With the 2015 class over half way wrapped up and the remaining spots looking all but locked up, it\’s time to move onto 2016 and boy does it look promising.
Hoke and staff have already landed the commitment of the class\’ quarterback and recruiting leader, Messiah deWeaver, as well as a future left tackle in Erik Swenson. It\’s a great start but there are a lot of big fish on the board that Michigan has a fantastic (yes, fantastic) chance to land.
Here are the top targets at each position for Team 136:
Quarterback: Messiah deWeaver*
– The Michigan commit is underrated but starting to gain a lot of steam with his performances in national camps and the growth of his body. He was a lanky, finesse quarterback last season but has added muscle mass and height to go along with a much stronger arm. With all of the top targets the Wolverines had a chance with, it shows how much Coach Nussmeier thinks of deWeaver to extend and accept a commitment from the junior signal caller. If you\’re not excited about his addition, I suggest you start to get excited. He has great size and accuracy, and is recruiting the top guys the coaches are targeting. Be excited.
Running Back: Kareem Walker and Elijah Holyfield
-After adding Mike Weber (and Ty Isaac) in 2015, the coaching staff will still be in the market for two running backs in this class and they are in good standing with several top guys. But the two guys stand out above all the rest: Kareem Walker and Elijah Holyfield.
Walker is the #1 back in the class (according to every site) and the top guy on the staff\’s board. He has that elite speed and home run hitting ability that is missing on the depth chart. The De Paul Catholic star visited this August and came away very impressed which was expected, especially with his friend Jabrill Peppers on the roster. If Team 135 puts in a big year, I think there\’s a very good chance the Wolverines could land him and open up that New Jersey pipeline even more.
As far as Holyfield goes, he looks like the better bet of the two to be in the class. He is a physical specimen that has a pitbull like running style that Michigan fans would love. The son of the former Heavyweight Champ, Evander Holyfield, visited Ann Arbor twice this summer, including participating in the camp and taking in the BBQ at the Big House, and has come away extremely impressed both times. The visits have been so good that many analysts believe the Wolverines may have a nice, early lead.
Wide Receiver: Austin Mack and Dylan Crawford
– Another position that Michigan has done a great job recruiting early is receiver and the staff is very high on two of the top rated guys in the class: Austin Mack and Dylan Crawford.
Mack is ranked 99th in the class (according to 247Sports) and is that big, physical receiver that the coaches have continued to target. He has the ability to go up and get the ball over defensive backs and make the acrobatic catch. With deWeaver building a very good relationship with him, and his consistent visits to Ann Arbor, it looks like the Wolverines will be in this one until the end but will have to fight off the usual suspects in OSU and Notre Dame.
Crawford is one of the most polished receivers in the class and one of those weapons that every offensive coordinator dreams of having. His ability to make plays on the inside and out is why he is ranked 44th in the country (according to 247Sports) and Michigan is heavily targeting him. Though he is from California, it looks like the Wolverines have a great chance at landing him thanks to a great visit over the summer, which he called the best of his visits.
I\’m not saying you should completely read into this, but 247Sports\’ Steve Lorenz ($) was able to confirm that the Crawford is in fact throwing up the Michigan \”M\” in his Twitter profile picture. Don\’t sleep on Crawford, he\’s a legit option.
Tight End: Luke Farrell and Naseir Upshur
– The coaching staff has done a great job getting in early with their top targets and making an impression. The two guys who seem to have the most interest in the Wolverines are in the heart of Big Ten country: Ohio\’s Luke Farrell and Pennsylvania\’s Naseir Upshur.
Farrell is a prototypically sized tight end that can be a big time playmaker in the passing game. He has visited Ann Arbor multiple times and has been told that he is at the top of the board. This is big since it looks like it will be a Michigan-OSU battle and the Buckeyes are unable to sell him as being the #1 target with Jake Hausmann (247\’s #1 tight end) looking like a lock to end up in Columbus.
Upshur is more of an old school, blocking and pass catching tight end that the coaches love. He has a fantastic relationship with Coach Ferrigno and with the staff extending an early offer, it looks like the Wolverines are near or at the top of his list. But it won\’t be easy landing him, he has racked up 25 offers from all over the country and is likely to receive many more after his junior season. After speaking with him, I really like Michigan\’s chances.
Offensive Line: Erik Swenson*, Clark Yarbrough and Ben Bredeson
There may not be a position that the staff has done a better job recruiting in this class than the offensive line. They landed a commitment from long time Wolverine fan and elite offensive tackle Erik Swenson very early and are likely looking to take 4-5 guys in this class, and it looks like two of the top lineman in the country are the top options: OT Clark Yarbrough and OL Ben Bredeson.
Yarbrough was an unknown name up until his multiple summer visits that seemed to, not only impress the star tackle, but possibly push Michigan to the top of his list. He is an athletic tackle that is raw but has all of the traits the coaching staff looks for in a future left or right tackle. Like several others on this list, I really like the Wolverine\’s chances here.
Bredeson is one of the best talents, regardless of position, in the country, without question. He is a versatile lineman that could play any spot on the line but I think will end up on the interior. Early on, it looked like he was a lock to stay in-state and go to Wisconsin but after multiple visits (in which the staff fully impressed) and his older brother committing to the Michigan baseball team, it looks like Bredeson could have the Maize and Blue at the top of his list.
Defensive Tackle: Rashan Gary
Gary is a beast. He\’s the best player in the entire class (IMO and many others) and is likely the #1 guy on the staff\’s board. The mixture of athleticism, speed, size and tenacity makes him an ideal fit on the interior and a nightmare for every opposing defensive coordinator. And lucky for Michigan, he is very high on them as well.
The Wolverines have a ton going in their favor for Gary, including his high standards in academics, his family that lives in the Detroit area, his fit in the defense, his high school (Paramus Catholic; Jabrill Peppers and Juwann Bushell-Beatty\’s alma mater) and his relationship with Coach Manning. Look for the staff to try to get him onto campus as soon as possible to show off the program and University\’s educational excellence to him and his mother.
247Sports\’ Steve Wiltfong has a great piece on the talented youngster ($).
Defensive End: Josh King
The staff will likely take two defensive ends in 2015 and will be looking to take at least two in this class. And luckily there are several recruits that are high on the board but none seem to be higher than Army All-American Josh King out of Illinois.
King is the #45 player in the class (according to 247Sports) and one of the best players in the Midwest regardless of position. He has visited Ann Arbor multiple times (spring game and BBQ) and loved each visit. It is early but it looks like it will end up being a regional battle between Michigan, Notre Dame, OSU and MSU. With a good year on the field, I like Michigan\’s chances.
Linebacker: Dele Harding
2016 is stacked with talented linebackers but the staff has only extended three offers and two of those guys are committed elsewhere. The other guy is one of the surest targets on the board for the Wolverines: Dele\’ Harding.
Harding is a talented but underrated prospect that could play the SAM, WILL, or even the MIKE (reminds me of James Ross). After the coaches were able to get another up close and personal look at him during his 2nd summer camp visit, he landed his offer. And now it looks like it\’s just a matter of time until he commits to Team 136.
Defensive Back: LaVert Hill
Michigan is putting together one of the best secondaries, not only in the Big Ten, but in the nation thanks to fantastic recruiting, and it looks like it should continue into 2016 with LaVert Hill.
Hill is an elite cover corner out of Cass Tech that reminds me of current Wolverine and former Technician Jourdan Lewis. His own defensive coordinator, Jermaine Crowell, thinks he will be \”the best guy I\’ve ever coached\”. That is saying a ton since Cass Tech has produced several top defensive backs, including his brother Delano Hill, Lewis, Damon Webb, Terry Richardson and Delonte Hollowell.
He has visited Ann Arbor several times and enjoyed every visit. Like the Crystal Ball predictions, I think he ends up in the Maize and Blue when things are all said and done.
If Michigan ends up with half of these guys, it should be another fantastic class for Brady Hoke and the Wolverines.