Michigan Football Recruiting: Highlighting Wolverines' Under-the-Radar Commits

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistJanuary 15, 2014

Jan 2, 2014; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Team Nitro quarterback Wilton Speight (19) throws the ball during the first half against Team Highlight in the Under Armour All America football game at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

As Michigan licks its wounds after what was a disappointing 2013 season, the Wolverines should be heartened by what is another strong recruiting class.

According to 247Sports, Brady Hoke has so far accumulated a class good enough to earn the 14th spot in the national rankings. The headliners include Jabrill Peppers, Bryan Mone, Drake Harris and Lawrence Marshall.

While those players are undoubtedly bringing a lot of positive attention to the school, it's the recruits receiving less press who will arguably play a bigger role in Michigan's fortunes going forward. The real test of Hoke's ability will be turning the 3-star recruits into All-Americans or, at the very least, dependable starters.

You must have a deep team at every position if you're to compete for conference and national titles.

Looking at what Michigan has done so far for 2014, these three players aren't near the top of the class, but they should turn into steady contributors for the team.


Wilton Speight, QB

After Shane Morris started in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, some may be wondering if there's room for a quarterback in the 2014 class to thrive.

Wilton Speight shouldn't have any trouble.

He's already enrolled in Ann Arbor, which will only serve to help integrate him into the Wolverines team. It could also lead to what is a healthy competition between he and Morris.

That could simultaneously help the development of both players. Morris gets a serious threat, which forces him to bring out his best, while Speight gets the experience of vying for the starting job. In the event he loses, he still redshirts and learns on the sideline.

The incoming freshman is an accurate passer with an above-average arm. He doesn't have a massive ceiling like some of the best QBs in this year's class, but he's more than capable of becoming a reliable starter in college.

Kyle Bogenschutz of Scout.com thought Speight looked very good in preparation for the Under Armour All-American Game:

Speight won't be flying under the radar for Wolverines fans who have been following him this past year, but since he's listed as a 3-star prospect on 247Sports' composite rankings, some don't realize the ability he has.


Brandon Watson, CB

Like Speight, Brandon Watson has already enrolled at Michigan. You can't say enough about how much this will help a recruit's development.

For a team that gave up 231.3 yards a game in 2013, even a 3-star cornerback like Watson can be a major help down the road.

What's nice for Watson is that he's not going to be asked to immediately contribute. Blake Countess, Raymon Taylor and Delonte Hollowell will be penciled in as the top options for 2014, and then you've got Jourdan Lewis and Channing Stribling, who should both see increased roles next season.

By the time the former three have moved on, Watson will be in a great position to contribute to the defense. Already solid in man coverage, he will have used his time in practice to get better against the run and become more aggressive in the secondary.

Watson is not going to become an All-American corner, but he should be a productive defender. At the very least, he should turn into a nickel corner.


Maurice Ways, WR

Maurice Ways is unlikely to dazzle with his speed and athleticism. While he's not a slouch by any stretch of the imagination, so much of Ways' ability stems from his height (6'4") and use of his body to snatch the ball out of the air. He's one of those guys who always seems to find a way to make the catch.

While Ways was taken aback by the firing of offensive coordinator Al Borges, he is confident that he can fulfill his potential in Ann Arbor, per ESPN.com's Tom VanHaaren (subscription required):

“Wow, first off I’m surprised. It doesn’t really affect my recruiting,” he said. “I still think they’re going to hire someone that will fit my game and the offense, but I’m just in shock right now. I’ll have to wait and see who they hire, but Coach [Jeff] Hecklinski is still there and that’s who I’ll mainly be working with anyway.”

The best-case scenario is that Ways becomes a dependable possession receiver possibly playing out of the slot. He can be a steady target for the quarterback and grab a high volume of receptions.

The worst-case scenario is that Ways is merely a great target in the red zone, which any team needs.

Either way, Michigan has a solid wideout on its hands.