Michigan National Signing Day Preview: Targets, Predictions and Rumor Roundup

Adam BiggersSenior Analyst IIJanuary 28, 2014

Michigan National Signing Day Preview: Targets, Predictions and Rumor Roundup

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    Malik McDowell's family likes Michigan...but does he?
    Malik McDowell's family likes Michigan...but does he?247Sports

    Adding Malik McDowell to the rank and file of their 2014 class would be the best-case scenario for the Michigan Wolverines.

    Conversely, seeing the 4-star defensive end out of Southfield do anything but choose Michigan on national signing day would more than likely break Brady Hoke's heart.

    And Greg Mattison's—can't forget about the defensive coordinator's well-being.

    Stockpiled with a range of skill sets, this year's haul is hype-worthy—maybe not as much as the 2013 class, but pretty close. Of course, that could all change if McDowell signs Feb. 5. He'd give the Wolverines a 6'7," 290-pound increase in power. 

    While more than interested in Ann Arbor, McDowell chose to visit Michigan State this past weekend, adding yet another twist to the in-state tussle between Hoke and Mark Dantonio.

    Ohio State and Florida State round out his top four. 

    Is he Hoke's? Will Dantonio snag him? Wait...the Seminoles could be a great fit. McDowell has options, as do other recruits who are committed to or considering Team 135. 

    This slideshow will toss around the usual that coincides with this time of year—rumors, whispers, visits, flips, fakes and the like.

    If national signing day tradition holds true, a sure thing may not be such a sure thing when it's time to sign the letter of intent.

     

    All recruiting information and rankings courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.

Targets: RB?!

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    See the full list of Michigan's targets here.

    With 16 commits, there are just a few spots left to fill in this year's pull.

    Michigan has tried, failed and tried again with running backs, which may or may not be a position of interest this signing day.

    Conflicting reports make it nearly impossible to figure out the situation. Surfacing once again is a classic story of nail-biting recruitment drama. 

    Once a person of interest, Jeff Jones is likely out of the picture, according to Marcus R. Fuller of the Pioneer Press.

    Trey Scott of AllCyclones.com also reported a piece of information that makes Jones seem like a thing of the past. According to Scott, the 4-star running back said he was deciding between Minnesota and Iowa State. At this point, the smart money is on him not going to Michigan.

    At the moment, Michigan has just enough to get through a fall in the Big Ten. Led by Derrick Green and DeVeon Smith, the Wolverines backfield should return Drake Johnson and Justice Hayes.

    Thomas Rawls was granted a release and plans to transfer to Central Michigan. 

    Marlon Mack was offered, but he won't end up in Ann Arbor. Steve Jones of the Louisville Courier-Journal reported that Mack had committed to Louisville, although that report was later disputed by 247 Sports' Josh Newberg, who reported that Mack had committed to South Florida.

    Throwing another running back into the mix wouldn't be a bad idea, which is why it wouldn't be a complete shock to see Hoke sign one on Feb. 5.

Targets: Malik McDowell

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    His parents like Michigan, as they told Sam Webb of GoBlueWolverine.com (via The Detroit News), but he wants to see what else is out there. 

    McDowell seems to be handling his recruitment the smart way...his way. He's the one who has to suit up, not friends or family, who obviously want the best for him.

    The Spartans may have lost to the Wolverines on the basketball court, but they had a superior weekend of recruiting, according to Steve Wiltfong of 247Sports:

    Getting Jabrill Peppers' signature is the No. 1 priority. But securing McDowell is a close second. 

    Peppers will almost certainly see a lot of snaps this fall. McDowell could be right there with him.

Predictions

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    Malik McDowell is torn between Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State and Florida State.
    Malik McDowell is torn between Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State and Florida State.247Sports

    Having Lawrence Marshall's commitment could help lure McDowell to Ann Arbor. As teammates at Southfield, they're familiar with one another. 

    Peppers will have Juwann Bushell-Beatty, who is also from Paramus Catholic (N.J.). Southfield could be represented in a similar fashion if both former Blue Jays stars sign with the Wolverines. 

    The McDowell family's admiration for Michigan could certainly come into play, influencing Malik to favor U-M.

    Forecasting McDowell to Ann Arbor seems easy, but national signing day typically has a few surprises, so predicting him to go elsewhere only seems right.

    According to his 247Sports profile, he has "cool" interest in Michigan. On top of that, the Crystal Ball, by a vote of 62 percent as of late January, says he's going green. 

    Just to be safe, check the status of Peppers, if just for sanity's sake.

    He's always been thought of as a Michigan-lean, which he proved to be when he committed. Then, out of nowhere—well, probably due to Hoke's 7-6 season—he decided that he wanted to take other visits. 

    Then Hoke visited. Peppers halted his plans and pledged allegiance to The Big House. 

    As of now, 247Sports sees him as a 97 percent lock to sign with Michigan. Penn State has a 3 percent shot of getting him, says the Crystal Ball. Peppers is the type of recruit made for early enrollment—never too early to get a 5-star on campus and in class, right? 

    "A" for Effort

    With that three percent chance, you can't blame these Penn State fans for trying...

Rumor Roundup

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    Rule of thumb: Believe it when you see it. No one but McDowell knows where McDowell is going.
    Rule of thumb: Believe it when you see it. No one but McDowell knows where McDowell is going.247Sports

    If you haven't noticed by now, the man of the hour is McDowell.

    With seven early enrollees, it's a safe bet to say Michigan will sign the remaining nine commits on signing day. 

    Focusing on who will fill the remaining spots is the idea, and, of course, McDowell is the top free agent. 

    That being said, his visit to East Lansing received a lot of attention. The Spartans have been considered contenders for months, but they seem to be firmly perched as 1B (or maybe 1A) in the McDowell rankings. However, they're not a shoo-in to sign him.

    Neither is Michigan. 

    Contrary to popular belief, the Great Lakes State may not be his top destination. McDowell spoke of his decision-making process with Webb:

    Ohio State is still there. I talk to coach (Kerry) Coombs a lot from there and I talk to Coach (Mike) Vrabel.

    Michigan State — I like that school a lot. It’s a real fun school. I like the academic side of it. I just like the school a lot.

    I like Michigan a lot. I like that it's close to home and I like the coaches. They're real good people from what I see. I just like the school. It’s close to home and my people would be able to see play.

    Other than his story, not much else looms over the 2014 class. Hoke has the No. 15-ranked pool of prospects according to 247 Sports, which is about on par with previous years. It's not a top-10 hoard, but it's pretty solid. 

    Drake Harris, Michael Ferns, Bryan Mone and Mason Cole, along with Freddy Canteen, Wilton Speight and Brandon Watson, have already set up shop at Michigan.

    See the anti-drama here? Harris, Ferns, Mone and Cole were all among the tops at their positions. 

    No worries. They're not going anywhere.

     

    Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81.