The Fence the Mitten Project: Quarterbacks

The Fence the Mitten Project: Quarterbacks

April 13, 2020
Alex Malzone (image via Maize ‘n’ Brew)

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There are constant arguments on message boards, recruiting sites, and Twitter about whether Michigan should offer certain in-state targets, and it has always been a curiosity of mine to see whether Michigan could field a competitive team of only in-state players. I realize this is not a realistic goal, but it might shed some light on just how deep Michigan could go with in-state offers before the results become severely sub-optimal.

So here’s what I did: I pretended that the top 25 players from within the State of Michigan (according to the 247 Composite) all were offered by and signed with the Wolverines over the past five recruiting classes. How would those players and that position fare while wearing the winged helmet? Naturally, this experiment assumes that Michigan State, MAC programs, and other out-of-state schools are limited to players ranked #26 and lower, which is completely and utterly unrealistic. That type of things doesn’t happen in any state, including California, Florida, Georgia, and Texas, all of which are talent-laden states.

A couple mechanics:

  • If a player transferred from his original school or otherwise retired, he is crossed off the list since he probably wouldn’t have lasted at Michigan, either.
  • If a player left early for the draft, he is also crossed off the list since he would not be on the roster for 2019.

Starting with top-25 in-state quarterbacks from 2015-2019…


  1. *#Alex Malzone (RS Sr.): 4-star, #14 pro-style QB, #299 overall
  2. Tyree Jackson (RS Sr.): 3-star, #37 dual-threat QB
  3. **Jake Johnson (RS Sr.): 3-star, #60 pro-style QB
  4. Jayru Campbell (RS Sr.): 3-star, #40 dual-threat QB
  5. Joshua Jackson (RS Jr.): 3-star, #12 dual-threat QB, #426 overall
  6. ***Tony Poljan (RS Jr.): 3-star, #19 dual-threat QB, #714 overall
  7. ***Jairus Grissom (RS So.): 3-star, #21 dual-threat QB, #976 overall
  8. Theo Day (RS Fr.): 4-star, #17 pro-style QB, #377 overall
  9. Jason Whittaker (RS Fr.): 3-star, #34 pro-style QB, #815 overall
  10. D’Wan Mathis (Fr.): 4-star, #11 pro-style QB, #311 overall
  11. #Sam Johnson III (Fr.): 3-star, #24 pro-style QB, #607 overall

#Offered by Michigan
*Committed to Michigan initially
**Retired due to concussions
***Switched positions


Redshirt freshman Theo Day (Michigan State) completed 2/3 passes for 12 yards as the #3 quarterback for Michigan State. Redshirt freshman Jason Whittaker (Northwestern), who has switched back and forth between quarterback and superback, ran the ball 2 times for 3 yards with 0 pass attempts. True freshman D’Wan Mathis (Georgia) had serious surgery in the off-season leading up to his freshman year, so he redshirted, as did Sam Johnson III (Boston College).


Left with just two redshirt freshmen and two true freshmen on the roster – one of whom missed spring ball due to major surgery – the Wolverines turned to Theo Day as the full-time starter, even though he couldn’t beat out Brian Lewerke or Rocky Lombardi in East Lansing. Michigan fans argue about whether the quarterback situation was worse in 2017 (Wilton Speight/John O’Korn/Brandon Peters) or 2008 (Steve Threet/Nick Sheridan/Justin Feagin). They yearn for the olden days of Tyree Jackson, who took his strong-armed inaccuracy to the NFL XFL after a mediocre 2018 season.


Due to the dearth of quarterback talent in the State of Michigan, the Wolverines need to reach elsewhere for talent. There simply isn’t enough quarterback talent within the Mitten to support one team, let alone two Power 5 schools (Michigan, Michigan State) and three MAC programs (Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Western Michigan). Only two out of the eleven prospects listed above became starters at their respective schools. The reviews on Tyree Jackson were mixed, and Joshua Jackson was squeezed out of Virginia Tech before going to Maryland and performing at a subpar level (56% completions, 4840 yards, 37 TD, 16 INT).


  1. Comments: 1863
    Joined: 1/19/2016
    Apr 13, 2020 at 10:18 AM

    This is a good idea, though I don’t know of anyone clamoring for 100% Michigan-based class

    I don’t like when we let TOP guys go to ohio, PennSt, even sparty & Wisc. Not only do we lose out on a quality player, we have to face them for the next 3-5yrs

    Another gripe is when we go out of our region, and pull a guy who is basically the same as the guy from Michigan-ohio-Illinois-Indiana. We get a 3star (TTB 60-70s) guy who doesn’t know our rivalries, while our B1G opponents get a local who is pissed at MICHIGAN and out to prove something

    Good post

    • Comments: 3845
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Apr 13, 2020 at 10:53 AM

      Nobody’s clamoring for Michigan to have a 100% Michigan-based class, but that’s kind of the point.

      1. You HAVE to reach outside the state, even if MSU didn’t exist and if OSU, PSU, and others didn’t come in and try to take top talent.
      2. If Michigan is reaching into other states, Michigan is going to lose guys to other out-of-state programs. And if Penn State or Ohio State or whoever reaches into Michigan, the staff has to respond in kind and get somebody from out of state.

      I think this also needs to be quantified and illustrated, so people who don’t understand these types of things can grasp what’s really going on. It won’t stop everyone from crying that the sky is falling, but it might be enlightening for some.

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