2021 Michigan Recruiting Preview: 21 Names to Know in ’21

The Michigan coaching staff has turned its full attention to the 2021 class and it’s setting up to be one of the best in the Harbaugh era. The in-state talent is excellent and Michigan has done excellent putting themselves in position to clean up.

Michigan is off to a great start with two top 65 commitments already in the class in QB JJ McCarthy and OT Giovanni El-Hadi. So, who could join them?

Check out the top 21 Michigan football recruiting targets to know in 2021:

RB Donovan Edwards

  • Height: 5’11”
  • Weight: 190lbs
  • Hometown (School): West Bloomfield, MI (West Bloomfield)
  • Composite Ranking: Four-star, #49 Overall, #2 RB, #3 in Michigan
  • Crystal Ball Favorite: Michigan

It is going to be an absolute battle for the West Bloomfield star. Michigan has been the favorite for some time but Ohio State, Georgia, and Alabama are prioritizing him as well. Still like Michigan here but it’s far from a slamdunk. This could be a long recruitment.

OL/DL Rocco Spindler

  • Height: 6’5”
  • Weight: 285lbs
  • Hometown (School): Clarkston, MI (Clarkston)
  • Composite Ranking: Four-star, #77 Overall, #3 OG, #3 in Michigan
  • Crystal Ball Favorite: Michigan

The son of former Detroit Lions DE Marc Spindler, Rocco has more than made a name for himself on the recruiting front so far. He’s a top flight prospect and one of the top names on Michigan’s board. The Wolverines have been in great shape since the get-go but Notre Dame is near the top of his list while Penn State and Ohio State are very real threats as well. It’ll be a battle throughout but my Crystal Ball is on Michigan and I don’t see myself changing it any time soon.

SDE Aaron Armitage

  • Height: 6’4”
  • Weight: 240lbs
  • Hometown (School): Blairstown, NJ (Blair Academy)
  • Composite Ranking: Four-star, #153 Overall, #9 SDE, #2 in New Jersey
  • Crystal Ball Favorite: Notre Dame

Armitage has been a top defensive target for the staff from the get-go. He’s a big, versatile lineman from New Jersey but with Michigan losing a bit of steam in that region with the loss of Chris Partridge and Anthony Campanile. Add in Notre Dame pushing and this is looking like a much tougher battle for Shaun Nua, Don Brown and the Wolverines.

SLB Jack Hollifield

  • Height: 6’3”
  • Weight: 225lbs
  • Hometown (School): Shelby, NC (Shelby)
  • Composite Ranking: Four-star, #272 Overall, #10 ILB, #15 in North Carolina
  • Crystal Ball Favorite: Virginia Tech

Another four-star defensive standout that Michigan has been in on for a while now. But, like other names on this list, how much will the Chris Partridge departure and Brian Jean-Mary arrival change things with defensive targets out east? Virginia Tech is the heavy Crystal Ball favorite at the moment though Shaun Nua and Michigan are still pushing for the versatile linebacker.

OL Garrett Dellinger

  • Height: 6’6”
  • Weight: 280lbs
  • Hometown (School): Clarkston, MI (Clarkston)
  • Composite Ranking: Four-star, #88 Overall, #14 OT, #4 in Michigan
  • Crystal Ball Favorite: Notre Dame

Probably the best name in the class, Garrett has slipped in his top 10 sophomore ranking. But he’s still a top 150 recruit and remains one of the top offensive linemen on the board. Notre Dame has been a top option for a while but if Michigan can land his teammate and buddy, Rocco Spindler, the opportunity to stay in-state may be too great to miss. He’ll be the tougher of the two Clarkson standouts to land as Alabama, LSU, Penn State, and Ohio State are firmly in the race as well.

LB Jamari Buddin

  • Height: 6’2”
  • Weight: 195lbs
  • Hometown (School): Belleville, MI (Belleville)
  • Composite Ranking: Four-star, #280 Overall, #20 OLB, #9 in Michigan
  • Crystal Ball Favorite: Michigan

The fast-rising in-state linebacker looks to be one of the best bets on this list. He’s visited Ann Arbor multiple times and is expected on campus several times this offseason. Penn State is in this one as well but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him be one of the next couple of additions to the class.

DT Victory Vaka

  • Height: 6’3”
  • Weight: 315lbs
  • Hometown (School): Westlake, CA (Westlake)
  • Composite Ranking: Four-star, #194 Overall, #12 DT, #18 in California
  • Crystal Ball Favorite: None

Arguably the top-ranked interior defensive lineman on Michigan’s board as he’s become a priority for Shaun Nua. Michigan has a big need for defensive tackles in this class and he’s one of a couple names on this list without a single Crystal Ball prediction. Pulling any wanted recruit off the west coast is tough but the staff has put the Wolverines in position to pull it off. We’ll see if they can close.

LB Junior Colson

  • Height: 6’2”
  • Weight: 210lbs
  • Hometown (School): Brentwood, TN (Ravenwood)
  • Composite Ranking: Four-star, #207 Overall, #15 OLB, #5 in Tennessee
  • Crystal Ball Favorite: None

Colson is the son of a huge Wolverines fan and visited campus for the Ohio State game. He was recently seen sporting Michigan gear at a winter camp which everyone knows means he’s heavily favoring that team (sarcasm). But I do believe UM is in a good position in this race as his recruitment continues to take shape.

DE Jason Onye

  • Height: 6’5”
  • Weight: 245lbs
  • Hometown (School): Warwick, RI (Bishop Hendrickson)
  • Composite Ranking: Three-star, #530 Overall, #28 WDE, #1 in Rhode Island
  • Crystal Ball Favorite: None

Kwity Paye 2.0. Onye is the next big thing out of Bishop Hendrickson in Rhode Island, otherwise known as Don Brown territory. Penn State is the biggest threat early on as James Franklin and company have him near the top of their defensive end board as well. However, it’s hard to bet against Don Brown in situations like this.

WR Andel Anthony

  • Height: 6’2”
  • Weight: 165lbs
  • Hometown (School): East Lansing. MI (East Lansing)
  • Composite Ranking: Three-star. #417 Overall, #71 WR, #12 in Michigan
  • Crystal Ball Favorite: Michigan

Anthony is a two-sport standout and the top wide receiver in the state. Though being from East Lansing and Michigan State pushing for him, it’s the Wolverines that look to have the upperhand. He looks to be pretty high on the staff’s board after receiving an in-person visit from Harbaugh and Gattis in January. 247Sports’ Allen Trieu mentioned Notre Dame being the bigger threat ($), though I think a strong hire from MSU could make this a three-team race.

DT Tywone Malone

  • Height: 6’3”
  • Weight: 300lbs
  • Hometown (School): Oradell, NJ (Bergen Catholic)
  • Composite Ranking: Four-star, #38 Overall, #7 DT, #1 in New Jersey
  • Crystal Ball Favorite: None

Even though the loss of Anthony Campanile will set Michigan back a bit, the Wolverines are still pushing here. There is a big positional need and a realistic immediate playing time available recruiting pitch but it looks to be an uphill battle without the staff’s ties to New Jersey. We’ll see if Shaun Nua can pull off a miracle for one of the best defensive linemen in the class.

TE Louis Hansen

  • Height: 6’5”
  • Weight: 220lbs
  • Hometown (School): Needham, MA (St. Sebastian’s)
  • Composite Ranking: Four-star, #182 Overall, #7 TE, #2 in Massachusetts
  • Crystal Ball Favorite: None

Hansen looks to be one of the top two tight ends on the board and, whataya know, another east coast standout right in Don Brown’s sweet spot. He told TMI’s Steve Lorenz that he hears from Michigan “almost every day” ($). Ohio State has him atop their TE list as well. This may turn into another two-team race between the Big Ten rivals. This is another chance for Brown and Sherrone Moore to show off their recruiting chops.

DT Rayshaun Benny

  • Height: 6’5″
  • Weight: 275 lbs
  • Hometown (School): Oak Park, MI (Oak Park)
  • Composite Ranking: Four-star, #175 Overall, #23 OT, #6 in Michigan
  • Crystal Ball Favorite: Michigan

Once an offensive tackle prospect, Benny is now reportedly being targeted at defensive tackle by the coaching staff and I think it’s a good move. With him now shooting up the defensive board, I really like Michigan’s chances to add him to the class as long as he remains a priority for the staff.

DL Kelvin Gilliam

  • Height: 6’3”
  • Weight: 250lbs
  • Hometown (School): Highland Springs, VA (Highland Springs)
  • Composite Ranking: Four-star, #181 Overall, #12 WDE, #5 in Virginia
  • Crystal Ball Favorite: None

Gilliam is a top-200 recruit and a recent visitor for the staff at the end of January. And it clearly went well as he told TMI’s Brice Marich that Michigan is now “high” on his list following the visit ($). He has plenty of suitors already including Penn State. The staff looks like it’s setting up for a big defensive line haul and Gilliam is a name they’d like to be a part of it.

TE Thomas Fidone

  • Height: 6’5”
  • Weight: 220lbs
  • Hometown (School): Council Bluffs, IA (Lewis Central)
  • Composite Ranking: Four-star, #274 Overall, #10 TE, #3 in Iowa
  • Crystal Ball Favorite: Nebraska

Following an impressive showing at the underclassmen All-American combine, Fidone has become a wanted man on the recruiting trail. That includes Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines, who made an in-person trip to see the four-star tight end this winter ($). In-state Iowa is obviously a top contender but Nebraska has the momentum right now and a big Crystal Ball lead. Michigan is pushing but I wouldn’t be surprised to see an early commitment elsewhere here but a continued recruitment.

OT Caleb Tiernan

  • Height: 6’7”
  • Weight: 275lbs
  • Hometown (School): Livonia, MI (Detroit Country Day)
  • Composite Ranking: Three-star, #339 Overall, #35 OT, #11 in Michigan
  • Crystal Ball Favorite: Michigan

Another in-state prospect with an elite offensive tackle frame, Tiernan looks like he could be yet another future NFL tackle out of Michigan. Luckily for the Wolverines, they got in early here and look to be the heavy favorite here.

DL Quintin Somerville

  • Height: 6’3”
  • Weight: 230lbs
  • Hometown (School): Scottsdale, AZ (Saguaro)
  • Composite Ranking: Four-star, #76 Overall, #5 SDE, #1 in Arizona
  • Crystal Ball Favorite: Oklahoma

Somerville is a versatile defensive lineman that Shaun Nua looks to be prioritizing. According to his interview with TMI’s Steve Lorenz, Nua has been in contact with him “all of the time” ($). Oklahoma is the early Crystal Ball favorite but Georgia, Ohio State, Florida State and plenty of other brand name programs are pushing here as well.

CB Kalen King

  • Height: 5’11”
  • Weight: 170lbs
  • Hometown (School): Detroit, MI (Cass Tech)
  • Composite Ranking: Four-star, #310 Overall, #24 CB, #10 in Michigan
  • Crystal Ball Favorite: None

King is”next up” in a long list of Detroit cornerbacks. The Cass Tech standout has been rising up the staff’s board and following his late January visit, things are looking very good for Michigan as TMI’s Steve Lorenz put in his Crystal Ball for the Wolverines ($). Though Wisconsin looks to be a real threat, especially if Michigan doesn’t push for him.

DE TJ Guy

  • Height: 6’4”
  • Weight: 240lbs
  • Hometown (School): Mansfield, MA (Mansfield)
  • Composite Ranking: Three-star, #691 Overall, #37 WDE, #6 in Massachusetts
  • Crystal Ball Favorite: Boston College

The recent Boston College decommit is beginning to look more and more like a possible addition to this class. Since receiving his offer from the Wolverines he’s been speaking very glowingly of Michigan and has already set up multiple visits over the next couple of months ($). This is another northeast recruit I see Don Brown working his magic on and eventually landing.

OT David Davidkov

  • Height: 6’6”
  • Weight: 265lbs
  • Hometown (School): Winnetka, IL (New Trier)
  • Composite Ranking: Four-star, #159 Overall, #22 OT, #2 in Illinois
  • Crystal Ball Favorite: Michigan

Davidkov is one of the top tackles in the Midwest and a top name on Michigan’s board. He’s been on campus multiple times, first visiting back in May of 2019. According to TMI’s Steve Lorenz, this looks to be a Michigan-Wisconsin battle ($). The Badgers are an offensive line factory which always makes them a threat for regional talent but things are still looking pretty good for the maize and blue as he’s already planning to visit Michigan “a couple more times” this offseason ($).

DT Damon Payne

  • Height: 6’4”
  • Weight: 295lbs
  • Hometown (School): Belleville, MI (Belleville)
  • Composite Ranking: Four-star, #33 Overall, #6 DT, #2 in Michigan
  • Crystal Ball Favorite: Cloudy

Even after a recent unofficial visit to campus, it would still be a shock if Payne ended up at Michigan. “So, why’s he on the list?”, you may ask. Well, he’s the top player in the state, one of the top defensive lineman in the class, and a player that the staff has to try for, especially with his father being a huge Michigan fan. Ohio State is the prohibitive favorite though Kentucky and Alabama have made an early impact as well.

Other Names to Know: