Inside the Fish Bowl Recaps the 2021 Early Signing Day

After the year we all just went through, today actually felt somewhat normal as the familiar Signing Day drama and storylines showed up to keep everyone on their toes.

Though this class is unlike any ever as campus visits were canceled for most of the year meaning a large portion of this class is signing without visiting the campus or meeting face to face with their future coaches. Not to mention, a lot of them didn’t or hardly played their senior seasons. But like all of us, the recruits were ready to get his year over with and move on to 2021.

Michigan had so many questions surrounding Jim Harbaugh and its entire coaching staff’s future, which meant most expected it to be rough day. And it did start off a little rough as they suffered a couple of flips on the defensive side of the ball. However, as the day wrapped up, the wins far outweighed those losses as Michigan signed 20 players and have room for more.

So, let’s dive into to my takeaways from Michigan’s 2021 Early Signing Day:

Big Wins

The biggest fish in the open pond was West Bloomfield (MI) RB Donovan Edwards and though all the predictions were in for Michigan heading into his final decision, there was still that slight sense of uncertainty until his LOI was signed.

Edwards held his presser in a snowstorm at the 50 yard line of the West Bloomfield football field. It was so #PureMichigan. There was no way he couldn’t not choose the Wolverines, right? Right.

Edwards is the highest-rated running back commitment of the 247Sports rankings era and has the chance to play early and often in Ann Arbor. This was one of the most important wins of the Harbaugh era.

While Michigan had to win over Edwards, the staff had to worry about winning over and holding onto Central East (CA) WR Xavier Worthy, who was choosing between sticking with Michigan and joining the Alabama juggernaut.

Though he did his best to keep everyone off of his scent, things never really took off with the Crimson Tide. Worthy wanted to be a Wolverine but questions surrounding the coaching staff had him keeping his options open and there isn’t a better option than Alabama.

The four-star went with his heart and stuck true to his original commitment by signing with Michigan.

Like Edwards, Worthy is a guy that could and should come in and make an instant impact. Game breaking speed is deadly and the newest weapon for the Wolverines has more of it than any other recruit in the 2021 class.

There were two other commitments that were threats to flip on Early Signing Day. Both of whom are teammates at Florida powerhouse, St. Thomas Aquinas. That would be CB Ja’Den McBurrows and LB Jaydon Hood, both of whom were seen as near toss-ups to flip to nearby Miami.

Without ever visiting Ann Arbor or meeting their coaches face-to-face, it was hard to tell if McBurrows and Hood would stick with Michigan. There were plenty of rumors and message board arguments over the matter up until Early Signing Day.

Hood was originally not expected to make a final decision until National Signing Day in February but decided to wrap things up just before his teammate on Wednesday night.

Soon after Hood made it official and stuck it out with Michigan, McBurrows went live on Instagram to announce that he would be signing with the Wolverines as well.

Though just three-stars, getting the talented St. Thomas Aquinas defensive duo was gigantic for this 2021 recruiting class. Michigan only had one defensive back on board and that was S Rod Moore, so it was apparent the staff had to sign a cornerback this cycle. Add in losing LB Branden Jennings to Maryland and keeping Hood was key.

The Talented Triplets

Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin were the originals. Michigan once had Chad Henne, Mike Hart and Mario Manningham. Now it’ll have JJ McCarthy, Donovan Edwards, and Xavier Worthy.

Lofty expectations for sure but McCarthy, Edwards and Worthy are all players that thrive on pressure and have both the talent and recruiting rankings to back it up.

Now, have plenty brought up the swing and miss that was 2013’s Shane Morris, Derrick Green, and Laquon Treadwell, who took the…opportunities at Ole Miss over what Michigan had to offer. But this 2021 trio, though not collectively ranked as high on the Composite, actually all ended up signing with the Wolverines. And the most important position, quarterback, is in favor of the 2021 class.

Signing Day Blues

Michigan wasn’t going to be lucky enough to slip through the Early Signing Period unscathed, not with the questions surrounding the coaching staff’s future with the program. And it has cost them two of their top 2021 defensive recruits.

Sandalwood (FL) LB/DE Branden Jennings is a one-time Florida State commit that left the Seminoles class at the end of the summer and joined Michigan’s in mid-October. One of Michigan’s top 110 commits looked to be solid to the Wolverines even through the season struggles but as Jim Harbaugh’s contract rumors picked up, Maryland moved in.

Saguaro (AZ) DE Quintin Somerville was committed to Michigan much longer than Jennings, as his connection with DL coach Shaun Nua put the Wolverines over the top. And all signs pointed to him ending up signing with Michigan just ahead of the Early Signing Period but things clearly changed prior to making it official as news broke on Tuesday night of UCLA pulling off the flip.

As for a potential surprise, that ended up not happening as CB Omarion Cooper decided to stick and sign with Florida State. Michigan made the table for the hat selection but out of the two, Cooper stuck with his original choice.

Now Until NSD

  • Left on the Board
    • DT Rayshaun Benny
      • One of the biggest developments of the Early Signing Day was the four-star defensive tackle not signing with Michigan State and news coming out from 247Sports Steve Wiltfong, TMI’s Sam Webb, and The Wolverine’s EJ Holland all reporting on Michigan’s odds increasing. This is definitely one to watch extremely close up until National Signing Day, especially if Harbaugh’s contract is extended.
    • CB Ceyair Wright
      • Waiting to announce his decision at the All American Bowl ceremony on January 2nd, Wright is the top cornerback left on the board. Michigan may be running 3rd behind USC and Notre Dame, and may need to pull off a miracle to receive his commitment and signature.
    • DT George Rooks
      • The St. Peters standout ended up holding off on making a final decision. He still has Boston College and Penn State near the top of his list and like with Wright, Michigan may be running 3rd as the defensive staff looks to be undergoing changes. He’s always showed strong interest in the Wolverines. A strong push from the staff, new or not, would make this a recruitment to watch closely.
  • Transfer Portal
    • The main name to watch is Western Michigan LB Treshaun Hayward is from Ann Arbor and just so happened to be the 2019 MAC Defensive Player of the Year. Michigan already made one splash in the past adding a standout MAC defensive standout (Cental Michigan DE Mike Danna).
    • Defensive tackle will also be an obvious position to watch though most of the top names in the portal have made their decisions. More names will likely jump in the portal over the next couple of months so stay tuned.

Props to the Staff

Wrapping up a top 10 class with a million questions in public about their futures and also adding so many signees that never even made it to campus, including the two St. Thomas Aquinas defensive gets that dropped at the end of the night.

Now it’s time for Warde Manual and Jim Harbaugh to figure out the contract situation. If he’s indeed signing on for more years, changes will be coming to the coaching staff. That is something else that should be a quick move as they’ll need to recruit the remaining months until National Signing Day and begin developing the young talent up and down the roster.

Photo Credit: Aaron Bills/Michigan Football

Garrett Fishaw