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January 27, 2014

Make or break Malik?

The entirety of Michigan's remaining 2014 recruiting board seems to consist of one player: local defensive end Malik McDowell. Even if the Wolverines can't reel in the No. 26 player in the nation though, the 2014 recruiting class has a lot to like.

Players in the fold

Many of Michigan's biggest needs were met by players who committed long ago. A lockdown corner is in the fold in the form of the country's No. 3 player, Jabrill Peppers. Wide receiver recruiting has been uninspiring over the past couple classes, so bringing in two four-stars - both of whom enrolled early - including one of the state's top prospects in Grand Rapids Christian standout Drake Harris, along with three-star Maurice Ways fills that void.

Four big, athletic linebackers are in the fold. Michigan got their guy at quarterback in three-star Wilton Speight (another early enrollee). Four-star Mason Cole and three-star Juwann Bushell-Beatty follow up a six-man line group in 2013, and the staff also landed their top tight end in Hinsdale (Ill.) Central four-star Ian Bunting.

The defensive line is one potential sore spot, with three-stars Lawrence Marshall (McDowell's teammate at Southfield High School) and Bryan Mone joined by two-star tackle Brady Pallante. U-M missed on five-star Da'Shawn Hand, who picked Alabama over the Wolverines, and if they don't get McDowell, the group feels incomplete.

In the rankings, Michigan's small class size (currently 16 commits, with room for McDowell to make it 17) will prevent the Maize and Blue from reaching the height of a top-10 or even top-20 haul, but the needs that they evaluated prior to the 2014 recruiting cycle have mostly been met.

What McDowell adds

If Michigan can bring in McDowell, however, the class has the full complement of talent to compete for Big Ten titles in the near future. The 6-6, 292-pounder can line up at 3technique defensive tackle or 5-technique defensive end. From either position, he provides pass rush from across the line. That mans Michigan wouldn't have to rely on weakside ends or blitzing to generate a pass rush.

Despite playing through a number of injuries this fall (including a foot issue that wasn't even diagnosed until after the Army All-American Bowl), McDowell was a dominant for on the Southfield defensive line. He is a five-star for a reason, and that reason is the impact he can make on a college program both immediately and down the road.

McDowell also gives Michigan a nice PR boost, particularly in the state of Michigan, where rival Michigan State (the primary competition for McDowell) is on the upswing after a strong season on the field. Missing out on a player who held Michigan atop his list for so long would be a blow. It's not one the Wolverines would be unable to recover from.

The latest

McDowell has taken official visits to Alabama, Florida, Florida State, and Michigan State. He has planned his fifth and final official visit this weekend for Columbus, to see what the Ohio State Buckeyes have to offer. Those five schools, along with Michigan and LSU, form his top group - one that he plans to trim to four schools in the coming days.

Off his official visit to East Lansing, it's clear that the Spartans have earned a place in McDowell's heart, despite their status as a rival of his childhood favorite. He wants his family to be able to see him play without flying across the country, so the Midwest schools have something of an advantage.

Michigan's best shot to reel him in would be to convince the young standout to switch his plans for this weekend, and see Michigan one last time - he's been to Ann Arbor on dozens of occasions, but never an official visit - instead of heading down to Ohio State. Michigan's coaching staff will have an in-home visit at some point this week, where their last pitch to get him to make that switch can happen.

At this point, McDowell plans to make a Signing Day decision in a press conference at Southfield High School. However, if he's not 100% settled on his decision at that time, a delay is possible. That would put a post-Signing Day choice on the table.

Stay tuned to TheWolverine.com for all the updates on McDowell's recruitment leading up to National Signing Day. All Class of 2014 updates will be FREE until that time.

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