The 2017 Michigan recruiting class could go down as arguably the best one in school history.
While the overall class is deep and balanced, the crown jewels are the wide receivers. Michigan wanted three receivers in this class and they did themselves one better with the addition of 2016 re-recruit Brad Hawkins, who was in last year’s class but took a prep school year to get his academics in order. The wide receiver class is led by five-star Donovan Peoples-Jones – a big, physical player billed as the next great Michigan receiver. In addition to Hawkins and Peoples-Jones, Michigan also signed four-stars Tarik Black and late addition Oliver Martin. Four-star wide receiver Nico Collins is still a potential commitment for Michigan’s receivers group.
The defensive back group is strong and should provide some immediate help for the Wolverines. Jim Harbaugh and Co. went big after local kids and came up aces, landing four-star defensive backs Ambry Thomas and Jaylen Kelly-Powell. Alabama three-star defensive back J’Marick Woods has already made his way north as an early enrollee and four-star Benjamin St-Juste has made his way down from Montreal.
Others expected to have a strong impact early are four-star center Cesar Ruiz, five-star linebacker Jordan Anthony and four-star Pennsylvania defensive lineman Donovan Jeter.
The disappointment – if there is one for a top-five class – is that Michigan missed on elite running back Najee Harris, who stuck with his original commitment to Alabama. Michigan isn’t without running backs in this class, but there was a late push for Harris who some thought would flip to the Wolverines.
Marquee recruit: DT Aubrey Solomon. He was a Michigan commitment until he rescinded it after receiving a thank-you note from Michigan for visiting an event that he never attended. His name was also misspelled multiple times in the note. His re-commitment this morning was a huge get at a position of need for the Wolverines. It was also another head-to-head recruiting win for Michigan over Alabama.
The one who got away: OT Isaiah Wilson. A massive offensive tackle who was a strong Michigan lean for most of the recruiting cycle, but ultimately decided to sign with Georgia. The Wilson loss was especially tough for the Wolverines not only because he was considered a lock for most of the year, but he was also an important player at a position of need. Michigan thought of him as a player who could contribute immediately.
Position of strength: Wide receiver. Michigan’s wide receiver depth chart is loaded. With four highly rated recruits in this class and one more potentially on the way, the Wolverines should have plenty of star power and depth in the years ahead. In addition to highly rated sophomores Kekoa Crawford and Eddie McDoom, the Wolverines have loaded up on wide receiver talent in the 2017 recruiting cycle with Peoples-Jones, Black, Martin and Hawkins.
Position of worry: Running back. Michigan lost out on Harris, but they still landed a couple of running backs who could contribute in a crowded, young backfield. Kurt Taylor and O’Maury Samuels are the only two running back commitments in the class, but neither is a top 300 player. The good news for Michigan is the sophomore class is loaded and should be able to produce while Michigan searches for a feature back in the 2018 cycle.
Recruits to watch this spring: Michigan has eleven early enrollees, with none more important than center Cesar Ruiz. Michigan lost three offensive linemen to graduation and a revamped offensive line in 2017 is the most important area of need. The offensive line will be young, but more athletic than the last 10 years. It is imperative that Ruiz play early to give Michigan the flexibility to move Mason Cole to tackle of needed. Ruiz is one of the few “true” centers to come out of high school; he has the ability and the body to be an important early contributor on an line that must come together quickly.
(You can follow Gregg Henson on Twitter @GreggHenson)