Inside the Fish Bowl is Looking at the Class Half Full

This fall has been a little strange for Michigan recruiting as a ton hasn’t really happened. The staff has extended plenty of offers to 2018, 2019 and 2020 prospects, as well as adding three new names and subtracting one from the 2018 recruiting class. But thanks to the current class not having a ton of spots left and the staff changing up its official visits (loading up all of its targets for the biggest home games), things have been a quieter than normal.

But that doesn’t mean things aren’t going to be fun heading into the National Signing Day. Michigan has several top 100 prospects left on the board, including a couple that are trending more and more towards signing with the Wolverines.

Big Names on the Big Board

Plenty of Michigan fans are a little bummed about the 2018 recruiting class because of the lack of top 100 commitments and amount of realistic elite level targets remaining on the board. But this class is far from over and, especially thanks to coaching changes around the country, Michigan has a very good chance to add multiple top level recruits between now and NSD, to go along with its class full of high ceiling prospects.

Check out where Michigan stands with some of the staff’s top ranked targets:

Junipero Serra (CA) ATH Bryan Addison – Four star, #81 Overall, #3 ATH

Addison is a name that has been at/near the top of the board for awhile now and continues to be a guy that looks to be one of the staff’s best chances at signing a top 100 target. And things continue to look pretty good here for Michigan thanks to his official visit for the Michigan State game and, as he told 247Sports Greg Biggins, getting a feel for the family atmosphere in Ann Arbor ($):

I loved the atmosphere there, I loved the coaches and the overall hospitality I was shown. They showed me a lot of love and I really enjoyed being around the Michigan family.”

Along with the family atmosphere, a pitch that looks to be really catching Addison’s attention is the possibility to play both ways, as a safety and a wide receiver. He is one of the most dynamic athletes in the entire class and would be a four star recruit at either position. But he’s also a player that values education, telling Biggins, “I’m looking for great academics, a great social atmosphere and a place where I’ll be comfortable and it just feels like home for me.”

So, Michigan looks like it checks off several of the boxes for Addison. But as a California kid, UM will need to do more than that. Home state UCLA, west coast Arizona State and Washington, as well as Nebraska (who has a good connection to California recruits) look to be the Wolverines biggest competition here. But let’s look at the current situation at each of those schools:

  • UCLA is 5-5 and looks more than likely to clean house by firing Jim Mora Jr. and his entire staff as soon as the season is over. That may actually be the Bruins best chance at keeping Addison in-state as he’s not planning on making a decision until NSD so a quick fire, big hire could help the new staff sway him to stay home. But that’s far from a sure-thing.
  • Arizona State is 5-5 and, after just lost to struggling UCLA, his seat looks to be heating up even more than it was earlier in the season. Addison has already made his official visit to ASU and has unofficially visited Tempe twice in the past as well. If Graham isn’t fired, the Sun Devils are a team to watch in this race.
  • Nebraska sucks. The Cornhuskers are 4-6, with its wins only coming over Arkansas State (by just 7), Rutgers (by 10), Illinois and Purdue. Mike Reilly’s one of the most sure-fire firings that’ll come out of this season, which should be a big impact on Nebraska’s ability to recruit the Golden State.
  • Washington is the team that could make a push up his list as Addison is set to officially visit Seattle this upcoming weekend. As a consistent Pac 12 power under Chris Peterson and on the west coast, the Huskies could end up being a finalist, if not the choice, when everything is said and done.

Michigan has been hurt by the coaching carousel twice over the last decade, so seeing it (potentially) help the Wolverines for one of its top overall targets is a welcomed sight.

This recruitment is far from over as every coaching staff, even on the hot seat, will be pushing hard for the Swiss Army Knife prospect. But this is one I could see Michigan pull off in the end.

Berkeley Prep (FL) OT Nicholas Petit-Frere – Four star, #42 Overall, #4 OT

There may not be a recruit on the board that the roster could use more than Petit-Frere, as the offensive tackle position is, arguably, the biggest question mark for the team moving forward. And the four star out of Berkeley Prep is one of the best, most athletic tackles in the class (247Sports has him ranked at the #1 tackle).

Michigan has long been enamored with Petit-Frere as he received his first offer from the Wolverines staff back in October of 2015. It’s something that has kept Michigan in it throughout but just a small factor for why UM is firmly in this race.

According to the new super duo of Steve Lorenz and Sam Webb, Michigan has a lot of momentum right now heading into Petit-Frere’s upcoming official visit for the Ohio State game:

  • Lorenz broke down the three main things to watch heading into his visit ($), which included Michigan’s academic advantages, his fit within the program, and the fact that his head coach is former Wolverines kicker and best first name haver in program history, Garrett Rivas.
  • Webb interviewed Petit-Frere and expanded even more on what the four star is looking for out of his future selection ($). Petit-Frere mentioned how distance won’t be a factor for him as he’s just looking for the right fit. Webb also mentioned how well the big offensive tackle would fit in with the program, comparing him to Grant Newsome.

Michigan already has two (2) four-star tackles in this class but Petit-Frere may have the highest ceiling out of any offensive lineman in this recruiting class. He has elite size and athleticism, plays with tenacity and dominates at the high school level even though he has a ways to go with his technique. It’s easy to see why he is and will remain a priority target for the coaching staff.

But, question is, can they pull it off?

If you go off of his Crystal Ball predictions, Florida, Notre Dame, Alabama and Ohio State make up his top list. However, according to his interview with Sam Webb, the only official visit he has planned, after his one and only OV to South Bend, is to Ann Arbor. And though Alabama, Ohio State and Florida look to be realistic landing spots that you can never count out, the numerous reports on Petit-Frere looking for a top level academic opportunity has me feeling good (at this point) about him ending up choosing either UM or ND.

Look for the staff to roll out the red carpet for his official visit and continue to push hard for him up until he signs his LOI.

Don Bosco Prep (NJ) DL Tyler Friday – Four star, #64 Overall, #3 DT

Out of every top ranked target, Friday is the best bet to choose Michigan and actually has been throughout the 2018 recruiting cycle. I put in my Crystal Ball for him to choose the Wolverines back August of 2016 and continue to feel very good about that selection.

Friday spoke with Rivals’ Adam Friedman recently about his recruitment ($), which has been extremely quiet for months now, but it’s now starting to pick up. He talked about finally starting to get his visit schedule together, his NSD plan, his best coaching relationships, as well as what he likes out of his top choices, which includes Michigan:

Right now I’m just loving Michigan,” he said. “I talk to a lot of their players and they have nothing but great things to say. That’s something I take into consideration. I just think coach Mattison, coach Partridge, and coach Brown are masterminds. They talk about all the different ways they’ll use me in their different schemes.”

The talented New Jerseyan recently released his top five, which included the Wolverines, but the biggest takeaway may be the removal of Rutgers from his top choices. Besides Michigan, the in-state Scarlet Knights were the only other program to receive Crystal Ball selections as he was maybe the top overall target for Chris Ash. However, it never looked likely (IMO) that he’d pick the Big Ten basement dweller.

But it’s also far from a lock to Michigan.

Ohio State and Penn State are teams to watch that have been around for awhile and are included in his top five. As for an outsider to watch, according to multiple reports, Alabama has been pushing hard here and is always a threat when Saban makes a recruit a top target. But with the deep connections to the staff, the longtime recruitment and the fit in the defense and within the program, I still feel very good about Friday eventually choosing and signing with Michigan.

St. Frances Academy (MD) DE Eyabi Anoma – Four star, #41 Overall, #3 WDE

Anoma is one of the only five star targets still left on the board and, thanks to him being a Baltimore native, he will see Michigan twice during official visits as he was at the Maryland-Michigan game this past weekend. He’s also scheduled to officially visit Michigan for the Ohio State game later this month, which will be his first recruiting visit but second visit overall after playing one of his high school games in the Big House last year.

That visit is a big one for both Anoma and Michigan. Alabama is seen as the favorite here and for good reason. The five star defensive end has visited Tuscaloosa unofficially three times already, including earlier this month for the LSU game. He’s also been seen sporting Crimson Tide gloves during his games this season. So, the 100% Crystal Ball prediction to Alabama makes sense.

However, according to his interview with TMI’s Josh Newkirk, Anoma doesn’t have a leader ($).

Now, even though he says he doesn’t have a leader, I (along with pretty much everyone else) believes Alabama is indeed the favorite here. But Michigan has always been hanging around. Earlier this fall, 247Sports’ Steve Wiltfong reported that, even though he has his CB on Bama, Michigan is a “school to watch” in this race ($). Add in Rivals’ Adam Friedman consistently calling the Wolverines a “major contender” ($) and TMI’s Sam Webb calling this a “Michigan v. Alabama battle” ($), this is a recruitment to watch closely.

Here’s what he told Friedman about his interest in Michigan earlier this fall ($):

Michigan is Michigan. Go Blue,” he said. “I watched the Florida game and they looked outstanding. This year they have a chance to make it to the playoffs and do some damage off the strength of how they are getting coached and how consistent they’ve been. They are consistently bringing the heat on defense. Alabama brings the heat on every single play and Michigan is starting to do the same thing.

At this point, Alabama is clearly the odds on favorite. But if Michigan can blow him away during his official visit and pitch him on playing in Don Brown’s defense over Nick Saban’s, this decision may be more interesting than the Crystal Balls make it out to be.

Blair Academy (NJ) DE Jayson Oweh – Four star, #160 Overall, #7 SDE

Oweh is one of the newest names to the top target board but he’s one to watch closely now that he has an offer in hand. As soon as the offer took place, multiple reports came out mentioning Michigan as a new team to watch.

247Sports’ Steve Wiltfong spoke with Oweh soon after receiving his offer, and he was clearly excited about the new possibility ($):

This is a huge offer for me because they’re both academically and athletically strong,” Oweh told 247Sports. “This is definitely a game changer. My parents are excited about the offer as well.”

Oweh quickly set up his official to Michigan for the Ohio State game later this month. And it’ll be a visit to pay attention to as the staff will get its first chance to show the Oweh family the total package that the University offers. As Wolverine247’s Steve Lorenz mentioned the academics being a big reason why Michigan could make a big move after this upcoming visit ($).

Ohio State and Penn State look to be the main competition here, with Notre Dame trying to throw its hat in the ring as well. But I’m starting to like Michigan’s chances more and more. We’ll see if the staff can truly change the game on his official visit at the end of the month.

Still Sitting Pretty in 2019 

While some may be complaining about the 2018 class, there isn’t a person in the world that can complain about the start Michigan has gotten off to in the 2019 class. The Wolverines already have four commitments in the 2019 class, all of which are at least four star recruits, one of which (DL Chris Hinton) is a sure-fire five star. But that’s just the start for a class that, from the early returns, looks like it could challenge the 2017 class as Harbaugh’s best in his time at Michigan.

Here’s the latest on some of the top names on the board:

Finding an elite tight end looks to be the goal in every class for Jim Harbaugh, and he looks to have his eyes set on one of the top ranked TEs in the class in Kennesaw Mountain (GA) TE Ryland Goede. According to Wolverine247’s Steve Lorenz, Goede is at the position board for the staff ($), which is a good thing as the talented tight end told 247Sports’ Keith Neibuhr that Michigan and Georgia are “neck and neck” for the top spot on his list as he nears his decision ($).

This is good news coming off of Goede’s unofficial visit to Ann Arbor for the Michigan State game. But the staff will need to continue to push with Goede planning to make his decision in the first two months of 2018. Look for the staff to try and get him back up to campus prior to that decision as it’s likely he’ll visit the in-state Bulldogs at least once before then.

As for the defensive side of the ball, Michigan missed out on one of its top targets to Purdue, of all teams, as West Lafayette (IN) DE George Karlaftis made an early pledge to his in-state Boilermakers. But it looks like he’s still keeping things open, as most would expect. Karlaftis spoke with TMI’s Brice Marich and let him know that he’s already planning to take other visits ($). Michigan was the other top contender when he made his decision so it’s hard to imagine him not visiting Ann Arbor if he gets the chance. I wouldn’t be shocked to him eventually end up flipping to the Wolverines at some point during his recruitment.

Olentangy Orange (OH) DE Zach Harrison is another top defensive end target for the staff but one that doesn’t look likely to choose the Wolverines over the in-state Buckeyes. But Michigan isn’t out of this race and may get a visit out of the five star defensive end soon ($), according to Wolverine247’s Steve Lorenz.

Missing out on top players out of Ohio to Ohio State isn’t a big surprise. But losing a top/wanted target in Michigan would be a surprise. Two of the top ranked players in the state and two names to remember are Detroit King (MI) S/LB Marvin Grant and West Bloomfield (MI) S/LB Lance Dixon.

Grant continues to look like one of the safer bets to end up in this class, possibly even the next commit. He’s visited Ann Arbor multiple times this fall for games and it looks to just be a matter of time until he ends up a part of this class.

As for Dixon, there’s plenty of time to go in this recruitment as the staff is still evaluating and has yet to offer. Michigan State holds the early Crystal Ball prediction lead but the four star in-stater recently visited Ann Arbor for the Minnesota game and looks to be getting more and more comfortable with the UM coaching staff. It also helps he caught the game where Khaleke Hudson broke the tackle-for-loss record in the same position the staff is recruiting Dixon. He spoke with TMI’s Brice Marich about that and his visit overall ($).

It looks like that possible Michigan offer could be a game changer for the hybrid safety, Dixon.

Speaking of defensive backs, St John Bosco (CA) CB Chris Steele is one of the top players in the class and continues to be a priority for Michigan’s coaches and commits. He’s also shown Michigan a lot of love on Twitter but, as a top player out of California, it’s hard to see him getting out of the state. But Michigan’s definitely giving him something to think about ($), according to Wolverine247’s Steve Lorenz.

Eas(on)ier Said than Done

It’s been a minute since I’ve had the time to put together an Inside the Fish Bowl post so how about some crazy transfer talk?

After getting injured, losing his starting job at Georgia, and seeing his replacement take control of the offense, true sophomore QB Jacob Eason has been subject to a ton of transfer rumors. Though the former five star has yet to even say if he’s going to transfer at all, there’s been noise of him possibly following Mark Richt down to Miami, others have him heading back home to Washington to play for either the Huskies or Fighting Mike Leachs.

But now there’s another school that looks like it could be in the mix: Alab…..just kidding it’s Michigan.

Dawgs247’s Rusty Mansell posted that the Wolverines are the one team that he keeps hearing about for Eason ($).

Now, this is just from one of Mansell’s sources but he is a guy that normally has his ear close to the ground in Athens. That’s why it’s hard to just overlook. And when you look at things from Eason’s perspective, Michigan makes sense.

Eason is a very confident, talented player that needs to tighten up his mechanics to take his game to the next level. So, the possibility of working everyday with Jim Harbaugh and Pep Hamilton makes sense for him. Add in the poor play from the position this season and I can see why Eason would (if even true) be looking hard at Michigan.

But would Michigan be willing to bring him in?

Jim Harbaugh has done a great job on the quarterback recruiting front thus far, landing current starter, Brandon Peters, hyped up true freshmen Dylan McCaffrey, as well as current 2018 commitments, Joe Milton and Kevin Doyle. Milton being a player who I believe has the highest collegiate ceiling of the bunch.

So, would Harbaugh risk alienating some of his recruits to bring in a well-known, former #1 overall quarterback recruit with two years of eligibility remaining?

I doubt it. But it may be a situation to monitor, given the source of the rumor.

If you want to monitor Eason’s freshmen highlights:

And if you want to get weird and look at a potential 2019 quarterback depth chart (by eligibility):

  • Alex Malzone, 5th
  • Brandon Peters, RS Jr
  • Jacob Eason, RS Jr
  • Dylan McCaffrey, RS So
  • Joe Milton, RS Fr
  • Kevin Doyle, RS Fr
  • Freshmen signee

But I wouldn’t get my hopes up too much. Though Harbaugh loves himself a good competition, Peters has started to show his potential and I wouldn’t bet against either McCaffrey or Milton being stars for Michigan. Bringing in another guy via transfer could create some issues in the quarterback room.

The two parties may end up flirting a bit but, at this point, I see Eason heading back towards the Northwest for a place with an easier path to playing time.

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Photo Credit: Patrick Barron/MGoBlog

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