With the 2015 class about wrapped up, I’ll offer some final takeaways from the recruiting cycle. With something like this, it’s difficult to separate Brady Hoke’s recruiting efforts through early December from Jim Harbaugh’s efforts over the last five weeks of the cycle. So the grades and feedback I provide are geared toward the program’s job of recruiting, not necessarily a specific coach.
Starters are listed in italics.
Lost from 2014: Russell Bellomy (transfer), Devin Gardner (graduation)
Commits: Zach Gentry, Alex Malzone
Comments: Michigan needed to add talent and numbers to the quarterback position to engender competition, and they did that. Gentry (#8 pro-style quarterback, #175 overall) is the raw talent at 6’7″, 230 lbs. with a reported 4.6 forty and a strong arm. Malzone (#13 pro-style quarterback, #295 overall) is the local field general with good skills all around but nothing that really stands out. Other than getting a truly elite prospect, Michigan did about as well as they could. Toss in the possible arrival of Houston transfer John O’Korn, and all these guys won’t finish their careers at Michigan, but at least one should emerge looking good.
Lost from 2014: Justice Hayes (transfer)
Commit: Karan Higdon
Comments: The unfortunate thing here is that Michigan had two top-150 running back talents committed at different times, and the Wolverines let both of them slip through their fingers. The first one, Damien Harris, ended up signing with Alabama. The second one, Mike Weber, was darn close to flipping from Ohio State to Michigan at the last minute, but he ultimately stuck with the Buckeyes around 10:30 a.m. because Higdon had committed to Michigan at 8:00 a.m. Michigan stole Higdon (#40 running back, #479 overall) himself at the last minute from Iowa, so there’s something to be said for getting someone on the board, at least. Still, this could have looked better.
Lost from 2014: Devin Funchess (early NFL draft entrant)
Commits: Brian Cole, Grant Perry
Comments: Michigan might have hit a home run with Cole (#5 athlete, #75 overall), who was a jack-of-all-trades player in high school and will have to learn the receiver position in college. Perry (#109 wide receiver, #864 overall) is a solid role player plucked from Northwestern at the last minute. Otherwise, both Hoke and Harbaugh swung and missed at the big-timers in the class.
Lost from 2014: Keith Heitzman (transfer)
Commit: Tyrone Wheatley, Jr.
Comments: Michigan let Chris Clark slip through their fingers, although Clark was wishy-washy and seemed to be all over the place with his recruitment. The Wolverines may have dodged a bullet, because Wheatley – as the son of a coach on staff – might be less likely to flake out if things don’t go smoothly from day one. Wheatley (#12 tight end, #313 overall) has a fair amount of talent himself, although some think he’s better suited for defense. It would have been nice to get two tight ends with Heitzman transferring, A.J. Williams being a senior in 2015, and starter Jake Butt a junior who could possibly go pro if he stays healthy.
Lost from 2014: Kyle Bosch (transfer)
Commits: Grant Newsome, Jon Runyan Jr., Nolan Ulizio
Comments: The offensive line recently went from being “way too young” to being “maybe too old” now that four projected starters will be fifth-year guys (2) or fourth-year guys (2), joined by sophomore left tackle Mason Cole and redshirt junior utility man Erik Magnuson. With a couple backups looking stuck there for a reason, Michigan needed to bring in some fresh talent. Newsome (#22 offensive tackle, #235 overall) is a possible star, whereas Runyan (#122 offensive tackle) and Ulizio (#137 offensive tackle) look like they could be passable players in a few years. This probably isn’t the class that will turn around Michigan’s fortunes immediately, but they’re functional. Michigan essentially ignored a national prospect with high interest (USC-bound Chuma Edoga) and a local, guru-approved guy with high interest (Wisconsin-bound David Moorman), so hopefully they picked the right ones to pursue. If Newsome pans out like I think he should, he’ll make this class look pretty good.