Michigan’s Most Important Targets Heading into National Signing Day

Signing Day is a mere fortnight away now. The recruiting boat is full steam ahead, and Harbaugh’s version of the recruiting boat is firing all the harder. Most thought he couldn’t top his antics leading up to NSD, when he slept at Quinn Nordin’s house, climbed a tree at David Long’s house, and dabbed furiously across the country. This time around, in a recent visit to 5-star Lee County (GA) DT Aubrey Solomon, according to TMI’s Sam Webb ($), not only did he bring his daughter Addison (after his wife just gave birth to their 7th child), he went go-karting with Solomon’s younger sister as his passenger.

Photo Credit: Sam Webb/TheMichiganInsider

Photo Credit: Sam Webb/TheMichiganInsider

I haven’t heard back from the Library of Congress about immortalizing this photo.

It makes perfect sense that Harbaugh is down south visiting Solomon. Now that Najee Harris is off the board, Solomon takes the lead for weirdest recruitment of the year so far; after cussing out Michigan on Periscope, Michigan still has a fighting chance to land him and make this already powerhouse of a class that much better. Clearly the staff thinks he is worth the fight. Here are the most important recruits that Michigan needs to land down the stretch.

1) DT Aubrey Solomon

We know a lot about Solomon’s trip but at the same time, we don’t. His mom loves Michigan but is #ThankYouNoteGate still in the back of her head? I’ve  include him in a must-get because of the state of Michigan’s interior line after next season. Maurice Hurst returning for a fifth season is a godsend, but that’s only one spot. Bryan Mone showed flashes of dominance last season but he has lots of injury concerns and after those two, it most likely falls to Rashan Gary to slide inside and play some three-tech. The 2017 group boasts lots of edge rushers (Vilain, Paye, Jeter, Irving-Bey, Malone-Hatcher, Hudson), but there is a lot of work to be done on the interior. Solomon’s size alone would help stop the run, but his skillset would complement Don Brown’s pass-rush beautifully.

The boss man has his Crystal Ball in to Michigan even though he still named Alabama as his leader after that amazing trip to the race track. This has the looks of another roller coaster recruitment heading into National Signing Day. 

2) OLB Willie Gay

Gay has equally been hard to read throughout his recruitment. He named Michigan his leader after visiting Michigan in October for the Illinois game, which quickly resulted in him decommitting from Ole Miss afterwards, but recently has dropped hints that he’s apt to stay down south. Even though Michigan has a deeply talented linebacking class coming in already with Josh Ross, Jordan Anthony, Ben Mason and Drew Singleton, the future past 2017 isn’t quite bleak, but it’s certainly foggy. Mike McCray, who improved greatly down the stretch last year and performed admirably on a Peppers-less defense in the Orange Bowl, will share the duties with Devin Bush, but there have to be some subs. Gay has the speed to play on the edge, athleticism to cover backs out of the backfield, and the size to plug the holes in a more traditional linebacking role. While Ross and Mason are textbook MIKEs and the Anthony/Singleton combination will do wonders for the overall athleticism and on theedges, but having Gay who can do both would be a terrific cushion. 

At this point, it looks to be a heated battle between Michigan, LSU and Mississippi State, with the Wolverines and Tigers looking to be in the best shape to land the talented Mississippi standout.

3) OG CJ Thorpe

Thorpe is committed to Penn State at the moment, but that didn’t stop Lavert Hill, Michael Dwumfour, or Quinn Nordin from flipping to Michigan down the stretch last year. The Wolverines class is currently deep at tackle (Filiaga, Hall, Honigford, Steuber, Herbert) and obviously Cesar Ruiz is the center of the future, but guard is up for grabs. Common sense says Mike Onwenu takes the right guard position, but there are a couple of options for the left guard. Ben Bredeson was there last year and was exploited as one of the bigger weaknesses on the line, which makes sense because his primary position (and likely future position) is tackle. Ruiz could slide in and play guard though I’d like him to redshirt behind Cole and then have four years at center with Brandon Peters and/or Dylan McCaffrey.

Adding in Thorpe, whose rating muscled up after the Under Armour All America Game, would relieve many of those questions. If Newsome isn’t healthy, Bredeson could slide back to tackle, Thorpe can play his home position of guard, Onwenu can play the other guard position, and just like that, the line is much better.

This option is starting to gain a little momentum but still looks like a bit of a long shot. However, with Michigan making multiple in-home visits and getting Thorpe on campus for an official visit right before NSD, this is a recruitment to watch closely. 

4) Keeping O’Maury Samuels and Kurt Taylor

Losing AJ Dillon really hurt in the grief bone, and losing the Najee Harris sweepstakes hurt too, but Michigan’s running backs are in good shape…for now. After being offered by Mark Dantonio himself, Kurt Taylor is visiting Michigan State at the end of the month while Samuels has been flirting with Arizona. My maize-colored glasses say that it would make more sense for both to pick Michigan, but I’m obviously a bit of a homer. As it stands, the running backs on the roster (Evans, Walker, Higdon, Davis, maybe Isaac) are plenty capable, and adding the speedy Samuels and bone-rattling Taylor would be great stylistic additions to the class. While losing either would hurt immensely and make depth a pseudo-concern.  

All things considered, these next few weeks shouldn’t be as stressful as last year’s. A lot of players are off the board and Michigan only has a few battles left to win. Sitting at 27 commits, Michigan’s Signing Day shouldn’t have the amount of drama last year’s did with the Rashan Gary announcement. Though you can never rule out Solomon’s roller coaster ride having a few final flips and spins. 

As it stands, Michigan’s class is an all-timer for the program (they could just about field an entire freshman team if they wanted to), but adding these few players makes it more complete than incredible. I did not include Nico Collins or Oliver Martin, even though they’re both very real options to join the class, because I’m thrilled with the wide receivers Michigan already has committed; Peoples-Jones, Black, and Hawkins are all men among boys on their highlight tapes and are the legit outside and deep threats that they could never really get going with Darboh and Chesson last year. Collins and Martin aren’t crucial additions, more exorbitant luxuries.

Who do you think Michigan needs to wrap up the 2017 class with most? Let us know in the comment section below! 

Header photo: David Johnson/247 Sports

Bill Getschman