The Fence the Mitten Project: Mitten Complete

The Fence the Mitten Project: Mitten Complete

May 7, 2020
Jim Harbaugh

Sorry for the bad pun in the title, but . . . okay, I’m not sorry.

This is the conclusion of the series of Fence the Mitten Project posts, which assumes that Michigan recruits and signs the top 25 in-state prospects each and every year.

Hit the jump for a projected depth chart and some realizations about talent within the state.

Based on the 125 prospects Michigan would have landed from 2015-2019, here’s a best guess at a two-deep of players who would have stepped between the lines of Michigan Stadium wearing a winged helmet in 2019. In parentheses, I offer up my opinion of whether this two-deep would be an upgrade over what Michigan actually fielded in 2019. (A + means it’s better, – means it’s a downgrade, and = means there’s no difference.)

QB (-): Theo Day (MSU), Jason Whittaker (NW)
RB (-): Elijah Collins (MSU), Jaren Mangham (COL)
FB (-): Ben Van Sumeren (MICH)
WR (-): Donovan Peoples-Jones (MICH), Brandon Gray (WSU)
WR (-): Cody White (MSU), Tre Mosley (MSU)
WR (-): Dez Fitzpatrick (LOU), Julian Barnett (MSU)
TE (-): Tony Poljan (CMU), Bryce Wolma (ARI)
LT (+): Alaric Jackson (IOWA), Joshua Alabi (OSU)
LG (-): David Moorman (WIS), Karsen Barnhart (MICH)
C (-): Tyrone Sampson Jr. (FRESNO STATE), Michael Furtney (WIS)
RG (=): Michael Onwenu (MICH), Jordan Reid (MSU)
RT (+): Jalen Mayfield (MICH), Matt Skibinski (MIA-OH)

SDE (+): Aidan Hutchinson (MICH), Khalid Kareem (ND)
WDE (=): Daelin Hayes (ND), Adetokunbo Ogundeji (ND)
DT (+): Cedrick Lattimore (IOWA), Phillip Paea (MICH)
NT (-): Marquan McCall (KY), Mazi Smith (MICH)
Viper (-): Antjuan Simmons (MSU), Lance Dixon (PSU)
MIKE (-): David Reese II (FL), Marcel Lewis (MSU)
WILL (-): Josh Ross (MICH), Tyriq Thompson (MSU)
CB (=): Lavert Hill (MICH), Vincent Gray (MICH)
CB (=): Ambry Thomas (MICH), Kalon Gervin (MSU)
S (=): Reggie Pearson (WIS), Stefan Claiborne (WMU)
S (-): Rayshawn Wilborn (BALL STATE), Allen Stritzinger (SYRACUSE)


This is not a competitive football team. Some key components are missing at various positions, most notably at quarterback. The State of Michigan just does not produce enough quarterback talent, and that probably has something to do with the fact that the cold weather prevents guys from throwing in the winter and doing 7-on-7 stuff that players in other states do.

The real Michigan team produced 10 draft picks in the 2020 NFL Draft. In the group above, there are only three (3!) draft picks: defensive end Khalid Kareem (5th round to the Bengals), wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones (6th round to the Browns), and offensive guard Michael Onwenu (6th round to the Patriots). If your team is producing that little talent, you’re probably not doing so hot. Here’s a list of Power 5 teams who produced three draft picks in 2020:

  • Cal: 8-5 in the Pac-12
  • Colorado: 5-7 in the Pac-12
  • Oregon State: 5-7 in the Pac-12
  • Texas: 8-5 in the Big 12
  • UCLA: 4-8 in the Pac-12

Talent-wise, Michigan might be on par with mediocre-to-bad Pac-12 teams if they recruited solely from within state borders.

There is promise for the future at some positions, such as Jalen Mayfield and Alaric Jackson on the offensive line, but there’s also a major drop-off at other positions. Who steps up at quarterback . . . ever? Are there any impact wide receivers left for 2020 and beyond?


Nobody has suggested that Michigan should only recruit within the state. It’s an absurd premise, and I understood that from the beginning.

But when people suggest that Michigan needs to recruit more within its borders, I have never really bought that. Michigan is offering the right guys within the state, and I think there’s an argument to be made that they’re already offering too many.

If you look back at the in-state lists for each position, there are a bunch of players from local, in-state schools that presumably have as much support as possible (family/friends nearby) but who disappear anyway. Michigan is recruiting the cream of the crop within the state, but there are still the Deron Irving-Beys, Ja’Raymond Halls, Brian Coles, etc. of the world who can’t hack it, whether it’s from a performance, behavior, or academic standpoint.

With the understanding that Michigan – like any school from any state – will have to deal with invasions from out-of-state schools, and will have to face off with Michigan State, the Wolverines simply have to dig into states with more talent or states where there’s no major pull from within state lines. This is well known, of course, but hopefully this series of posts shows some details the state’s talent shortcomings.


  1. Comments: 27
    Joined: 9/25/2019
    May 07, 2020 at 9:10 AM

    You did a nice job with this!

  2. Comments: 1863
    Joined: 1/19/2016
    May 07, 2020 at 10:05 AM

    We don’t need to offer more in state, just keep the ones we really want. It’s not a whole roster though

  3. Comments: 22
    Joined: 11/23/2015
    May 08, 2020 at 11:36 PM

    Thanks for doing that. It is great to see and hopefully everyone will stop panicking when we lose the number 9 recruit in Michigan.

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