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January 17, 2014

WRW: To the end

Signing Day is just under three weeks away, and while the Michigan coaching staff is in position to not worry about filling their class at the last moment, some key needs are still on the table.

The spots

Michigan's coaching staff seems to be recruiting for two spots remaining in the class: one defensive lineman and one running back. If they miss on the prospects they want at those positions, there is some flexibility, but the preference is to bring in a player at each of those spots.

On the defensive line, a penetrating three-technique tackle or five-technique defensive end is the goal. Michigan has brought in several talented defensive linemen over the past two classes, an interior player who can generate pass rush - while also possessing ability to flex out to end - could be the missing ingredient to opening up the defense.

At running back, Michigan returns two talented freshmen, but most of the other players on the roster have either failed to make an impact on the field or have moved to slot receiver. In one instance (Drake Johnson), a season-ending knee injury in 2013 could take him more than a year to return from. Adding a tailback is important for the 2014 class, because a freshman may have to contribute.

The players

At defensive line, the top - and perhaps only - target is obvious: Malik McDowell. The local product attends Southfield High School, and grew up a big fan of the Maize and Blue. The 6-6, 292-pounder is also one of the most talented prospects in the region, capable of beating offensive linemen with his quickness or power. While he battled injuries during his senior year, he was fully healthy for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and dominated the week of practice. He's a high four-star and could even be a five-star in the next round of rankings.

There are two prime targets at running back. Minneapolis Washburn four-star Jeff Jones is the No. 92 prospect in the nation, and although he's committed to the in-state Gophers, he will take official visits to Michigan and Florida. Both of those schools offered after his dominant performance the week of the Under Armour All-America Game. He showed that, despite his 6-0, 198-pound frame, he can run with power in addition to the elusiveness everyone already knew he had.

A newer name has emerged on the radar for Michigan, as well. Sarasota (Fla.) Booker three-star Marlon Mack decommitted from UCLA Wednesday, was offered by the Wolverines Thursday, and tentatively plans to take an official visit to Michigan before his recruiting process ends. He's more of a scatback than Jones at this point, using quickness to slash through traffic at just 5-11, 192 pounds.

Where they'd rank

Michigan is currently ranked the No. 24 recruiting class in the nation, and by virtue of only signing 18 prospects or so, won't be able to contend at the top of the charts for the country's best classes. However, adding the prospects still on the board would provide a boost.

U-M's current point total in the Rivals ranking system is 1,684. McDowell would add 186 points to that mark, Jones would add 154, and Mack would be worth a total of 75. The preferred McDowell/Jones combination would bump Michigan's current ranking up to No. 11, with 2,024. Other schools will also add commits leading up to Signing Day - and there is one more new round of Rivals.com rankings to be released - so those numbers will change.

A top-15 class would be much more exciting than one barely hanging in the top-25.

Underclassman offers

Michigan's coaches aren't solely focused on the senior class. Brady Hoke's assistants have also issued two new offers since the recruiting dead period ended Thursday.

Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison issued an offer to Detroit King 2015 linebacker Tyriq Thompson. The son of former Michigan defender Clarence Thompson, the 6-1, 215-pounder is also a talented student, and would be a good addition for the Wolverines if they can reel him in.

Tampa Plant 2015 offensive lineman Jake Fruhmorgen picked up a Michigan offer today from wide receivers coach Jeff Hecklinski, who was in the area Thursady as well. While Fruhmorgen is currently undersized at 6-5, 255 pounds, he is talented enough to already hold offers from Florida State, Notre Dame, and two dozen others.

Michigan's coaching staff will remain on the road through the remainder of the contact period, and more offers are certain to come.

As always, thanks for visiting TheWolverine.com. Stay tuned for the latest updates in the world of Michigan football recruiting.

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