Michigan is coming off a frustrating season. The Wolverines finished 7-6, including a 3-5 mark in Big Ten play and a bowl defeat at the hands of Kansas State. While the talented roster enjoyed moments of brilliance, sustained success has been elusive.
Recruiting hasn't been the problem. Head coach Brady Hoke locked up a top-10 class in each of the past two seasons, according to 247Sports. Yet, Michigan is just 15-11 over those two campaigns. Finding a way to develop that talent into a successful squad is the key task for Hoke and his staff.
For now, however, the focus is on a strong national signing day to bolster the 2014 class. Let's check out a chart with Michigan's commits and key remaining targets. It's followed by a breakdown of some intriguing incoming Wolverines.
|Hard Commit||Jabrill Peppers||ATH||5|
|Hard Commit||Lawrence Marshall||DE||4|
|Hard Commit||Chase Winovich||OLB||4|
|Hard Commit||Ian Bunting||TE||4|
|Hard Commit||Juwann Bushell-Beatty||OT||3|
|Hard Commit||Maurice Ways||WR||3|
|Hard Commit||Noah Furbush||OLB||3|
|Hard Commit||Jared Wangler||S||3|
|Hard Commit||Brady Pallante||DT||3|
247Sports' Composite Rankings
John Smith, ATH
Smith passed on joining Michigan, opting to join USC (via College Gameday):
Lorenzo Carter, DE
Michigan missed on another major target, as Carter committed to Georgia over the Wolverines (via Seth Emerson of The Macon Telegraph):
Lorenzo Carter picks Georgia.— Seth Emerson (@SethEmerson) February 5, 2014
Andrew Williams, DE
Williams passed on the chance to sign with the Wolverines, opting to commit to Auburn (via AuburnSports.com):
Four-star DE Andrew Williams commits to #Auburn.— AuburnSports.com (@AuburnRivals) February 5, 2014
Adoree Jackson, CB
Jackson chose USC, opting not to join the Wolverines on signing day, via Chris Foster of Los Angeles Times:
Smith passed on the Wolverines' offer, deciding to head to Auburn (via ESPN College Football):
McGraw passed on Michigan, deciding to sign with Oregon on signing day (via Justin Hopkins of 247sports.com)
Prince turned down the chance to join the Wolverines, opting to sign with Maryland (via College Gameday on Twitter):
McDowell decided to snub the Wolverines in favor of another Big Ten program, as documented by the Detroit Free Press:
Malik McDowell picks Michigan State— Freep Sports (@freepsports) February 5, 2014
Cage opted against joining the Wolverines in favor of another popular program, per CSNChicago.com:
Notre Dame's defensive line got a major boost Wednesday morning when three-star defensive tackle Daniel Cage (Cincinnati, Ohio) faxed in his national letter of intent to the Irish.
Jabrill Peppers (ATH/CB)
Peppers is a special talent. He's a cornerback at the outset, but he's also capable of playing running back, wide receiver or safety. Ultimately, he's just a natural playmaker with terrific speed and incredible athleticism, which is why 247Sports' composite rankings have him as the No. 3 prospect in the class.
Players with his all-around ability simply don't come around often. When they do, they can usually make an entire class a success if they live up to the hype. Nick Baumgardner of MLive.com passed along comments from the coveted recruit, who sounds excited about what Michigan provides:
I love the players, love the coaches, Ann Arbor is a happy town, a football town. I brought my mom with me, she loved sitting down with all the academic people. She's all bought in.
I'm 100 percent going blue.
Whether Peppers ends up spending his entire college career at corner or ends up moving to another position, there's a high likelihood he makes a major impact. That's exactly what a coaching staff is looking for when it comes to a cornerstone of a recruiting class.
Drake Harris (WR)
Even though Harris doesn't possess the same type of instant-impact ability as Peppers (few recruits do), he's an intriguing prospect. His combination of length, speed and athleticism is the reason he checks in as the No. 7 wideout in 247Sports' composite rankings.
He has work to do before he becomes a major piece of the offensive game plan, however. So getting a quick jump on things is probably why he enrolled at Michigan early, along with a couple other members of the unit, as pointed out by Tom VanHaaren of ESPN:
Michigan has QB WIlton Speight, WR Drake Harris, Freddy Canteen and OL Mason Cole already enrolled in terms of offense for 2014.— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) January 8, 2014
The two biggest focal points for Harris will be bulking up and fine-tuning his routes. At 6'4'', he's got the size to become a matchup problem, but needs to add strength to maximize that asset. And he didn't have to run precise routes to get open in high school due to his length, but that will change in college.
Bryan Mone (DT)
Mone is a player capable of outplaying his recruiting numbers. 247Sports' composite rankings have him outside the top 100 overall and just the eighth-best defensive tackle. While it's certainly a deep class at the position, those rankings seem on the conservative side.
How would you rate Michigan's class?
The Utah native is a monster in the middle (6'4'', 338 lbs.). He can clock the middle of the line, but still sports solid athleticism for a player of his size. The only major question mark is whether he has the short-area quickness to truly excel in the trenches.
If he shows an improved first step and can consistently beat his blockers at the snap, he's going to become a nightmare for interior offensive linemen. It's no guarantee, which explains the mundane ranking, but don't be surprised if his stock rises pretty quickly.