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February 5, 2014

SIGNING DAY: Hecklinski excited about incoming WRs

Despite a small, 16-player recruiting class, the Michigan coaches hit the wide receiver group hard - and they're ecstatic with the results.

During Wednesday's national signing day festivities, three promising, talented wide receivers inked letters of intent of the Wolverines: Grand Rapids (Mich.) Christian wide receiver Drake Harris, Elkton (Md.) Eastern Christian Academy wide receiver Freddy Canteen and Beverly Hills (Mich.) Country Day wide receiver Maurice Ways.

"I like their athletic ability," Michigan wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator Jeff Hecklinski said at the team's signing day press conference. "When you look at last year's class and the three we added and you look at year's class and the three we added, they're different. You don't want carbon copies of each other out there, because then you get tied into just having one guy. They're different types of athletes."

Harris is the crown jewel of the receivers, after posting a record-setting season in 2012. Harris, a 6-4, 170 pass catcher listed as a four-star prospect, the No. 115 overall player in the country, the No. 14 wide receiver and the No. 3 player in Michigan by Rivals.com, sat out his senior season with a hamstring injury.

While the injury was disappointing, Harris proved himself as a junior, grabbing 91 catches for 2,016 yards (22.2 yards per catch) and 23 touchdowns.

"Drake, being a basketball guy, obviously has a different skill set than the other guys," Hecklinski said. "He has very fluid movement and very natural ball skills to be able to go get it.

"You're looking at a guy who played a lot of AAU and traveled all around the country. He was a major division I recruit in basketball, too, so you know he has a competitiveness to him."

Harris enrolled early and has been participating in team workouts since classes resumed in early January.

Michigan coach Brady Hoke believes he will be completely ready to go by the time the Wolverines strap on the pads for spring practice.

"Physically, he has improved," Hoke said. "He's doing more and more. I know we ran thins morning, and he is feeling more and more 100 percent all the time.

"He handled the whole thing pretty well. I don't think he liked missed football, being hurt and missing games. I don't think anybody enjoys that. He honestly is ready to play football again. He's excited."

Canteen, another early enrollee who has had the last few weeks to work out with the team and adjust to college life, might not have the stretch-the-field, game-breaking ability as Harris, but he is a perfect complement.

At 6-1, 170 with a reported 4.43 time in the 40-yard dash, Canteen is expected to fit into the Wolverines' slot receiver position - where he will lend a new level of athleticism and speed the team has been lacking there.

Canteen is listed as a four-star prospect, the No. 47 wide receiver in the country and the No. 9 player in Maryland by Rivals.com.

"With Freddy, you have a guy who is really, truly a slot guy," Hoke said. "His ability to get out of breaks, his quickness off the ball, he's a very talented kid. He can pick the ball out of the air. And his size gives you a little more. It's a bigger target, and that is always good for quarterbacks. The one thing, with his bigger size, he also has the athleticism to get in and out of breaks."

"Freddy has speed," Hecklinski added. "He's one of the guys that, when you watch him, you're like, 'Wow, he can move.' He has a great competitiveness to him, too."

Ways is the under-the-radar prospect of the trio. A three-star prospect, Ways is ranked the No. 61 wide receiver in the country and the No. 6 player in Michigan by Rivals.com.

But the 6-3, 192 wide receiver had a breakout season as a senior, grabbing 55 passes for 1,261 yards (22.9 yards per catch) and 16 scores.

"Moe is a guy who said, 'I know I am just as good as them, and I'm going to prove it. You guys didn't rank me high, but I'm going to prove myself,'" Hecklinski said. "He has a chip on his shoulder. He is a big son of a gun. When he walks through that door, you know who he is. He lights up the room, too. You look at the way he played as a senior in high school, you've got a guy who is just on the rise right now.

"You feel really good. Everyone had questions when we went into the spring. We liked him, and that's why we offered. And now you look at him and you can tell he's working hard to be good. They're all working hard to be good. That's why Freddy and Drake are here early. They want to work to be good."

"With Moe, you've got a bigger body," added Hoke. "You have a guy who can run and get down the field. His ability, from an athletic standpoint, of getting up is something you look for when you get down into the red zone."

Hecklinski's favorite aspect of the three-man recruiting corps coming into the program in 2014 is its diversity.

Although he says you can't always predict the future, Hecklinski is already starting to see how the three talented pass catchers could fit into the Michigan offense.

"I think Moe probably fits more to the field, the Z-type of receiver, a vertical threat, a big, powerful kid that can be very efficient in the run game," Hecklinski said. "I think Drake fits more in the X spot, where Gallon played, playing in tight spots, more into the boundary and can play off press, because of his body control, his movement and the basketball skills he has.

"And Freddy, from a skill standpoint, can play any one of the three, but having him inside, as a little bit bigger of a target inside and the ability to maneuver within linebackers and safeties, is good. I think that is where we'll start them, but how we start them and how they finish, who knows? It's about what they're ready for, their skill set and how it develops and how our offense develops with them in it."


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