Inside the Fish Bowl is Focusing on Four Until NSD

Hey there. It’s been awhile. Sorry about the mini-break there but I may have needed a week off to get ready for the push to National Signing Day on February 1st and, not to mention, my legs are still a little shaky after getting off the Najee Harris roller coaster last weekend. But, we’re back, and there’s plenty to talk about, including the top remaining targets on the board and the aftermath of the Harris recruitment.

The lid’s off the bowl. So, grab your swimsuit and dive inside the latest Michigan football recruiting update:

The Fantastic Four

After already filling every need on the recruiting needs board, the Michigan coaching staff is now looking to put the cherry on top of the 2017 class. And that would come with any combination of the top four names on the staff’s board. Here’s the latest on each one:

DT Aubrey Solomon

Solomon is the lone composite five star on the list and, like the last top ranked target, looks to be set for another wacky ending to his recruitment between Michigan and Alabama.

After decommitting from Michigan in August thanks to a Thank You Note Gate, the odds of Solomon rejoining the class were far from good. But things changed once Solomon was able to get his mother to Ann Arbor for his official visit in early November. That trip was said to put Michigan back on top of his recruitment.

So, Michigan will get the elite level defensive tackle it desperately wants, right? If signing day were in November, that may have been the case. But the roller coaster had just begun.

Heading into the Army All-American Bowl week, he was one of the names to watch closest. And he did not disappoint.

Solomon told multiple reporters, including DawgNation’s Jeff Sentell, that Alabama was his leader “by a lot” throughout the bowl week.

And then his, now infamous, Periscope video came out, where he said some pretty unflattering things about Michigan.

This was followed up by a Twitter notes apology. But that wasn’t what was surprising. That came from TMI’s Sam Webb, who has been very close to this recruitment for awhile, and learned that the video was far from what Solomon really felt about the Wolverines. Webb put out a quick blog post about why Michigan fans should ease up on their criticism of Solomon because it’s ridiculous to do so and the fact that the big man was still very much an option to be a part of this class ($).

Webb then followed that post up with some more positive intel about Solomon, mentioning that there’s enough for him to make him a “gut feeling” projection into the class but he’s not going there just yet because of Solomon’s history of switching things up ($). He’s been talking with Solomon’s mother for awhile now and she’s said to be all aboard the Michigan train.

But Webb wasn’t the only person hearing positive things after the Periscope profanity.

247Sports’ national analyst, Ryan Bartow, also heard some extremely positive intel on Solomon and Michigan. So good that he put in his Crystal Ball for the five star to end up back with the Maize and Blue ($):

Per a source, Solomon reached out to his high school staff following the bowl game in San Antonio indicating he’s planning to commit to the Wolverines.

Solomon, per a source, indicated a similar message to Michigan’s staff later in the evening.

As two of the most trusted names in the business, Michigan fans have to feel good with Webb and Bartow hearing good things. But they’re not the only analysts hearing good things as Wolverine247’s Steve Lorenz has learned that members of Solomon’s camp aren’t big fans of Bama ($).

Positivity is a good thing here for Michigan but, like we all saw with Najee Harris, every analyst can be wrong and recruiting a five star talent isn’t over until it’s over. That’s especially the case with a recruit like Solomon and when Nick Saban and Alabama are involved. So, because of that, my Crystal Ball will likely stay on Foggy here.

Look for more positive news to come out about Michigan and Solomon following the staff’s visit to Lee County this week.

SIDE NOTE: As for the other defensive tackle on the board, Jay Tufele, it looks more and more likely that he stays on the west coast to play his college ball.

WR Nico Collins

Collins is the safest bet on this list, right? Well, that was the case heading into the new year but it looks like the Michigan staff has another battle with the SEC on its hands heading into National Signing Day.

For a couple weeks now, the Georgia talk has been increasing for Collins. The push from the Dawgs to keep Collins down south looks to be resonating with the big receiver.

While most people are hearing that Georgia is making a move, the Michigan analysts closest to this recruitment have yet to change their predictions on Collins. And I feel the same way. Pep Hamilton is a proven coach at both the collegiate and NFL levels. He shouldn’t have too much trouble selling Nico and his family on his credibility and ability to utilize Collins’ abilities in Ann Arbor.

But, this is college football recruiting. And nothing is a sure thing. Add in Georgia’s already proven ability to sway a longtime Michigan lean and anything could happen from now until February 1st.

LB Willie Gay

While he’s not the highest ranked recruit left on the board, Gay is the guy I think would make the biggest and quickest impact at Michigan. Even more so than Najee Harris, had he ended up in Ann Arbor. And that’s why I would put him at the top of the staff’s “wish list”. But they have some work to do to check his name off as he now has a new leader at the top of his board.

Gay told 247Sports’ Ryan Bartow that he “almost committed” to LSU after his first phone call with head coach Ed Orgeron ($). That was just the start of the sway for the highly ranked linebacker as plenty of Crystal Balls have come in from highly respected predictors, including 247Sports’ Steve Wiltfong.

But it’s not all completely negative.

While TMI’s Sam Webb also reported that Gay told him that LSU has a “slight lead” during the Army Bowl week ($), he also added that Gay’s mother and aunt still want him in Ann Arbor.

Wolverine247’s Steve Lorenz is also hearing the LSU buzz but mentioned several positives that Michigan has in its favor, including the very real chance to replace Jabrill Peppers at the VIPER position right away ($). He also told Lorenz there was a “50/50” shot he takes another visit to Ann Arbor before NSD, which he mentioned would be a significant factor.

And I completely agree. Gay quickly decommitted from Ole Miss and named Michigan his leader after his one and only visit to Ann Arbor (official visit for the Illinois game on October 22nd). He’s said Michigan was like “home” on multiple occasions. If the staff can get him on campus again this late in the process, it may be too much to overcome for LSU and Mississippi State, especially with MSU changing defensive coordinators. But that’s a big “if”.

OT Mekhi Becton

After missing on Isaiah Wilson and landing Chuck Filiaga, Michigan’s full attention in terms of 2017 offensive lineman looks to be on Becton. Though he’s not he game ready prospect that Wilson is, he’s another huge, raw tackle prospect that has a high ceiling. And Michigan looks to be pretty set on bringing him in to see how he could develop in Ann Arbor.

Becton told Landof10’s Brandon Justice that Michigan was his leader prior to his Louisville official, which Becton updated after the trip, telling Justice that UL and UM are “neck and neck”.

According to TMI’s Brice Marich, Michigan is set to visit Becton at least twice before NSD, including today (the 16th) and Jim Harbaugh heading to see him next week ($).

I put Becton in my last Best Guess Recruiting Class and will very likely put him in my next class prediction. That’s barring any news that Michigan all of a sudden doesn’t view him as a take. But with the need for another offensive tackle in this class, that looks unlikely at this point.

Swing and a Miss(es)?

So, Najee Harris is at Alabama and most of us Michigan recruiting analysts were wrong. But, like everyone has mentioned many times, almost every sign was pointing towards the Wolverines. “Almost” being the key word there.

But that didn’t happen and now Michigan will have to regroup to keep its remaining running back commits in this class.

The main guy the staff is making sure stays blue is O’Maury Samuels, who has had a couple questions surrounding him for quite sometime. And that was before the Harris talk truly picked up.

With the Harris pursuit included into the academic questions and Samuels’ other official visits, Sam Webb is hearing this is no longer a “slam dunk” for Michigan ($).

Without many options on the open market, Michigan will have to pull out all of the stops to make sure Samuels sticks. Not only is he a legit running back prospect but there also looks to be a chance UM’s other commit could end up elsewhere.

Michigan State made some recruiting news for the first time in awhile as they landed the commitment of former Ohio State linebacker commit and Ann Arbor Pioneer standout Antjuan Simmons and by offering longtime Michigan running back commit Kurt Taylor:

This is an interesting offer.

Taylor is the longest commitment in this class (besides Brad Hawkins but that’s a different situation) and has looked to be locked into that decision since his announcement. But with the staff showing how interested it was in bringing in another player and playing time already looking like it could be a tough thing to find for quite sometime in Ann Arbor, it wouldn’t have shocked me to see Taylor at least look around at other options.

Now throw in a legit offer like the one from Michigan State and things look like they could get very interesting here.

Taylor spoke with MLive’s Matt Wenzel about his plans to now officially visit MSU after receiving the offer. As for the chance to flip from the Wolverines to the Spartans, Taylor said, “I honestly don’t know yet”.

This one will likely come down to pursuit. If Michigan State prioritizes him from now until NSD while Michigan focuses mainly on Samuels, it wouldn’t shock me at all to see the longtime commit flip to the Spartans. Keep an eye on reports mentioning how hard UM is pushing.

Quick Hitters

Photo Credit: Chris Todd/For The Clarion-Ledger

Garrett Fishaw