Michigan doesn't have as many stark needs as it did two years ago when Brady Hoke first took over as head coach. However, the Wolverines are desperate to sign high-end talent at the receiver position ...
http-equiv="content-type"> 2008 Scholi Chart
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style="font-weight: bold; color: rgb(246, 246, 248);">2014 Eligibility Distribution Chart
Rs-Freshman or Soph.
Shane Morris (1)
Brian Cleary (W)
Russell Bellomy (41)style="font-size:12.0pt;font-family:" times="" new="" roman";="" mso-fareast-font-family:"times="" roman";mso-ansi-language:en-us;mso-fareast-language:="" en-us;mso-bidi-language:ar-sa;mso-no-proof:yes"="">
As Michigan turns its attention from the 2013 class to the 2014 class, numbers are the chief concern. Yesterday, the Wolverines signed 27 football recruits but they have just 14 scholarships to mete out in 2014 at the moment. That figure does not include the likelihood that quarterback Devin Gardner will receive a fifth year of eligibility also, dropping the tally down to 13 scholarships. As always, attrition will take place, and U-M should have three to four more openings, but 2014 is likely to be the first class since 2006 (19) to not sign at least 20 prospects.
So far, U-M has landed players at:
For now, this is what the current state of the team looks like, and here is an updated comprehensive look at U-M's needs for 2014.
2014 Scholarship Quarterbacks: 2
Need on Feb. 7: 0
Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges said this week that it is U-M's intent to sign just one quarterback in each recruiting class, thus it is expected that with Wilton Speight's commitment Feb. 6, the Wolverines are done, just as they were for the 2013 class when four-star Shane Morris pledged to wear the winged helmet. In Speight, the Maize and Blue land a 6-6, 217-pound pro-style pocket passer with better-than-average mobility. He certainly appears to possess the physical tools to be a quarterback of the future, though he'll need to be developed. The good news is there will be no rush in 2014 or even 2015 to play, with Morris and Russell Bellomy jockeying for the starting job after Devin Gardner's departure.
Gardner isn't listed on this current scholarship chart because his redshirt status remains unofficial. However, he is expected to be granted a fifth year of eligibility, and would be the de facto starter in 2014. If that is indeed the case, Michigan will have four scholarship signal-callers on the roster for the first time since 2007 (Chad Henne, Ryan Mallett, David Cone and Steven Threet). That's an ideal number to carry, with two capable starters, one prospect being refined and a rookie.
2014 Scholarship Running Backs: 7
Need on Feb. 7: 1
Michigan's signing of five-star Derrick Green was met with the most fanfare but Borges said not to overlook De'Veon Smith, and in fact, when he committed, he was considered a major coup for the Wolverines. Both Green and Smith project as future starters, and should, at some point, provide U-M with the capable No. 1 rusher it has consistently lacked since Mike Hart's departure in 2007.
The signing of those two, plus Wyatt Shallman, combined with the four ball carriers on the roster already, limits the need for a running back in the 2014 class dramatically. The Maize and Blue don't need a class of three or even two. They might look to sign a fullback and a tailback, but if Shallman eventually moves to the role as a lead blocker (and the coaches should have a better idea on that by next fall), Michigan could afford to take just one player at the position. Probably not another five-star until U-M shows it can get enough carries for multiple backs, but a talented speed back with soft hands and the ability to play in the slot would be ideal.
2014 Scholarship Receivers: 5
Need on Feb. 7: 3
Even with smaller allocations for scholarships in 2014, Michigan will still sign a good class. Its greatness will depend considerably on the receiver position because U-M needs studs, not projects. The Wolverines also need numbers, with just five scholared wideouts slated to return that year -- at the moment none of them having caught a pass. Of the five, four were three-stars, and while they could develop into difference-makers, Michigan is in need of some instant impact talents like a Mario Manningham or David Terrell. In other words, guys with size, speed, an ability to make a big play after the catch and the physicality to win the battle at the line of scrimmage, creating necessary separation.
Michigan has already offered five wide receivers in the 2014 class, all five earning an early four-star ranking. In-state phenom Drake Harris (6-4, 180 pounds) was a Michigan State basketball commitment but has changed his mind, focusing on football and backing off his pledge. He appears to have eyes for the SEC, but U-M won't go down without a fight, especially after missing out on five-star Laquon Treadwell in 2013. There will be others that emerge too, and while it isn't easy to sign three studs, the Maize and Blue need to pull off at least a double whammy with a pair of top-10 wide receivers.
2014 Scholarship Tight Ends: 5
Need on Feb. 7: 1-2
Michigan has signed a pair of tight ends in back-to-back recruiting classes, and is expected to bring back Jordan Paskorz in 2014, but the Wolverines will need to snag at least one end and possibly two if Paskorz doesn't stick around for a fifth year of eligibility. U-M could probably get away with a single tight end in this class if it's a Jake Butt-type -- a combination of blocker and receiver that doesn't need to be subbed out for on running plays or on passing plays. Butt and Khalid Hill could play immediately this season, creating even further proof of how the Maize and Blue intend to use their tight ends and thus proving attractive to the top players at that position nationally.
Overall numbers will be tight in this 2014 class so tight end is a position where the Wolverines could be satisfied with just one player, though much rides on Paskorz. If he leaves, and Michigan's allotment increases by one, that spot would probably go directly to a player aimed to replace his depth.
2014 Scholarship Offensive Linemen: 12
Need on Feb. 7: 4
Even though U-M has signed 10 linemen over the past two recruiting classes, including seven four-stars and five-star Kyle Kalis, the unit still doesn't have the desired 15 scholarship bodies on the roster, and the Wolverines will look to finally bring their totals up to proper standards with the 2014 class. That means signing at least three linemen, and probably four because offensive and defensive linemen are the most difficult to accurately forecast for and the Maize and Blue are intent on rebuilding their line to the physical, dominant championship units of an era long gone by.
2014 Scholarship Cornerbacks: 9
Need on Feb. 7: 1
There is a reason Michigan's scholarship opportunities are limited in 2014 -- it has signed 52 players over the past two recruiting cycles, including six cornerbacks and five safeties. There just aren't as many glaring needs, allowing U-M to be selective at certain positions like defensive back. With nine on the roster already competing for only two starting jobs (plus a nickel back), the Wolverines don't need, nor can afford, to sign more than two cornerbacks and, really, they only need one. With this in mind, Michigan can cast its rod into a smaller pool of elite talents or great fits, and if there isn't a five-star on the board that makes sense, the Maize and Blue could even look for a true diamond in the rough.
But what a luxury at such an important position. In 2014, Raymon Taylor will be in his senior year and Blake Countess will be a junior. The two presumed starters will have to fight off a slew of other four-star athletes and some really intriguing prospects, like Channing Stribling and Reon Dawson.
2014 Scholarship Safeties: 6
Need on Feb. 7: 1
Like cornerback, Michigan can be very picky when it comes to safety because of a flush of numbers at the position. The Wolverines should be on the lookout for a high-end performer in the mold of a Dymonte Thomas or Jarrod Wilson, both four-stars that seemingly represent the future of the strong and free safety positions, potentially as early as this fall.
This should be an interesting recruiting cycle because it will reveal plenty about the strategy of the coaches. Recruiting coordinator Jeff Hecklinski has always said U-M will recruit from a position of strength, meaning the Maize and Blue could sign players at positions without a need because it wants to add greater overall talent there. However, with such limited scholarships, that philosophy may alter some, and we even saw that in the 2013 class at linebacker when Michigan stuck to its plan and accepted just two commitments even though there were others that wanted to play in Ann Arbor.
2014 Scholarship Linebackers: 9
Need on Feb. 7: 0
Could Michigan really just sit on one commitment at linebacker? When that recruit is four-star Michael Ferns, quite possibly. U-M took two linebackers in the 2013 class, had four in the 2012 class and will still be relatively young and deep when the 2014 rookies arrive on campus. That said, there is the potential for considerable change at linebacker. Jake Ryan could go pro after his junior season, opening up another scholarship, while it is unlikely that so many players will patiently bide their time without seeing game action and not think to try their luck somewhere else. In other words, by the end of spring ball, with the writing more obvious on the wall, the linebacker position could lose a player or two, changing the needs for this class.
If that doesn't happen, expect Michigan to either sit tight with Ferns alone or look to add one more linebacker, but not two, and definitely not three. There isn't room for that.
2014 Scholarship Defensive Ends: 8
Need on Feb. 7: 2
It wasn't so long ago that Michigan was desperate at defensive end, left wanting for bodies and ability at the position. Heading into the 2013 season and beyond, the Wolverines are stacked, with four weakside (rush) ends and four strongside ends. There should be tremendous competition this spring, with all eight scholarship ends already on the roster (Taco Charlton is an early enrollee). With that in mind, the Maize and Blue could probably forgo a defensive end altogether and be fine, but like the offensive line, the defensive line is difficult to predict and a stockpile of bodies is the best way to ensure future success. Consider also that redshirt freshman Chris Wormley is seeing more and more time inside, and U-M would be wise to recruit the position.
What Michigan could really use is that explosive, top-five talent to rush the passer. Charlton might emerge that, and both junior Frank Clark and sophomore Mario Ojemudia have that potential, but U-M hasn't had a bona-fide pass rusher since Brandon Graham departed after the 2009 season. Both five-star De'Shawn Hand and four-star in-stater Malik McDowell fit that profile and the Wolverines would absolutely find room for both of them in this class if the opportunity presented itself.
2014 Scholarship Defensive Tackles: 6
Need on Feb. 7: 2
On the surface, Michigan looks to be just fine at defensive tackle, with six players competing for two spots. But consider that juniors Ken Wilkins and Richard Ash haven't given any indication they can be reliable performers for the Wolverines and suddenly there is a greater need at that position. As noted, Wormley will see more and more reps at the three-technique, giving U-M's coaches another athlete to work with inside but the Maize and Blue will look to add a big, run-stuffing, blocker-occupying tackle and a playmaking interior player that can create havoc in the offensive backfield.
There is potential that the answer to defensive tackle could come from within. Redshirt freshman Matthew Godin could also move inside, joining Wormley, especially if Michigan were to land both Hand and McDowell. But just as likely the Wolverines will sign two players.
2014 Scholarship Specialists: 2
Need on Feb. 7: 1
Michigan signed a long snapper in the 2013 class, and if all goes according to plan won't need to do so again for four years. Junior Matt Wile stands to inherit the place-kicking job when Brendan Gibbons graduates, and Wile has shown he can punt too. If the coaches feel he can do both effectively without the other area suffering, they wouldn't have to use a scholarship in the 2014 class on a punter. However, chances are U-M will want to bring in a punter and potentially a punter/kicker like Nebraska's Brett Maher as insurance and to ease the transition in 2015 when Wile is gone.