Rising sophomore linebacker Michael Ferns III has left Michigan’s football program, most likely headed for West Virginia. He redshirted as a freshman this past season.
Ferns was Michigan’s first commitment in the class of 2014 and committed in August 2012, almost six months prior to the next guy (Wilton Speight). Ferns spearheaded a project to send “Team 135” t-shirts to every new Michigan commit for the remainder of the class. Meanwhile, he was a stalwart at St. Clairsville (OH) St. Clairsville and earned some national notoriety for running out of bounds at the 1-yard line to allow a grieving high school teammate to score a touchdown. He finished the recruiting cycle as a 247 Composite 4-star, the #6 inside linebacker, and #158 overall.
Ferns was listed at 6’3″, 239 lbs. and was playing middle linebacker, although he was reportedly really struggling to adjust to the college game. He was buried on the depth chart behind several promising inside linebackers, including a few who will be returning in 2015 (fifth year senior Desmond Morgan, senior Joe Bolden, junior Ben Gedeon, and redshirt sophomore Mike McCray II) and even some classmates.
The depth chart may have less to do with the transfer than some expect. Ferns was recruited to Michigan by Brady Hoke and sold on the “Team 135” thing, and now that whole idea has lost some of its luster. Also, Michael has a younger brother named Brendan, a 2016 linebacker who has not been offered by the Wolverines. The reasons for the lack of an offer are unclear (he’s a 247 Composite 4-star, the #2 inside linebacker, and #74 overall), but that was probably causing some friction, anyway. Brendan holds offers from Ohio State, Oklahoma, Penn State, and West Virginia, and part of the plan could be to play together in Morgantown; 247 Sports’ Crystal Ball prediction for Brendan has him at 64% for Ohio State.
Regardless, Michael Ferns is the first casualty from the 2014 class. The Wolverines have three other linebackers remaining from the 2014 class, and the aforementioned inside linebackers have the position pretty well under control. This move would not appear to affect Michigan’s defense in the long run, and it opens up another spot in the 2015 class (LINK). Right now it looks like Michigan can comfortably fit 12 players into the class, but that number could grow in the coming weeks, depending on Michigan’s coaching situation. I have heard rumors of a few other players also considering transfers, and I would guess that at least one or two of them come to fruition.