruiting scene.
Jeff Jones, 4-star running back
Vitals: 5'11," 196 pounds
High School: Washburn (Minneapolis)
Position info: No. 9 RB, No. 2 overall in Minnesota, No. 110 overall
The Gophers gained the early edge by getting the verbal, but that hasn't stopped Michigan from pursuing Jones, who has "warm" interest in Florida and Michigan State. However, the popular thought is that Hoke has a great shot at luring Jones from the 10,000 lakes to the Great Lakes State.
Expect Michigan to continue its pursuit of Jones now that Vic Enwere, a former target, remains committed to Cal.
Jones would probably be a top-four back for new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier, who joined the Wolverines after a two-year stint with Alabama.
So far, Michigan appears to have a sturdy trio of No. 1 options: Derrick Green and De'Veon Smith, who each showed immense promise as 2013 progressed, along with Drake Johnson, who tore his ACL in Week 1 but should return this spring.
Jones is a powerful runner who touts OK speed. With a 4.69-second 40-yard dash, he's hardly a blazer. Effectively using his balance and strength are his bread and butter.
As of Jan. 12, Michigan had 16 commits to its 2014 class. The first seven on the following list are early enrollees.
Brady Pallante is part of the 2014 class but won't join Michigan until the 2015 winter semester, according to the Detroit Free Press.
|Drake Harris||Grand Rapids Christian (Mich.)||6'4"/180||WR||****/No. 6|
|Bryan Mone||Highland (Salt Lake City)||6'4"/338||DT||****/No. 6|
|Mason Cole||East Lake (Tarpon Springs, Fla.)||6'4"/285||OG||****/No. 8|
|Michael Ferns||St. Clairsville (St. Clairsville, Ohio)||6'3"/238||ILB||****/No. 6|
|Freddy Canteen||Eastern Christian (Elkton, Md.)||6'1"/175||WR||****/No. 41|
|Wilton Speight||Richmond Collegiate (Richmond, Va.)||6'6"/220||PRO||***/No. 20|
|Brandon Watson||Eastern Christian (Elkton, Md.)||6'0"/185||CB||***/No. 54|
|Jabrill Peppers||Paramus Catholic (Paramus, N.J.)||6'1"/205||ATH||*****/No. 1|
|Lawrence Marshall||Southfield (Southfield, Mich.)||6'3"/225||WDE||****/No. 9|
|Ian Bunting||Hinsdale Central (Hinsdale, Ill.)||6'6"/210||TE||****/No. 12|
|Juwann Bushell-Beatty||Paramus Catholic (Paramus, N.J.)||6'7"/310||OT||****/No. 26|
|Chase Winovich||Thomas Jefferson (Clairton, Penn.)||6'4"/215||OLB||***/No. 28|
|Maurice Ways||Detroit Country Day (Franklin, Mich.)||6'4"/195||WR||***/No. 68|
|Noah Furbush||Kenton (Kenton, Ohio)||6'4"/240||OLB||***/No. 38|
|Jared Wangler||De La Salle Collegiate (Warren, Mich.)||6'1"/218||S||***/No. 66|
|Brady Pallante||Barron Collier (Naples, Fla.)||6'1"/255||DT||***/No. 100|
Players Who Could Contribute as Freshmen
Jabrill Peppers, Jabrill Peppers and Jabrill Peppers stand the best chance of giving something meaningful to Team 135.
All kidding aside, the ultra-talented Jersey kid probably won't be the only frosh who makes a good first impression.
A reliable target, receiver Drake Harris may surprise a few and earn a spot as a starting receiver. Although unlikely, it's not entirely impossible. Harris has proved his athleticism. As an early enrollee, it's safe to say that he'll be a little more comfortable with his surroundings than the typical freshman.
If there's an offensive player waiting to make some noise, it's certainly Harris.
Mason Cole and Juwann Bushell-Beatty are considered gems for a reason, and they could easily challenge an already-shaky Michigan O-Line. Youth was the problem during 2013, but youth with college-ready talent is a different story.
Keep an eye out for Cole and Bushell-Beatty.
Storylines to Watch
Michigan's Courtship of Jones
Jeff Jones is a hot commodity, and the resurgent Wolverines, who may have a new life under offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier, could use such an athlete in the backfield. As said earlier in this slideshow, Jone's doesn't possess elite wheels.
At best, he's modestly fast. But he's strong and can run forward. At this point, that much will suffice.
The "Nussmeier effect" could hit the recruiting trails as early as now. Although unlikely, those who committed to a Nussmeier-coached offense Alabama team could reconsider their choices and head north to Ann Arbor.
With 16 aboard, the Wolverines have three schollies to dole out before it's all said and done. It'd be interesting to see if any of those goes to a former Tide recruit.
Is Malik a Michigan Man?
Trailed by Ohio State and Michigan State, McDowell seems to be in an ideal situation. At the very worst, he'll either join a team bent on winning (Michigan and Ohio State) or with one on the rise (Michigan State).
There is no wrong choice for McDowell. However, most Michigan fans would probably love to see him "go blue" Feb. 5.
Calling All Gamers
Dear Michigan players who also love video games: Wilton Speight may be your favorite opponent.
During an interview with me this past May, Speight said that he was routinely beaten at nearly every game under the sun by his younger brothers. Of course, his comments came with laughter, so he may have been playing it cool and giving his little brothers too much credit.
What's not like about that?
Approach him with caution and avoid overconfidence. He may have been joking...
Shane Morris is a lefty. So is Nussmeier, who spent time in the NFL as a backup quarterback and coached Canadian Football League signal-callers.
By making T-shirts and tweeting like a mad man, Michael Ferns helped kick-start the Project 135 movement on social media platforms such as Twitter. Give the young man credit. By taking an early initiative to galvanize teammates, Ferns has the qualities of a cornerstone on the field and in the locker room.
If he proves to be a true "Michigan Man"-esque leader, point back to his days on good old Twitter.
Oh, and for the record, Michigan's Ferns isn't a film director.
Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81.
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