Michigan Football: Summer Grades for 2015 Recruiting Class

Adam Biggers@@AdamBiggers81Senior Analyst IIMay 21, 2014

Michigan Football: Summer Grades for 2015 Recruiting Class

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    During the late springs of 2012 and 2013, Michigan’s recruiting was running at full tilt—it seemed as if every 4- and 5-star recruit in the land was pledging to Wolverines coach Brady Hoke.

    This year, as you’ve certainly noticed, hasn’t been anything remotely in the ballpark of the past two “second seasons.” In fact, this latest period of scouting prospects has been incredibly slowalmost too slow.

    However, at one time, Team 136 had early promises from two of America’s premier high-schoolers: Damien Harris, a 5-star running back, and George Campbell, a 5-star receiver. After a short honeymoon, they revoked their verbal commitments and reopened their recruitments. 

    Harris, though, remains an option, while Campbell occupies wish-lister status. Recruits will come and go, so don’t spend a whole of time worrying about the quality of the upcoming haul—it has started strong and the process will finish with emphasis.

    As of May 20, Hoke’s seven-man group is the No. 24-ranked class in college football, according to 247Sports, which will serve as the guide for rankings, statistics and other related information throughout this piece.

    Entering late May, Hoke has two corners, a safety, a quarterback, an inside linebacker, an offensive tackle, and a kicker scheduled to sign letters of intent for next year. This slideshow will grade the position groups—although there are five areas to summarize—based on talent, need, fit and the almighty “potential.”

The Secondary: A- If Shaun Crawford Sticks Around

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    Grade: A- with; B without

    Shaun Crawford headlines the current three-man pull of safeties and corners, which is pretty solid from tire to tire.

    Rated as a 4-star prospect, the slightly undersized Lakewood, Ohio, two-way talent stands to add speed and great coverage to the Wolverines’ already solid stock of defensive backs.

    If need be, he could also double as a receiver or perhaps spot-start as a special teamer. He’s a versatile athlete with a set of respectable wheels. Should he remain committed to Michigan, Hoke’s staff would do wondrous things with the nation’s No. 7-ranked corner.

    According to reports, the 5’9,” 170-pounder is interested in visiting other schools, which is a definite no-no in Hoke’s eyes; he is against pledges shopping around. If you’re in, you’re in; and if you’re out, you’re out, he’d probably say.

    Losing players is never a good thing. Crawford's absence would negatively impact the Wolverines' position-group grade. 

    Michigan pledge Shaun Crawford will also visit Miami, per report: Crawford will now reportedly make trips to a... http://t.co/dXgCuXAavc

    — Wolverines News (@WolverinesMLive) May 18, 2014

    Shaun Crawford remains a Michigan commitment but it might only be a matter of time until he's not: http://t.co/566cwTanBQ

    — Michael Spath (@Spath_Wolverine) May 20, 2014

    Tyree Kinnel has caught Alabama's eye, but it seems as if the 4-star safety is staying with Michigan. As the No. 10-ranked athlete at his position, the 6'0," 190-pound Dayton, Ohio, star fits well with what the Wolverines are doing in the defensive backfield—and that's trying to replicate the 1997 version that anchored a national title run. 

    #RivalsCamp Series: Top Defensive Backs - #Michigan commit Tyree Kinnel makes the list http://t.co/gcBVnWtPbE pic.twitter.com/v9wh4qsWxp

    — Josh Helmholdt (@JoshHelmholdt) May 15, 2014

    At 6'1" and 188 pounds, Garrett Taylor has the hammer-time size that will come in handy, as Michigan develops another hard-hitting secondary.

    Hailing from Virginia, the 4-star prospect out of St. Christopher's School (No. 8 CB) represents the Wolverines' strengthening connection to the Richmond area, home of Wilton Speight, a 2014 quarterback commit, and Derrick Green, a sophomore running back. 

    Add them together, and you get three top-10 athletes, and that's definitely worthy of an A-minus. If Crawford drops, which seems likely, a grade of B works just fine. There's still time—wait for summer to get going. 

The Quarterback: Alex Malzone Is Worthy of a C+

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    Grade: A C-plus for the No. 13 pro-style QB may not seem all that fair, but...

    Alex Malzone has already started recruiting, and he just committed this past week. That should tell you something about the Brother Rice quarterback's mindset. It seems as if he's a natural leader, and the Wolverines need that in the huddle and in the locker room. 

    New Michigan QB pledge Alex Malzone is now recruiting Damien Harris, others to join him @MLive http://t.co/qAJwqxQGMW

    — Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) May 15, 2014

    With that being said, Malzone, who also plays baseball, is a modestly rated 3-star recruit who recently dazzled a few coaches during a throwing session. He's not a Josh Rosen type, but he's one of those classic "potential" players. Plenty of quarterbacks have entered with so-so recruiting grades and left as program stars, fan favorites and even legends.  

    If there's any position where throwing away rankings and grades makes perfect sense, it's quarterback. At 6'3" and 200 pounds, he has the build to be an adequate pro-style signal-caller within Doug Nussmeier's offense. At best, he'll be a great starter. At worst, he'll be a serviceable backup option. 

Linebackers: Darrin Kirkland Jr. Is a Multi-Tasker

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    Grade: Kirkland is an A all the way

    There's some wiggle room with Darrin Kirkland Jr., a 6'2," 228-pound inside linebacker out of Lawrence Central near Indianapolis. An obviously capable linebacker, he has great open-field vision and tackles well, making him a fit for the nickel role that could include Jabrill Peppers and Dymonte Thomas. 

    Adding Kirkland's type of skill set is always a hit, so his commitment deserves a concrete A grade. He's done it all in high school, and there's a good chance that the nation's No. 6-ranked ILB could be asked to break a run, catch a pass or even float around on defense before his days in Ann Arbor are through. 

    It may seem illogical to throw an A on this commitment. Michigan has courted several high-end linebackers, such as Justin Hilliard, and come up empty thus far. But Hilliard, a 4-star, has warm interest, and Osa Masina, a 4-star, does too. 

    Take in some of what's being said about the Hoosier State standout. This is a case of quality, not quantity. 

    Commitment Capsule on Darrin Kirkland, #Michigan's most recent commit and a very instinctive linebacker: http://t.co/wm26Ksb1Bk

    — Allen Trieu (@AllenTrieu) May 19, 2014

    #Michigan commitment Darrin Kirkland Jr. is pretty fast for a middle linebacker (FREE): http://t.co/3DOrlD5dU3

    — Steve Lorenz (@TremendousUM) May 20, 2014

OL: Runyan's Kid Holds His Own on the Line, Position Group Will Materialize

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    Grade: C+ because he's entering as a slightly above-average recruit, and at the moment, that's what he is

    Jon Runyan Jr. is the son of a Michigan favorite, so he has that whole legacy thing going for him. Sometimes, that's a great thing. Other times, it's an annoying reminder, especially if the kid doesn't turn out to be as good as dad. 

    In this case, Runyan, a 6'4," 250-pounder out of St. Joseph's in Philly, could end up being much better than his pop. And that's not discounting what dear old dad did back in the day; it's simply a hat tip to a youngster who's been overlooked. 

    He's only a 3-star OT (No. 61 overall), which means something sometimes and nothing most of the time. Again, he's at a position where rankings don't make a whole lot of difference. Coaching, however, is the tipping point. And if Runyan doesn't get proper schooling from Darrell Funk, then he may end up riding the bench instead of assuming the role of starting tackle. 

    Michigan is in need of boosting its O-line, and ideally, raking in the blue-chippers would satisfy the masses more than stacking middle-of-the-road players. The Wolverines sought higher-rated linemen but struck out during the process. 

    But there's a lot to like about Runyan, specifically his demeanor regarding his commitment to Hoke and Michigan. One quick look at his Twitter shows that he's proud to say that he's joining the Wolverines, and he remains in steady contact with his 2015 classmates. 

    He may even end up as an internal recruiter, just like Malzone. And character should carry weight when grading classes. 

    Jon Runyan Jr. is keeping tabs on Michigan http://t.co/Dwyq1k2Ls3

    — Wolverine Sports Now (@WolverineSN) April 29, 2014

Super Leg: Andrew David Is the No. 1-Ranked Kicker in the Nation

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    Grade: He gets an A because he's the best of his class

    Andrew David is the No. 1-ranked kicker in America. Despite the fact that he's a kicker, Michigan fans should be elated about his commitment. Remember, Brendan Gibbons is now long gone, which leaves Matt Wile and Kenny Allen to handle kicking duties. 

    Someone has to do it after they do, and David, who is the No. 1524-ranked overall prospect of his class, has enough leg to deliver. He's a product of the Chris Sailer system, so you can rest assured knowing that he's a good one. 

    Sure, he's the last man ranked, but he's a kicker—give him a break. Enough with the jokes. The Massillon, Ohio, special teamer knows what it takes to conquer bad breaks. That's a great skill to have if you're a kicker. 

    David rebounds to boot victory for Massillon: Massillon (Ohio) Washington kicker Andrew David had his share of... http://t.co/Y0bIUWt3pW

    — TheWolverine.com (@TheWolverineMag) September 6, 2013


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