Michigan stumbled to a 7-6, (3-5 Big Ten Conference) record in Brady Hoke’s third season in Ann Arbor. This isn’t what Michigan fans had in mind when Hoke was hired to return the program to national prominence.
As Michigan prepares for the 2014 season, the grumbling about the program reached a crescendo following a November to forget—where Michigan dropped games to rivals Michigan State and Ohio State while tallying a 1-4 record, plummeting from Big Ten title contention to the cellar of the Legends division.
But Hoke’s latest recruiting class has the potential to capture his first Big Ten title.
Last season, Michigan struggled on the offensive line and on the defensive secondary—critical areas addressed by his 2014 recruits. Michigan also addressed other less pressing, but still important, roster weaknesses.
Problems on the offensive line were addressed by three recruits with good potential. Offensive linemen usually need a year to bulk up for the collegiate game, but considering Michigan’s epic struggles last season, every position on the offensive line should be up for grabs.
- Mason Cole, 6’4”, 285 lbs; Position/Ranking: 4-star OT, No. 126 Overall
- Juwann Bushell-Beatty, 6’7”, 310 lbs; Position/Ranking: 3-star OT, No. 329 Overall
- Ian Bunting, 6’6”, 210 lbs; Position/Ranking: 4-star TE, No. 315 Overall
The Michigan defense faded down the stretch last season due in a large part to the defensive line wearing down. Top recruit Jabrill Peppers is the highlight of this class, but the quality of players brought in to compete on the defensive line is where this class may have the biggest immediate impact.
- Lawrence Marshall, 6’3”, 225 lbs; Position/Ranking: 4-star DE, No. 176 Overall
- Bryan Mone, 6’4”, 338 lbs; Position/Ranking: 4-star DT, No. 111 Overall
- Noah Furbush, 6’4”, 240 lbs; Position/Ranking: 3-star LB/DE, No. 519 Overall
- Brady Pallante, 6’1”, 255 lbs; Position/Ranking: 3-star DT, No. 1742 Overall
Hoke is pleased with his crop of linebackers—throw in Furbush and Jared Wangler, and this lineup could be another strength of the class.
- Michael Ferns, 6’3”, 238 lbs; Position/Ranking: 4-star LB, No. 158 Overall
- Chase Winovich, 6’4”, 215 lbs; Position/Ranking: 4-star LB, No. 287 Overall
The jewel of the class is Peppers—for his impact on both sides of the field and for his potential for returning the ball on special teams.
- Jabrill Peppers, 6’1”, 205 lbs; Position/Ranking: 5-star DB, No. 3 Overall
- Brandon Watson, 6’0”, 185 lbs; Position/Ranking: 3-star CB, No. 769 Overall
- Jared Wangler, 6’1”, 218 lbs; Position/Ranking: 3-star S/LB, No. 779 Overall
With the graduation of Jeremy Gallon and Drew Dileo, opportunity abounds for playing time at receiver. Both Drake Harris and Freddy Canteen look to be immediate contributors.
- Drake Harris, 6’4”, 185 lbs; Position/Ranking: 4-star WR, No. 67 Overall
- Freddy Canteen, 6’1”, 175 lbs; Position/Ranking: 4-star WR, No. 298 Overall
- Maurice Ways, 6’4”, 195 lbs; Position/Ranking: 3-star WR, No. 496 Overall
Michigan had a shortage of quarterbacks when Hoke arrived. It’s unlikely that Wilton Speight will see the field this season, but he adds needed depth for the future.
- Wilton Speight, 6’6”, 220 lbs; Position/Ranking: 3-star QB, No. 452 Overall
This recruiting class will have its largest impact a year or two down the road. Hoke estimated that 5-6 of these players would play this season. My prediction: DB Jabrill Peppers, WR Drake Harris, WR Freddy Canteen, DT Bryan Mone, DT/DE Lawrence Marshall and LB Michael Ferns have the best chance to play in 2014.
This class could be the tipping point to winning Hoke’s first Big Ten Championship—in 2015.
All recruiting information and rankings courtesy of 247Sports.
Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations in this article were obtained via press conferences or in person.