Inside the Fish Bowl is Running on Full

This past weekend was that will be referenced and remembered throughout the 2017 recruiting cycle as the staff hosted their largest recruiting visit to date for the class for the 2016 Spring Game and Junior Day. The trip returned four commitments, including three from the 2017 class (FB Chase Lasater, DT Phillip Paea and RB O’Maury Samuels) and one of the best overall players in the 2018 class (DL Leonard Taylor).

With the 2017 additions, the class is now at 11 commitments. As for a total number, I originally believed it would end up between 20-25 but TMI’s Sam Webb is hearing it’s expected to at least be as big as the 2016 class ($). Crazy, I know. But there should be a good amount of attrition through transfers and early departures after the fall.

As for the current commitments, Michigan now has 3 running backs and 1 full back on board. But does that mean the staff is done recruiting the offensive backfield? I doubt it.

Open to a 4th Wheel? 

With three commits on the tailback board with around 10 months to go until National Signing Day, the Michigan coaching staff is in an interesting situation. They have themselves a great haul already but there are also some elite targets still on the board.

What they Have
  • O’Maury Samuels
    • The most recent addition to the class may be one of the highest ceiling players in the class. Samuels is a physical, athletic specimen that gives the staff the home run hitting threat they desperately needed and should only continue to see his rankings rise from here on out.
  • AJ Dillon
    • Dillon joined the class last week and though he could end up playing multiple positions at the next level, I believe he could end up being a great power back for the Wolverines. But will his ability to play multiple spots give the staff more freedom to recruit, or possibly even bring in, another back? That’s something to watch.
  • Kurt Taylor
    • Taylor was one of the first commits to the class and is easily one of the most solid. He’s visited Ann Arbor a ton and has been more pro-Michigan than just about any recruit in recent history. So, it would be quite the negative story and/or situation if he ended up not signing with UM next February. As a player, he’s a pit bull of a tailback. Short, athletic and tough. It’ll be interesting to see if he can take the next step over the summer and his senior season.
Still on the Board
  • Stephen Carr
    • Carr is the #2 tailback in the class, committed to USC and just visited Ann Arbor. From all reports, he had a fantastic time and really put Michigan in contention to flip him from the Trojans. But with Samuels on board, will the staff continue to push for him? I believe they’ll keep in touch throughout the cycle as he’s a player that you don’t turn down no matter the numbers.
  • Eno Benjamin
    • Benjamin, who recently visited Michigan and admitted how close he was to committing during the trip, may have missed his opening in Ann Arbor. Though he’s a shifty back that would be a nice fit to the stable, Samuels’ addition may have closed the door here. And with him deciding on April 18th, it looks very likely that he pledges to the longtime favorite, Iowa Hawkeyes.
  • Sione Lund
    • Lund is another target committed elsewhere (Stanford) but looks like a great fit for the staff and to the roster. He’s a big, physical back that could end up being a game changer in the Sione Houma/Fullback role under Jim Harbaugh. But, does Lasater’s commitment end the staff’s pursuit of Lund? I don’t believe so. He may be a player to watch until the final bell as he definitely seemed to take to the staff’s recent pursuit, even with him being committed to the Cardinal.
  • Other Names

So, though I believe running back recruiting will slow down quite a bit, I don’t believe it will be shut off completely. There’s too many talented players left on the board with so much time. And as you saw last cycle, decommitments throughout the class are a damn near certainty.

More Expected Additions on the Way

Michigan not only added four commitments over the weekend trip but they also climbed to the top and/or solidified their spot up there with several visitors, including some of the top names on their board.

After speaking with commit OT JaRaymond Hall, two players he was recruiting and believes Michigan has a “great chance” with are OL Cesar Ruiz and OL Brett Neilon.

Ruiz released his top 12 schools right after his trip and named UM his leader. The Wolverines were rumored to be out front for quite awhile now but this was the first time he officially admitted it. Though he may take his time a bit, unless something drastically changes, all signs point to him committing to Michigan as the staff has made him a priority in this class.

As for Neilon, the California kid made his way east for his first trip to Ann Arbor and things could not have gone any better. He told MGoFish’s Evan Paputa that the family atmosphere and academics were “incredible” and that he believes the staff is “building something special”. Though most have him pegged to stay in the Golden State and sign with USC, this visit has changed things. If the staff continues to push for him and is willing to take two centers in 2017 (which I believe they are open to thanks to their versatility), they may sign their 2nd player in as many years out of Santa Margarita Catholic.

Two more New Jersey targets that look to have Michigan on top after their weekend visit is LB Drew Singleton and ATH Markquese Bell.

Singleton is, arguably, the top defensive player on the board and has looked to be all UM from the get-go thanks to the Paramus Catholic ties in Ann Arbor. Well, things now look to be stronger than ever. Though, per his interview with The Michigan Insider’s Sam Webb, he’s planning on holding off on a decision until October or later ($), it looks like it’ll take a big time, game changing visit or situation to keep him from choosing UM.

Bell’s recruitment is a little different. He’s not as highly ranked and has only visited Ann Arbor once, compared to Singleton’s four times. But that doesn’t mean Michigan isn’t in great shape.

Rumors started swirling that he could end up committing to the Wolverines during/soon after the trip. Well, to say it simply, Bell doesn’t play that:

Though he’s clearly not ready to make a decision, from reading the tea leaves, I believe Michigan is the favorite here. We’ll see how the staff pushes for him up until he makes a decision but as a player that can legitimately play wide receiver or safety at the collegiate level, he should remain a top target.

As for a name that most Michigan recruiting fans are unfamiliar with but may want to get to know is Mustang (OK) DT Deontre Thomas.

Thomas visited Ann Arbor this past weekend and clearly had a fantastic time:

He spoke with The Wolverine’s Brandon Brown about his trip and where Michigan sits with him afterwards ($):

My options have been open throughout the process but I’m actually leaning towards Michigan now,”

Thomas also told Brown that he’d like to make a decision by the end of April. If he sticks to that timeline and Michigan views him as a take, it’s hard to see him committing anywhere else, unless another visit blows him away.

Listed

Though everyone below didn’t their way to Ann Arbor for the weekend visit, several top targets and players across the country came out with their top lists of schools and, whataya know, Michigan was on a ton of them. 

OL Cesar Ruiz names Michigan his leader: 

OT Austin Deculus named Michigan to his top 3, is hoping to visit soon and will announce decision on May 20th:

WR Tarik Black named Michigan to his top 5 though they may be in his top 2-3:

LB Jordan Anthony told multiple people that Michigan is now in his top five after his weekend visit:

LB Will Ignont has Michigan #4 on his latest top 10 list:

LB KJ Britt also has Michigan as the 4th school on his top 10 list:

CB Alex Perry tweeted out that Michigan is in his top 5 “for sure” after his weekend visit:

OT Kendall Randolph included Michigan in his top 10:

DT Cam Spence named Michigan to his top 15 list:

Out of every list, Michigan looks to have the best shot landing Ruiz, Black, Anthony and Perry. Most of the southern recruits look destined to stay in SEC country, though Deculus looks like a target UM could steal him away from LSU with an outstanding visit.

Quick QB Hitters

Photo Credit: Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports