Cleaning Up the Backyard: May 2017 In-State Recruiting Update

In Jim Harbaugh’s first two classes at Michigan, he didn’t exactly attack the in-state recruiting trail with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind. UM signed only 3 of the top 12 players in the 2015 class and 2 of the top 18 in 2017. This had some not exactly loving Harbaugh’s style and thought it could be a bad move for the future.

But, that was clearly overblown as, after looking at where things stand right now with the top players in the state, Michigan looks to clean up on the 2017 in-state recruiting trail.

1. WR Donovan Peoples-Jones, Detroit, MI (Cass Tech)

Peoples-Jones has been the top in-state target for a long time and that pursuit plus many other things are clearly starting to play their part. Some of those things that are in Michigan’s favor include his father graduating from UM’s medical school, the family being full of Wolverines fans and DPJ spending time at the UM medical school shadowing and working with doctors and surgeons.

Thanks to all of that, plus other connections and familiarities to the program, there has been a big run of 247Sports Crystal Ball predictions for Peoples-Jones to choose the Maize and Blue. I put in my prediction last week while Wolverine247’s Steve Lorenz and Clint Brewster put theirs in on Saturday. At this point, it would be a surprise if he chose to go elsewhere.

  • Michigan’s Chances: Very Good to Excellent
  • May Prediction: Michigan
2. CB Ambry Thomas, Detroit, MI (King)

Thomas is another top target for the staff and another elite player out of the state. His versatility and overall athleticism as a cornerback and possibly even a receiver or return man has the Michigan staff badly wanting him in this class. And their latest push has clearly made its mark.

According to Lorenz, Thomas visited Ann Arbor with his cousin, good friend and fellow 2017 top target S Jaylen Kelly-Powell this past weekend and things went very well ($). Things look to be trending towards Michigan more and more as the staff picks up their pursuit. If they can land JKP this summer, that could be another huge feather in the hat of the Wolverines as MSU and Penn State look to be real threats here.

  • Michigan’s Chances: Very Good
  • May Prediction: Michigan
3. LB Joshua Ross, Orchard Lake, MI (St. Mary’s)

Ross has similar instincts and technique as his brother but more of the elite size needed at the linebacker position. Thanks to James spending his college career in Ann Arbor and the staff heavily recruiting him since day one, Ross committed to Michigan on March 22nd, 2015. This is one of the multiple 2017 pledges that look pretty much like a lock to sign.

  • Michigan’s Chances: COMMITTED
4. DB Jaylen Kelly-Powell, Detroit, MI (Cass Tech)

Like previously mentioned, JKP made his way to Ann Arbor with Thomas this past weekend to meet with the coaching staff. And while I believe Michigan may have moved to the top of the list for Thomas, this visit may have helped build UM’s lead more than it may have ever been.

Now, there are plenty of options still on the table for Kelly-Powell, including Stanford, Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Ohio State and others, but he’s one of the best in-state bets to end up at Michigan. It’ll be interesting how long it is until he decides to make that decision.

  • Michigan’s Chances: Excellent
  • May Prediction: Michigan
5. OT JaRaymond Hall, 6’5” 270lbs. Oak Park, MI (Oak Park)

Hall may be the most taken for granted commitment in recent memory. He’s one of the top offensive lineman in the midwest and has a ton of upside. Though raw, his athleticism and versatility will give him the chance to be a standout in the Maize and Blue. And the staff knows it.

He was one of the first commits for 2017 and is quietly one of the leaders of the class. It would be a huge shocker if he left the class at this point.

  • Michigan’s Chances: COMMITTED
6. DE Corey Malone-Hatcher, 6’3” 245lbs. St. Joseph’s, MI (St. Joseph’s)

There are two safe in-state bets. Kelly-Powell is one and Malone-Hatcher is the other. The versatile pass rusher has been atop the staff’s board for awhile thanks to him being able to play multiple positions in Don Brown’s defense.

Though there are some questions about if the staff would continue to push for CMH if Vilain and Irving-Bey jump on board before him, it’s hard to imagine the staff turning him down if he wanted to jump on board this summer. And it’s looking like that decision could happen before the start of his senior season.

  • Michigan’s Chances: Very Good to Excellent
  • May Prediction: Michigan
7. ATH Antjuan Simmons, 6’1” 215lbs. Ann Arbor, MI (Pioneer)

The Ann Arbor native chose the Buckeyes earlier this spring and, while it was a bit shocking to see him make that decision so early, it looks like this recruitment is not completely over. According to The Wolverine crew, Jim Harbaugh is quite confident in Michigan’s chances, if they push for him ($).

Michigan looks to have several linebacker targets higher up on their board but if he shows them that he’s a can’t miss recruit during his season season, the staff may take a full swing at the OSU commit. If that did end up taking place, a flip looks possible thanks to his familiarity with the program and ability to take multiple visits up until he signs his LOI.

  • Michigan’s Chances: Not Dead
  • May Prediction: Ohio State
8. WR KJ Hamler, 5’9” 165lbs. Orchard Lake, MI (St. Mary’s) 

Hamler is one of the most explosive players in the entire class which is why it’s a little disappointing to see Michigan pull back a bit on his recruitment. The connections to the program looked to have UM in the thick of things but after signing multiple slot-type receivers in 2016, Hamler looks to be more of a want than a need.

I doubt this recruitment is completely done as Hamler’s summer or senior performances could shoot him back up the staff’s board. However, there would be plenty of ground to make up as Michigan State and Oregon look like the most likely landing spots at this point.

  • Michigan’s Chances: Good
  • May Prediction: Michigan State
9. CB Donovan Johnson, 5’11” 175lbs. Detroit, MI (Cass Tech)

Johnson is the biggest question mark on this list. He’s a four star cornerback recruit that’s heading to The Opening but still lacks offers from the in-state powers. Some say it’s because he’s a little undersized but it looks like the staff’s are starting to come around.

According to his interview with the DetNews’ David Goricki, Michigan and MSU have begun reaching out to Johnson. He’s also planning to camp at Sound Mind Sound Body (like I’m sure most of the names on this list will join him) as well as the Michigan team camp. If he shows out in front of the UM staff, an offer could be extended. And if that happens, I wouldn’t be shocked to see him end up in Ann Arbor.

Until then, his top three consists of Penn State, Virginia Tech and West Virginia. It’ll be interesting to see how his recruitment plays out.

  • Michigan’s Chances: Fair
  • May Prediction: Penn State
10. WR Hunter Rison, 5’11” 195lbs. Ann Arbor, MI (Skyline) 

Rison is an MSU legacy and one of Michigan State’s top commits in the class. Yes, he decommitted from MSU back in November but he reaffirmed his commitment this spring and it looks to be for good. Michigan never really took a run at him as he’s been a near lock to MSU.

  • Michigan’s Chances: Committed to Michigan State
  • May Prediction: Michigan State
11. OL Jordan Reid, 6’4” 285lbs. Detroit, MI (Cass Tech) 

Reid has been a hot name on the trail the last couple of weeks as he released a top five that had Florida as his leader and Michigan running 2nd. But the question has been, is he a “take” for UM at this point? Most analysts are hearing that he is a take but it’ll be interesting to see if the Wolverines push to overtake the Gators.

At this point, I could see Reid commit to Michigan in the first month of two of the summer or hold off and end up choosing Florida or another top contender a little further down the road. This looks like another recruitment that will come down to ‘want’ as UM and MSU look to have a great shot to make up ground here.

  • Michigan’s Chances: Very Good
  • May Prediction: Florida
12. DT Phillip Paea, 6’4” 290lbs. Berrien Springs, MI (Berrien Springs)

Paea quickly blew up on the recruiting trail over the winter and spring. He received offers from all across the country but it was thanks to the quickly built relationships with himself and the Michigan football and recruiting staff, especially Tony Tuioti, that brought on an April decision in favor of the Wolverines.

This is another commitment that looks very solid. It would be surprising to see him leave this class at this point.

  • Michigan’s Chances: COMMITTED
13. DL Deron Irving-Bey, 6’5” 275lbs. Flint, MI (Southwestern Commencement Academy) 

Irving-Bey is another in-state recruit that has blown up on the trail. He went from an unknown recruit to a target that looks to be pretty high on the staff’s board over the last three months. But now that Michigan has offered, they look to have a very good chance to receive his pledge. However, it’s not close to a lock.

Michigan State was Irving-Bey’s first offer and he’s made multiple trips to East Lansing. The Spartans hold the Crystal Ball lead for now but this looks like it is definitely a winnable recruitment for UM. A couple summer visits and strong pursuit from the staff could sway those predictions towards the Wolverines. However, at this point, MSU has the upper hand.

  • Michigan’s Chances: Very Good
  • May Prediction: (EDIT) Michigan State
14. DB Scotty Nelson, 6’2” 185lbs. Detroit, MI (U of D Jesuit) 

Nelson is by far one of the most versatile players in the state and in the region. His ability to play all over the secondary or as a receiver has caught the eye of a lot of programs, including Michigan. However, Nelson doesn’t look to be as high of a target as before and it may be because the staff feels like he’s headed to East Lansing.

If he remains on the open market and Michigan thinks they have a chance at him, they could try to really open things back up but, at this point, I still think he’ll end up choosing the Spartans.

  • Michigan’s Chances: Fair
  • May Prediction: Michigan State
15. ATH Allen Stritzinger, 6’0” 185lbs. Warren, MI (De La Salle) 

Stritzinger went from the most likely commit to a complete question mark this winter and spring. He looks to have fallen down the staff’s board and it doesn’t look like he’s a “take” at this point. However, if he has a big senior year and solidifies himself as either a defensive back or running back, he could jump back up the board.

At this point, it looks like he’ll end up playing his college ball elsewhere as several MAC programs have begun to take big runs at him.

  • Michigan’s Chances: Fair
  • May Prediction: Western Michigan
TE Carter Dunaway, 6’7” 235lbs. Bloomfield Hills, MI (Brother Rice) 

Dunaway was the first commit of the 2017 class for Michigan and thanks to all of his family ties to the program, he’s not going anywhere unless something drastic happened.

  • Michigan’s Chances: COMMITTED

Out of the top in-state recruits, who do you believe Michigan has to get? Who do you think they will get? Let me know in the comment section below!

Photo Credit: irishsportsdaily.com