With the 2018 class in the rear view mirror, all eyes turn to the 2019 recruiting class and to see if the Michigan coaching staff can bounce back after a disappointing cycle. The Wolverines are already off to a hot start on the trail with the #7 class in the country, which features three top 100 commitments. But that’s not the only reason the staff is sitting pretty early on.
Thanks to early offers, pursuits, connections, and visits, Michigan is in good-to-great shape with several of the top players this cycle.
Here are 19 of Michigan’s top targets to know and pay attention to throughout the 2019 recruiting cycle:
1. RB Quavaris Crouch, 6’2” 225lbs. Charlotte, NC (Harding)
Five star, #18 Overall, #2 Running Back, #1 in North Carolina
Crouch has been a top target for the staff since the start. He’s an elite prospect at either running back or linebacker but is being targeted on offense thanks to him looking like Derrick Henry 2.0. That’s why the likes of Clemson, South Carolina and Alabama are in contention but there isn’t a really good feel on where he’s truly leaning, just yet. He continually raves about his visit to Michigan last year, naming it his “best visit so far”. This will be one of the most watched recruitments in this cycle and it’s one that Michigan will be in until the end.
2. ATH Isaiah Williams, 5’10” 165lbs. St. Louis, MO (Trinity Catholic)
Five star , #28 Overall, #2 Athlete, #1 in Missouri
Williams is one of Michigan’s top overall players in this class and a player that I believe has the ability to make one of the biggest immediate impacts. And it looks like that very well could be in Ann Arbor. The top 25 target has visited Michigan multiple times and hasn’t been shy about his affinity for the maize and blue. My Crystal Ball is on Michigan here. However, Oklahoma looks to be making some noise after his official visit to Norman. There’s still a ways to go but I still really like Michigan’s chances at landing him.
3. S Lewis Cine, 6’2” 180lbs. Everett, MA (Everett)
Four star, #37 Overall, #3 Safety, #1 in Massachusetts
There was some confusion on where Cine sat on Michigan’s board prior to the new year. But after a strong, early push from the staff, he’s clearly a priority target. He’s also a top target that could very well end up in this class. Don Brown’s recruiting abilities and defense mixed with his relationships with the coaches in the northeast look to have Michigan right in the thick of things. Penn State has a big lead on the Crystal Balls and Ohio State is making waves. Will Brown be able to reel in another standout in his region? This will be one to watch closely as Cine could very well end up as a five star before NSD.
4. OT William Harrod, 6’5” 305lbs. Fort Washington, MD (NCA)
Four star, #190 Overall, #22 Offensive Tackle, #5 in Maryland
Michigan offered Harrod early on and quickly became the team to beat for his services as Crystal Balls have been pouring in for the Wolverines and the four star tackle. It’s unknown at this time how big of a factor Tim Drevno’s departure will be on Harrod’s recruitment but with Pep Hamilton actually leading the charge here and Ed Warinner, one of the most well-regarded offensive line coaches in college football, taking over the offensive line, I don’t imagine much to change. Unofficial visits are expected this spring, including one to Ann Arbor, per 247Sports’ Steve Wiltfong ($). I’m close to joining the crowd and putting my CB in for Michigan as well.
5. VLB Lance Dixon, 6’2” 195lbs. West Bloomfield, MI (West Bloomfield)
Four star, #278 Overall, #17 OLB, #8 in Michigan
Don’t let the early rankings fool you, Dixon is a top prospect in this class and a top target for the staff. He could very likely end up inside the top 150 (maybe top 100) by the time the rankings finish up and it looks pretty likely that he plays his college ball in either Michigan or Ohio. Will it be for the Wolverines, Buckeyes or Spartans? Those are the programs getting the most buzz early but as he continues to be discovered, more elite programs will extend offers. Michigan’s in a good place early on thanks to the early pursuit by the staff and the fit within Don Brown’s defense as a Viper linebacker.
6. QB Taisun Phommachanh, 6’4” 185lbs. Avon, CT (Avon Old Farms)
Four star, #107 Overall, #3 Dual-Quarterback, #1 in Connecticut
I put Phommachanh in my last 2019 recruiting class prediction after the staff got in early, extended an offer back in November and quickly moved to the top of his list. However, it’s Florida State that has the momentum at the moment after 247Sports’ Steve Wiltfong recently put in his Crystal Ball for the Seminoles. It’s still early and unofficial visits this spring should truly shape his top list. Though Michigan may have an ace up its sleeve in Don Brown, thanks to his connections to the region.
7. DT Mazi Smith, 6’3” 295lbs. Grand Rapids, MI (East Kentwood)
Four star, #133 Overall, #8 Defensive Tackle, #4 in Michigan
Smith is one of the top defensive tackles in the class and an obvious top target for the staff. He’s at a big position of need and, being right in Michigan’s backyard, he’s a guy the staff can’t afford to miss on. Notre Dame looks to be the biggest competition while Michigan State isn’t making as much noise as I’d thought for Smith, who happens to be cousins with former MSU great, TJ Duckett. He’s made several visits to Ann Arbor already, which gives Greg Mattison and Don Brown an upperhand over the Fighting Irish. Notre Dame has the Crystal Ball lead at the moment but I don’t plan on moving my Crystal Ball for Michigan anytime soon.
8. S Litchfield Ajavon, 6’0” 185lbs. Alexandria, VA (Episcopal)
Four star, #119 Overall, #12 Athlete, #3 in Virginia
Ajavon has been a pretty well known name on the Michigan recruiting front for awhile now thanks to him being a former high school teammates of soon-to-be sophomore defensive end, Luiji Vilain. But that just helped the staff first get to know him. He’s one of the top defensive backs in this class and a player that Michigan has targeted to be part of this class. This looks like another Michigan-Notre Dame recruiting battle, with the Fighting Irish holding the early Crystal Ball lead.
9. WR David Bell, 6’2” 180lbs. Indianapolis, IN (Warren Central)
Four star, #74 Overall, #13 Wide Receiver, #1 in Indiana
Bell is the top player in Indiana and a player that rocketed up Michigan’s board after the staff extended its offer back in December. He looks to be one of the top targets at position but this one won’t be that easy. Ohio State has the early Crystal Ball lead and will be a favorite throughout the recruitment. However, Michigan has a lot going for itself. Like he told 247Sports’ Brian Snow, the roster features multiple Indianapolis-area friends of his and the pro-style offense is attractive to his style of receiver ($). This will be another battle to watch as both schools are close enough for multiple visits throughout the year.
10. QB Sam Johnson, 6’4” 195lbs. Walled Lake, MI (WL Western)
Three star, #628 Overall, #21 Pro-Quarterback, #18 in Michigan
Johnson is a name that local recruitniks know as he’s been on the camp scene since he first was getting into high school. He’s always been a talented thrower of the ball but he didn’t have the size early on. That’s completely changed now and Michigan quickly took notice. According to multiple reports, he earned his offer from Jim Harbaugh while throwing for him in-person. It’s well-known that this was the offer that likely won’t be beat. Now it just looks like a matter of time before he locks up the first quarterback spot in this class.
11. LB Marcel Lewis, 6’1” 205lbs. Clinton Township, MI (Chippewa Valley)
Three star, #636 Overall, #21 Inside Linebacker, #19 in Michigan
Lewis has made a significant jump up Michigan’s recruiting board since receiving his offer from the staff in mid-January. With Charles Thomas already in the fold, Lewis now looks to be the favorite to join him. Michigan State has the Crystal Ball lead but its the Wolverines that continue to get the most mention out of the in-state programs. So much so that 247Sports’ Steve Wiltfong joined me by putting in his CB for Lewis to Michigan after the Cleveland Under Armour camp.
12. DE Marcus Hicks, 6’5” 235lbs. Wichita, KS (Northeast)
Four star, #334 Overall, #21 Weakside Defensive End, #3 in Kansas
Hicks is a newer name to the top targets list but is one to get familiar with. He’s not only a four star defensive end prospect but he’s also the son of a native Michigander and huge Wolverines fan. Though family fanhood has never been a guarantee, it’s still something to pay attention to in this recruitment. Add in him being a wanted man by the staff and I like where Michigan stands heading into the spring.
13. WR Marcus Washington, 6’2” 170lbs. St. Louis, MO (Trinity Catholic)
Four star, #61 Overall, #10 Wide Receiver, #2 in Missouri
Washington is a top100 recruit that Michigan has made a priority early and looks to be sitting pretty with heading into the spring. He hasn’t been shy about his affinity for the Wolverines, along with his teammate and quarterback Isaiah Williams. While the two aren’t exactly a package deal, both have Crystal Ball selections in for Michigan. As a top target at the position and early relationships built, I like Michigan’s chances at this point to beat out the likes of Oklahoma, Alabama as well as nearby Illinois and Missouri.
14. RB Sampson James, 6’1” 211lbs. Avon, IN (Avon)
Four star, #141 Overall, #8 Running Back, #2 in Indiana
James is another top target in the Midwest and one that Michigan looks to have a good shot at eventually landing. He’s out of the same high school as Brandon Peters and admitted that the offer from the Wolverines was the one he wanted most ($). Ohio State holds the early Crystal Ball lead but Michigan looks to be the team to watch closest moving forward.
15. OT Trevor Keegan, 6’6” 300lbs. Crystal Lake, IL (Crystal Lake)
Four star, #142 Overall, #17 Offensive Tackle, #1 in Illinois
Keegan has been a familiar name on the Michigan front for awhile now. He visited Ann Arbor for the BBQ at the Big House last summer which resulted in several Crystal Ball predictions coming in for the Wolverines, including my own. That momentum fell off a bit as Wisconsin started to gain some steam thanks to a fall visit. But I kept my CB on Michigan for Keegan. His mom is from Livonia and his family is full of UM fans. The staff has also picked up the recruitment and momentum may be swaying back towards Michigan, as both Brice Marich and Isaiah Hole from TMI are hearing positive things in regards to UM and Keegan ($).
16. DE Michael Fletcher, 6’6” 240lbs. Flint, MI (Carman-Ainsworth)
Four star, #339 Overall, #27 Strong Side Defensive End, #10 in Michigan
Fletcher is one of the fastest rising recruits in the Midwest and another four star target that is trending hard towards the Wolverines. He received his offer from the staff while on his unofficial visit in late-January and it looked to catapult UM to the top of his list. Allen Trieu and Steve Wiltfong both heard good enough things at a recent camp to put in Crystal Ball predictions to Michigan. With that momentum, I’m not too far away from putting in a CB myself and will definitely be putting him in my upcoming BGRC.
17. OG Devontae Dobbs, 6’4” 270lbs. Belleville, MI (Belleville)
Five star, #10 Overall, #2 Offensive Tackle, #1 in Michigan
By looking at his ranking and hometown, you’d think he’d be one of the top three names on this list. But Michigan dropped the ball a bit here, as they have with a couple other in-state recruits in this class. The staff is trying to make up for that now and it looks to be working a bit here, according to The Wolverine’s Chris Balas ($). Others have reported on Michigan making up ground here but there’s still a ways to go. Michigan State continues to look like the favorite at this time.
18. OT Xavier Truss, 6’7” 325lbs. Warwick, RI (Bishop Hendricken)
Four star, #99 Overall, #13 Offensive Tackle, #1 in Rhode Island
Truss is another top100 offensive lineman target that is high on the staff’s board. He’s out of the same high school as 2017 signee and freshmen DE Kwity Paye, a school that Don Brown is said to have a great connection with. Penn State is the heavy Crystal Ball favorite at the moment but that’s before he makes his unofficial visits this spring. He’s a name to watch closely moving forward.
19. OT Spencer Brown, 6’6” 295lbs. Commerce, MI (WL Western)
Three star, #396 Overall, #43 Offensive Tackle, #12 in Michigan
Brown has been committed to Michigan State since July after not looking to be much of a target for the Michigan staff. That was until they extended an offer earlier this month and clearly made an impact. Though he continues to tell MSU writers that he’s fully committed to the Spartans, he’s been clearly leaving the door open for a potential flip to the Wolverines. Two big reasons for that are Michigan’s new tight ends coach and his chance to compete early, according to TMI’s Isaiah Hole ($). My Crystal Ball is on Michigan but a flip is far from a sure-thing.
Other names to watch: LB Anthony Solomon, RB Eric Gray, ATH Steele Chambers, RB John Emery, ATH Luke McCaffrey, WR Tre Mosley, OT Logan Brown, OT Anthony Bradford, ATH Julian Barnett, DE Adam Berghorst, DE Zach Harrison, DE Kayvon Thibodeaux, S Daxton Hill, DE George Karlaftis, RB Jaren Mangham, DT Jowon Briggs, WR Kyle Ford, DT Ishmael Sophser, OL Karsen Barnhart, OL Harry Miller, RB Zach Charbonnet, WR Ahmarean Brown, OL Quinn Carroll, CB Derek Stingley, CB Andrew Booth and LB Shane Lee.
Photo Credit: Jeff Siner/Charlotte Observer