During the past three years, Michigan coach Brady Hoke has been in steady contention for the highest-profile recruits. He wins some, he loses some—he lives to recruit another day.
Entering this fall, the Wolverines’ head man has a pair of former 5-star prospects waiting to cut their teeth, carve their niche and establish reputations as consistent, high-level contributors: sophomore quarterback Shane Morris and sophomore running back Derrick Green.
The time for Green is near; for Morris, the other gem of 2013, another year of waiting is likely before he jumps into the No. 1 role. Conversely, no one will know until they know. They've played 10 minutes (not really), and they'll take time to develop.
But why wait until then? Why not analyze and speculate now? It’s as good a time as any.
Bring the Shane
Morris’ stand-up showing during the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl prompted talk—lots of talk. But that’s all it’ll be, as there is zero chance of Devin Gardner not being Michigan’s starter this fall—barring a series of catastrophic events, of course.
With that being said, Morris, a 6’3”, 202-pound pro-styler, was supposedly the best thing going a couple of years ago. But then he hit college, which means he sat. A year later, he has more experience and knowledge—and a new offensive coordinator, former Alabama play-caller Doug Nussmeier, who is renowned for his work with quarterbacks.
And he’s a fellow southpaw who just so happened to play professionally, which may or may not greatly benefit Morris.
Outlook: Morris has the tools to be a great college quarterback. However, with the addition of Wilton Speight to the 2014 class, not to mention Michigan’s eyes being set on 2015 and 2016 elites, I can’t confidently project stardom. He may get lost in the mix. Then again, he could live up to his enormous billing and set the bar a little higher for future generations.
The bottom line is that he’s good. Hoke got it right with Morris, who was a 5-star prior to his senior year at Warren De La Salle (Michigan).
“Running game, where are you?” could have been a question that Michigan’s coaching staff asked itself in 2013…and in 2012…but why be picky?
Luckily for the Wolverines, today is a new day, one which promises the resurgence—which was something that I said last year, and probably the year before—of a steady, feared and incredibly efficient backfield.
Green, a former Virginia high school superstar, was to be the savior, the one to breathe fresh air into an otherwise flat approach. However, like Morris, Green barely saw the field in 2013. He had a respectable outburst in Week 1 vs. Central Michigan and even finished the season with valuable, late-game yardage vs. Ohio State (L, 42-41).
Outlook: This fall has to be the year that Green either gets it or makes way for someone who does. That sounds harsh, sure. But considering Green’s profile, it’s not an illogical assumption. The 5’11”, 230-pounder has improved his physique during the offseason and seems destined for the rebound.
At one time, Green was the No. 1-ranked running back of his class, but he dropped to consensus top 10 prior to signing with the Wolverines.
Will Drake Get Busy?
A classic deep threat and a guy who can go down the middle, sky upward and fetch the ball—that’s Drake Harris in a nutshell. At 6’4” and somewhere in the neighborhood of 190 pounds, the former Grand Rapids Christian star's arrival to The Big House has been eagerly anticipated—maybe not to the point of Green or Morris, but there are more than a few who are waiting to see him flash his skills on a college field.
Outlook: Michigan’s depth at wide receiver is a great thing—but not for guys who are looking to crack the rotation. I’m not sold on Harris being a huge factor, but I won’t rule out that possibility. If he makes some sort of miraculous recovery from his hamstring injury, well, that's another story. I’ve been impressed with his ability for two years—even when he committed to Michigan State to play basketball—and foresee a productive career.
At one time, Harris was considered to be the best receiver of 2014 by Rivals and 247Sports. He was ranked No. 8 when he signed with Hoke.
It’s Time to Have Pep
The No. 1-ranked athlete (No. 3 overall) of 2014 shouldn’t disappoint. He is, without question, the biggest pickup of Hoke’s coaching career. Generally speaking, he’s actually one of Michigan’s most notable signees.
Outlook: By now, you’re sick of the Jabrill Peppers chatter. By now, you’re ready to see the 6’1”, 205-pound Jersey kid pick-six his way into the record books. Not many true freshmen do much of anything, anywhere—let alone at Michigan. But this one is different; he’s of a rare ilk.
The football gods broke the mold when they made the one they call “Breezy.” If he’s not a program-changer, I don’t know who is.
When mentioning home runs, it’s only fair to mention the whiffs. To be clear, the following players are included due to their former high interest in Michigan: 2014 DE Da’Shawn Hand (Alabama), 2014 RB Leonard Fournette (LSU), 2015 QB Josh Rosen (UCLA), 2015 WR George Campbell, 2015 RB Damien Harris.
However, as usual, Hoke remains in the hunt for several of 2015 and 2016’s most elite 5-star talents. And if his track record is of any indication, he’ll get his with relative regularity.
Note: At one time, each of the mentioned players carried a 5-star ranking from 247Sports and/or Rivals, two of the leading prospect grading sites. Hoke's classes/futures, via 247: 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016.
Follow Bleacher Report’s Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81