Inside the Fish Bowl Doesn’t Think Four’s a Crowd

As we inch towards the kickoff of the college football season, high school football games have begun all around the country. With that, recruiting is likely going to slow down just a bit until official visits begin as players will want to focus on their team camps and games for the rest of August. But that doesn’t mean it’s coming to a complete stop.

The latest Michigan recruiting update touches on the possibility of UM signing all of their top receiver targets, battling some heavy hitters for targets and commits, as well their chances at a five star linebacker.

All the Receivers

When the 2017 class became the focal point for the Michigan coaching and recruiting staffs, rumor had it that they may only take one wide receiver. That was mainly because of the 6 receivers that the staff signed in the 2016 class and the fact that the best receiver in the country, Cass Tech (MI) WR Donovan Peoples-Jones, was right in their backyard.

Oh how things have changed.

Once Clay-Chalkville (AL) WR Nico Collins became a legit option and named Michigan his leader, two looked to be the number. But then Iowa City West (IA) WR Oliver Martin blew up The Opening, earned an offer and quickly jumped up the board. He visited for the BBQ and now has at/near the top of his list. So, the number is three.

Cheshire Academy (CT) WR Tarik Black had been a normal member of my 2017 class predictions in the past. However, with the staff looking to be focused on Peoples-Jones and Collins, Black looked to be down to Notre Dame, Stanford and Alabama. But his visit for the BBQ quickly put Michigan back near the top of his list.

Scout’s Brian Dohn spoke with Black after his visit, who described his visit as “fantastic” and mentioned the numbers game as a big part of the trip ($):

Going through the numbers game on the depth chart with coach Fisch, with the receivers and stuff like that, I thought that was really big,” Black said. “Just to see how I stack up and fit in among the guys already there, I think that was a pretty big deal. I think depth chart-wise, it would be a good opportunity for me to go in and play right away.”

After talking with him, Dohn mentioned that he believes this is now a Michigan-Notre Dame race for Black.

Irish247’s Toy Loy, who maintains Notre Dame will eventually be the choice, agrees with Dohn’s assumption. Loy’s sources have let him know that it looks to be a Midwest powers battle as Stanford is too far away and Alabama won’t have room in their class ($).

Loy also broke the news on Black setting up his first (and, at this point, only) official visit to Michigan for September 3rd against Hawaii ($).

Now, official visits are already a big deal. But here’s why this visit could be even more telling than most. Black has let it be known on several occasions in the past that his plan was to silently commit to a program prior to his season and announce publicly at the Army All-American game so he could focus on his senior season.

Black visited for the BBQ and quickly set up his return trip for less than a month later. Guess when his senior season begins? September 7th. You don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to feel like Michigan could be the silent choice, if he’s sticking to that game plan.

But, going back to the numbers game, would the staff really take four wide receivers in the 2017 class after what they did on the 2016 haul? If it’s Peoples-Jones, Collins, Martin and Black, they happily will, according to Sam Webb’s trusty gut.

On top of the staff willing to take all four of their top receiver targets, Webb mentioned the staff feeling “a lot better” about their chances with Black ($).

In terms of the ability and willingness to take four receivers, there’s a couple factors that go into that, including:

  • Michigan loses their top two wide receivers to graduation in Jehu Chesson and Amara Darboh. That alone brings their receiver total down to 7-8.
  • The 2016 class signed 6 wide receivers but may only actually produce 3 by 2017. Brad Hawkins was unable to qualify for UM (still expected to enroll after a prep year but that’s not very simple), Ahmir Mitchell was suspended for his freshmen year and could very likely move to safety when he comes back, and Chris Evans looks to stick at running back.
  • The pure 2016 wide receivers are also all smaller, faster, home run hitting guys. The staff needs some more size and physicality on the outside.

Add in the chance to sign 4 top 150 players at one position and it’s clear to see why Michigan is completely open to the possibility.

Now, wanting and doing are very different. To bring in a haul that features the #1 overall receiver (Peoples-Jones), #4 receiver via Rivals (Collins), #9 receiver via 247Sports (Martin) and the #12 receiver via Scout (Black) would not only be huge but it will be very difficult.

I have my Crystal Ball in for Michigan on Peoples-Jones, Collins and Martin, feeling very good about the first two and pretty good about the last. Iowa and MSU are still very much in the race for Martin. As for Black, I was very close to putting in a CB for Notre Dame in July but am glad I held off now. I’m feeling better and better about Michigan’s chances here, especially with his reaction to the BBQ visit, him quickly setting up his official visit before the start of his season and this tweet he recently sent out (and then deleted):

Don’t forget him showing plenty of love for Michigan in the past (gloves and socks on game days):

I’m leaning towards Michigan for Black now for his silent commit. Though, if you’ve read this site for awhile, I don’t put a ton into silents. So, if UM is the choice, Notre Dame should/will remain a very real threat to sway him to South Bend throughout the cycle.

Fighting the Dawgs 

Dogfighting is bad. Looking at you, Michael Vick. But on the recruiting trail, Dawg fighting looks like it may become common place for Jim Harbaugh and Michigan.

After beating out Washington for David Long last recruiting cycle, the staff looks to be in another fight with the Dawgs from the Pacific Northwest for 2017 Skyline (WA) OL Henry Bainivalu.

Prior to making his 2nd unofficial visit of the year to Michigan for the BBQ earlier this month, Bainivalu was seen by a lot of recruiting analysts as player that would likely stay out west. Washington was the team with the inside track for obvious reasons. But though he made plenty of local visits to campus, the Dawgs have only received two Crystal Ball predictions up to this point. And I’m not sure they’ll get anymore for the time being.

From everything I’ve gathered, the visit for the BBQ may have put Michigan out front for the Seattle standout. He spoke with RealDawg’s Ruth Robbins about his recent visits to UM and Washington, as well as his plans to officially visit Michigan again “earlier in the season” ($).

Time to read some tea leaves.

Like Tarik Black, making it a point to return to Michigan quickly for an official visit says a lot. He’s clearly very high on UM and, like I mentioned before, look to lead for him. When you add that up with the plan to visit again earlier in the season and the offensive line spots quickly filling up, I’m feeling better and better about my Crystal Ball here.

Now, both TMI’s Sam Webb and Wolverine247’s Steve Lorenz believe the final three offensive line spots will be filled by IMG Academy (FL) C Cesar Ruiz, American Heritage (FL) OL Tedarrell Slaton and Poly Prep (NY) OL Isaiah Wilson. And I agree, those players are very good bets to join the class. However, I believe Bainivalu will be a part of the class as well and could actually be the next lineman to drop.

With four offensive lineman already committed, it’s highly unlikely Michigan signs eight lineman in this class (though if Onwenu ends up on the DL full time…). If they have Bainivalu, Ruiz, Wilson and Slaton all willing to commit, some current class attrition looks likely. Or in the words of Jim Harbaugh, meritocracy.

As for another Dawg fight, Michigan is playing defense against Georgia for one of their top ranked commitments, Lee County (GA) DT Aubrey Solomon.

Solomon shocked the recruiting world when he committed to Michigan over Georgia, Alabama and every other southern power on his first visit to campus. It was a move no one saw coming and, as expected, most SEC analysts don’t believe it will stick.

Well, the newly minted Army All-American’s latest interview isn’t helping combat that belief.

After it looked like he was going to pretty much shut down his recruitment, the big man has plans to make a couple non-Michigan visits. Solomon told Dawgs247’s Kipp Adams that not only would he not rule out Georgia but he plans on making “a lot” of visits to Athens this fall ($).

Yeah, not good.

While I still think Michigan holds onto Solomon because of the educational opportunities in Ann Arbor and the opportunity to play right away, his openness and willingness to make multiple visits to one of UM’s biggest challengers is a bit alarming.

To hold on to Solomon, Jim Harbaugh and the entire staff have an epic recruiting battle ahead of them. After seeing his performance in his season opener, expect Michigan to be all hands on deck from here on out:

Don’t Forget About Us

Two names that are top targets for the staff that haven’t received a ton of pub are Kennedale (TX) LB Baron Browning and St. Mary’s (CA) ATH Popo Aumavae.

Browning is a five star, top 10 talent in the class that visited Michigan in June alongside his brother, Barry Browning, who played for Harbaugh at Stanford. Though not a ton of information came out of that trip, it clearly looked to stick with him.

The Wolverine247 is hearing positive things regarding Michigan and Browning, including multiple sources telling him Michigan should be considered among the favorites to land the five star talent ($).

While I’m not very bullish on Michigan’s chances here, an official visit this fall could change my thoughts a bit. Browning is expected to announce his commitment on November 29th and with the staff said to have cut down their linebacker board to just a couple names, look for UM to push hard to lock in that return visit.

As for Aumavae, the jumbo athlete spoke with Scout’s Greg Biggins about his recruitment and upcoming visits. That included him talking about his relationship Michigan’s Tony Tuioti and his plans to visit Ann Arbor ($).

Aumavae is a player to remember this fall. He can play all along the offensive line but may be best suited for defensive tackle. If Michigan misses on Bingham (UT) DT Jay Tufele, they could really ramp up their pursuit of Aumavae.

Quick Hitters

Photo Credit: Ian Bethune/GameTimeCT