Seek and Destroy: Top 2016 Defensive Targets on the Board

When taking over the Michigan program, there is one thing that Jim Harbaugh knew he had was a defense. The 2014 crew finished the season in the top 10 and the 2015 crew has been the best in the nation for the majority of the season (so far). But even with most of that talent returning in 2016, the staff is looking to build the depth behind those starters and keep the defense among the nation’s best for years to come.

With only 8 defensive commits in the class so far but that number could very likely drop with some future decommitments. Luckily, the staff has done a great job at building up the defensive board and has several options to fill out the class:

Defensive Tackle

  1. Rashan Gary
    • Gary is the #1 player in the country and the #1 player on the Michigan board. No surprise there. But what has surprised some outside of the Michigan recruiting world is the fact that Gary looks likely to end up committing and signing with the Wolverines, barring any drastic changes.
  2. Jordan Elliott
    • The former Baylor and Houston commit has had some issues with commitment throughout his recruitment but that happens a lot with players making decisions before they’re ready. That being said, the new flavor of the month is Michigan and this one looks like it could very well stick. According to The Michigan Insider’s Sam Webb, Elliott’s strongest bond is with Michigan ($). That includes his mother who, per Wolverine247’s Steve Lorenz, “loves Michigan” and wants her son to play away from home ($). With him taking his official in the middle of December and UM in need of defensive tackles, I really like where things stand here.
  3. Keyshon Camp
    • The name not to forget on the defensive tackle board, Camp is currently committed to USC but looks like a legit option to flip his commitment thanks to the lack of a head coach for the Trojans. And thanks to the staff’s pursuit and his high school teammate and friend, Reuben Jones, already apart of the Michigan program, the Wolverines are the most likely to pull off that flip. But with the other tackles starting to sway towards UM, that decision may have to be made quickly.
  4. Chris Daniels
    • Out of the four defensive tackles, Daniels looks to be the least likely to end up signing with Michigan though that’s not saying it couldn’t happen. He has several ties to the state and has his official visit to Ann Arbor this weekend. My Oklahoma source believes he’ll be a Sooner but Michigan could throw a wrench into that plan this weekend. I believe it comes down to how hard the staff pushes for him and if a spot is available.

Defensive End

  1. Connor Murphy
    • By now, everyone knows about how Jim Harbaugh recruited and coached Murphy’s older brother, Trent, to Stanford and even babysat Connor while visiting the family years ago. And while there isn’t a recruit that has a closer connection to the head coach, it’s unknown if Murphy will have a spot in this class. He’s very high on UM but has yet to visit and with all of the other needs and top targets on the board, another defensive end spot in in question.

BUCK

  1. Carlo Kemp
    • Kemp is expected to be the next name on the board to drop. Will that be to Michigan or Notre Dame? That is still a toss up, though just about every UM analyst still feels good about the Wolverines chances. The decision should come soon and, as the top BUCK linebacker on the board, the staff would be ecstatic about his addition.
  2. Caleb Kelly
    • Kelly is one of the highest ranked players left on the board but it’s unknown exactly how high the staff is on him. They are still said to be recruiting him but look to have other players above him at the linebacker position. His recruitment will go to the wire but my Oklahoma source feels like Kelly ends up as a Sooner. We’ll see how the UM staff pushes for him to see if they can regain their footing (sounds pretty similar to Chris Daniels, huh?).

Linebacker

  1. Devin Bush Jr
    • The known top linebacker target on the board looked like a lock to Michigan since the spring and I even heard about him possibly committing around the 4th of July. Oh how things have changed. According to 247Sports’ National Recruiting Analyst Clint Brewster, Bush’s mother wants him to follow in his father’s footsteps and go to Florida State ($). We all know how big mothers are in recruiting and if that is indeed the case, it’s not good for Michigan. However, with how high UM has Bush on their board, they’ll likely stay after him until he signs his LOI.
  2. Dontavious Jackson
    • Jackson is the highest rated inside linebacker on the board and was rumored to be favoring Michigan so much during his spring game visit that he nearly committed. But he held off and UM has clearly fallen off a bit though I believe they could jump back to the top of his list during/soon after his official visit for the OSU game. His recruitment will be one to watch, especially if Bush does commit to FSU. The staff could go all-in on D-Jack, if they haven’t already.
  3. Jonathan Jones
    • Jones has had Michigan as his leader for the majority of 2015, though his official visit to Notre Dame at the end of September may have changed things a bit. Because of that, his plan to hold off on committing until after his officials and the possibility a spot could be gone, I had Jones off of my last couple Best Guess Recruiting Classes. Well, he may need to be added again. He’ll officially visit Michigan for the OSU game and with multiple spots looking like they’ll be open, the staff could push hard for a commitment from the Orlando star.

Cornerback 

  1. David Long
    • Long and long been the top corner on the board for the staff. He was quickly offered and targeted by the staff once they finished up their 2015 class, and it paid off once he visited Ann Arbor for the MSU game. Though he’s still committed to Stanford, Wolverine247’s Steve Lorenz’s source is expecting a decommitment to happen ($). If/when that happens, Michigan will very likely be the heavy favorite here.
  2. Lavert Hill
    • Hill is another top cornerback target that is committed elsewhere and is likely to end up in this class. He’s been committed to Penn State since last spring but that commitment looks more like a bookmark at this point just waiting to go to a different page. And that page is Michigan where his brother, Delano Hill, is starting at safety. Unless something drastic happens, it looks like a matter of time before he flips to UM.
  3. Lamar Jackson
    • After his official visit for the MSU game, Jackson let me know Michigan leads in his recruitment. However, he may not have a shot at becoming a Wolverine as Wolverine247’s Steve Lorenz is hearing that Michigan is no longer targeting him ($). That’s a bit of a shocker though most believed it was a long shot to pull him out of the west coast anyways.

Safety

  1. Jordan Fuller
    • With three New Jersey commitments already on board and Rashan Gary and Kareem Walker looking likely to join them, Fuller is the final piece of the Garden State puzzle for Michigan. He’s another player UM has heavily targeted since early in the process and that consistent pursuit may pay off in the long run. His recruitment looks to be up in the air (OSU was favorited for awhile) and with his NJ buddies trying to pull him to UM, things are looking more and more positive for Michigan.

Athlete

  1. Khaleke Hudson
    • Hudson is the latest offered 2016 prospect and one to keep an eye on. He looks to be very open to Michigan and, according to Steve Lorenz, Michigan is definitely going to push to get him ($). While a position is not set yet, he looks to be best fit as a linebacker/safety hybrid.

There are several other names on the board and name that will be added to the board but the names listed above are the most likely for the class at this moment.

Out of all of the names listed, Michigan looks to have a very realistic shot at landing almost every single one. While that obviously won’t happen, the staff has set themselves up nicely to end the defensive side of the class on a high note.

Stay tuned and make sure not to miss a single update, post, tweet or video by subscribing to the site (it’s right below the post), following @MGoFish on Twitter, liking MGoFish on Facebook and subscribing to the new MGoFish YouTube channel

Photo Credit: