When Jim Harbaugh and Tim Drevno got to Ann Arbor, offensive line depth and performance were two of the biggest issues they needed to figure out. Though the roster was full of experienced lineman, the play wasn’t up to a national championship level and the talent behind the veteran lineman had yet to be developed. So, it makes sense that the two Michigan coaches have prioritized the nation’s top offensive line prospects on the recruiting trail since day one. But it hasn’t completely paid of….yet.
In the 2015 and 2016 classes, Michigan signed only six offensive lineman in total, including 3 four star prospects in Ben Bredeson, Michael Onwenu and Grant Newsome. All three of whom look to be big contributors during their careers in Ann Arbor. But with Newsome’s future (somewhat) in question after his brutal knee injury and at least four starting positions opening up on the line next season, the staff needs more bodies and more talent out of the 2017 recruiting class to fill those spots. And they’re in fantastic position to bring in one of their best offensive line hauls ever.
But will it be the best offensive line recruiting haul in rankings history?
For some perspective, here are the five best offensive line recruiting hauls (based on its top five commits’ composite rankings) since 2002. And you may be surprised who has the top spot:
- 2013: Michigan
- OC Patrick Kugler – #68 overall
- OG Kyle Bosch – #87 overall
- OG David Dawson – #95 overall
- OG Chris Fox – #110 overall
- OT Logan Tuley-Tillman – #168 overall
- Average Ranking: 106
- 2008: USC
- OT Matt Kalil – #22 overall
- OT Tryon Smith – #32 overall
- OT Matt Meyer – #82 overall
- OG Khaled Holmes – #102 overall
- OG Daniel Campbell – #300 overall
- Average Ranking: 108
- 2012: Stanford
- OT Kyle Murphy – #11 overall
- OT Andrus Peat – #30 overall
- OG Joshua Garnett – #38 overall
- OG Graham Shuler – #268 overall
- OG Brandon Fanaika – #326 overall
- Average Ranking: 135
- 2005: Michigan
- OG Marques Slocum – #34 overall
- OT Corey Zirbel – #103 overall
- OT Justin Schifano – #149 overall
- OG David Mooseman – #181 overall
- OT Tim McAvoy – #241 overall
- Average Ranking: 142
- 2014: Alabama
- OT Cam Robinson – #4 overall
- OL Ross Pierschbacher – #74 overall
- OC Jake Hassanauer – #172 overall
- OL Joshua Casher – #280 overall
- OG Montel McBride – #422 overall
- Average Ranking: 190
Probably didn’t remember how good Michigan’s 2013 haul was, huh?
Michigan heads into the final five months of the 2017 recruiting cycle with four commitments on the offensive line, which is supposed to consist of 6-7 signees when everything is said and done. That means there’s only 2-3 spots available prior to any attrition taking place. And, at this point, I feel pretty confident that at least one spot will open up between now and NSD thanks to decommitments and meritocracy.
So, who could fill those spots? Michigan is in fantastic shape for seven of the nation’s top ranked lineman. Here’s where things stand with each at this point:
The #5 overall player in the class has been committed to Alabama since June of 2015 and looked very unlikely to go back on that decision. That was until he visited Michigan this past weekend, which he deemed “by far the best visit” he’s ever been on. To back that up, he removed all of the Alabama details from his Twitter account.
So, he’s all Blue, right? Not so fast, my friend.
Michigan has been known to put on fantastic official visits and a lot of recruits normally show off that post-visit glow. And while this may be just that, there’s obviously a lot of momentum of Michigan’s side of things here.
At this point, I’m leaning towards Michigan pulling off the shocker. But I’m not at Crystal Ball level optimism just yet. If/when more evidence of a potential flip comes out, including him setting up another visit prior to NSD or Alabama offensive line coach, Mario Cristobal, taking a head coaching job elsewhere (both events looking more likely than not), expect a CB prediction from myself. But, until then….
- Prediction: Alabama
The #35 overall player in the class has been favoring Michigan for the majority of his recruitment and looks to be one of the best bets out of the uncommitted offensive lineman. That’s mainly thanks to his visit for the BBQ in early August, which he was said to have a fantastic time. That visit pushed Michigan back to the top of his list after a couple months of Alabama being his favorite. It also brought in my Crystal Ball prediction.
Wilson has already locked in his official visit to Ann Arbor for the Indiana game on November 19th. And that visit is one to watch. To my recollection, the big man doesn’t have a set decision just yet. So, if that official visit proves to him that Michigan is his future home, I wouldn’t be shocked to see him drop soon after.
- Prediction: Michigan
The #43 overall player in the class looked like one of the biggest locks to Alabama prior to his official visit to Michigan last weekend. And now, for the first time in quite sometime, there may be some light shining through that “lock” to Bama.
Wills was very pro-Michigan throughout his first trip to Ann Arbor, agreeing with Leatherwood that this visit was the best he’s ever been on. He had plenty of great things to say about his trip but I’m not close to being ready to say he’ll end up at UM. There’s been way too much talk of him to Alabama for one trip to change his mind this quickly. If he makes his way back up to Michigan for an unofficial before he signs, then I’ll start to be more optimistic about the Wolverines’ chances.
- Prediction: Alabama
The #54 overall player in the class is another name on the list that I firmly have my Crystal Ball prediction on to Michigan. That prediction was brought on thanks to months of positive talk towards the Wolverines, including a trusted source of mine that let me know that it’s expected to be UM for Slaton.
At this point, I’m still very confident in Slaton choosing the Wolverines. Though there are some things that could possibly change that thinking, including the chance that his teammate/good friend and UM commit Kai-Leon Herbert decommits. But, at this point, all signs are still pointed firmly at the Maize and Blue.
- Prediction: Michigan
The #66 overall player in the class is the safest bet on this list. Very similar to Isaiah Wilson, Ruiz has favored Michigan for the majority of his recruitment and his last visit looks to have firmly placed UM at the top of his list over Alabama.
That latest visit, which happened this past weekend for the Wisconsin game, couldn’t have gone any better for either party. Michigan put on a show and Ruiz ate up every minute of it as he had the chance to speak with the other top offensive line targets in town. Thanks to that, the biggest question doesn’t look to be whether or not Ruiz commits to UM, it’s if he’ll be able to talk any of the other official visitors into joining him in Ann Arbor.
- Prediction: Michigan
The #112 overall player in the class is the player that Michigan made the biggest move for out of the Wisconsin game official visitors. The coaching staff was said to be very high on Filiaga and it clearly showed in-person as every tweet, report and interview has been very pro-UM. That includes his interview with 247Sports’ Jeremy Clark where he admitted that the Wolverines are his new leader ($).
For the longest time, USC looked to be the eventual landing spot for the four star lineman. However, this trip and the staff’s level of pursuit has changed everything. I’m not quite there yet to put in my Crystal Ball prediction, like 247Sports’ Ryan Bartow did, but I’m close to making it official. But, either way, I’m leaning heavily towards Michigan right now.
- Prediction: Michigan
The #185 overall player in the class is another player I have my Crystal Ball in for to Michigan. However, my confidence is fading a bit here. Bainivalu has yet to schedule his official visit, which was expected to happen early on in the season. And that visit was a big reason for my prediction.
Bainivalu is still expected to officially visit Michigan this season and that visit could easily regrow my confidence. But until then, I’m starting to lean a bit towards him staying in-state and choosing Washington. Everything relies on his next trip to Ann Arbor and the number of spots available.
- Prediction: Washington
Four out of seven wouldn’t be bad no matter which four it happens to be. Here’s what Michigan’s top five commits from my prediction would look like if they didn’t move in the composite rankings and hold onto Herbert:
- 2017: Michigan
- OL Isaiah Wilson – #35 overall
- OG Tedarrell Slaton – #54 overall
- C Cesar Ruiz – #66 overall
- OL Chuck Filiaga – #112 overall
- OT Kai-Leon Herbert – #217 overall
- Average Ranking: 97
Whether my predictions come true or Michigan is able to improve their score by stealing Leatherwood and/or Wills from Alabama, UM looks to be on track to have the best offensive line recruiting haul of all time.
The best ever. It’s subjective and ridiculous to say. However, it’s also a lot of fun to discuss and something that can be defended quite a bit with rankings and statistics, especially when it comes to recruiting rankings. So, what do you think? Will Michigan sign the best offensive line class ever? What are your predictions for the final offensive line haul for Michigan in 2017? Let us know in the comment section below!
Photo Credit: Aaron Bills/Michigan Football