After a disappointing 7-6 season, Michigan needs its incoming class to be productive right out of the gate. The good news is that there are more than a few stars capable of doing just that.
According to 247Sports, the Wolverines had the No. 20 class in the country. On one hand, this is good enough for second best in the Big Ten. Then again, it is a full 17 spots behind rival Ohio State.
While the class lacks quantity, it more than makes up for it in quality, especially at the top. There are a couple of blue-chip players ready to step onto the field and help Michigan win in 2014. These players especially should be expected to make an impact.
Jabrill Peppers, CB
No matter what Michigan did in this class, grabbing Jabrill Peppers alone had to be considered a success. The 5-star athlete was considered the No. 3 player in the class, according to 247Sports, and he has the ability to contribute in many areas on the field.
Tom Dienhart of BTN.com was one of many who had great things to say about the young player:
While he can play offense or defense, safety or cornerback, defensive coordinator Greg Mattison already knows where Peppers is headed, via Nick Baumgardner of MLive.com:
We are so excited about Jabrill and what he brings to this defense. When you have a corner (like that) we can really come and bring the pressure packages we want.
The size, the speed, the competitiveness … he's got the whole package.
While starting cornerbacks Blake Countess and Raymon Taylor will return next season, the coaching staff will find a way to get Peppers onto the field somehow.
Whether it is at safety, cornerback or even special teams, you can be certain that Peppers will make himself known early next season.
Drake Harris, WR
Jeremy Gallon had a big year in 2013, finishing with 89 catches for 1,373 yards and nine touchdowns. However, he is gone and so is almost anyone else on the roster who caught a pass last season.
Jehu Chesson had 15 receptions and Dennis Norfleet had six. That is it from the wide receiver position.
While there are a couple of tight ends capable of being consistent targets, Michigan needs someone to step up on the outside. There is a good chance that someone ends up being Drake Harris.
The Grand Rapids native has great size at 6'4" and the hands necessary to go up and get passes. Additionally, he has already enrolled at Michigan and added extra strength in his short time on campus, according to Sam Webb of WTKA:
Coach Hecklinski: "Drake Harris has put on 10lbs since arriving on campus."— Sam Webb (@SamWebb77) February 5, 2014
He is already learning the playbook and doing whatever it takes to get onto the field next season. Unless something drastic happens, he will get that chance and should make a big impact right away.
Michael Ferns, ILB
There are plenty of recruits who need a year to get acclimated to college football, both physically and mentally. Linebacker Chase Winovich is someone who could be very helpful in the future, but he is unlikely to contribute right away.
On the other hand, Michael Ferns already looks the part at 6'3", 238 pounds and enough strength to step into a lineup immediately. Like Harris, Ferns is also an early enrollee and should be able to pick things up quickly.
Baumgardner quotes the young player discussing his decision to enter the program in January:
I was mature enough to take on this next step of my life. I've been ready for this.
The intensity's a lot different here, the goals we set in the weight room, it's a whole different environment than I'm used to. And that's a good thing. I'm excited to be around the type of people who strive to win.
I feel like I'm already way ahead of where I would have been.
Michigan does not have a starting role available for Ferns, but the Wolverines clearly need help against the run. This need and the linebacker's skill set should give him an opportunity to see the field plenty in his freshman season.
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