Early Signing Day Primer: What you need to know about Michigan's 2023 class
Note: All star ratings and all rankings are based on 247Sports and its composite rankings as of Monday morning, Dec. 19, unless otherwise indicated.
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Despite not having a top-100 recruit in their 2023 class, the Michigan Wolverines still have a strong haul coming in this cycle, ranked No. 20 in the 247Sports composite rankings.
The UM fanbase wants to see 5-star after 5-star sign every year. Under coach Jim Harbaugh, that hasn’t always been the case. Harbaugh has landed top-tier recruits — top-tier in the eyes of analysts — but he’s also done wonders with 2- and 3- star players, such as former defensive back Josh Metellus and end Josh Uche, among others.
Give Harbaugh a canvas and he’ll paint a masterpiece. Since taking over in 2015, he’s set records at Michigan. Multiple Heisman candidates, All-Americans, position group award winners — he’s done it all, simply by coaching and developing the best fits (not necessarily highest-rated players).
Sure, Michigan fans — and the college football world, at large — are looking forward to the College Football Playoff. But early signing day is Wednesday, which will surely divert some attention — at least for the meantime — of those who religiously follow Michigan football.
With that being said, let’s take a look at the 2023 class for the No. 2 Wolverines, who face No. 3 TCU in the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl on New Year’s Eve in Glendale, Arizona. A strong performance on the trail, accompanied by a successful postseason, could vault Harbaugh’s Wolverines (again) to levels unseen at UM in years.
By the numbers
Overall rank: 20th
B1G rank: 3rd
Highest-rated player: Enow Etta, 4-star DL
At No. 116 nationally, Etta sits atop, in terms of ranking, the Wolverines’ recruiting board this cycle. Committed since July, the 6-4, 290-pounder is the prize of the 2023 haul. Etta was heavily recruited by Alabama, Michigan State, Utah, Auburn and Miami (Fla.), among others, and there was slight worry during the season that he could flip his commitment.
However, after reaffirming his intentions, things cooled off and worry disappeared.
Michigan’s D-line has been among the best in the Big Ten for the better part of the past decade, so it’s easy to project a 4-star recruit making a major impact within his first 2 years in Ann Arbor. Etta may not be a starter in 2023, but he’ll likely compete for a spot in Michigan’s typically standard 9-man rotation.
Bolster QB room?
For the first time during the Harbaugh era, Michigan doesn’t have a QB in a recruiting class. In fact, the Wolverines just lost a pair to the transfer portal: Cade McNamara and Alex Bowman. With starter JJ McCarthy and backups Alex Orji and Davis Warren, along with Jayden Denegal, the Wolverines seem to have enough talent in their QB room to last through next season.
Could a QB be acquired via portal? Maybe. Later in the signing period? That’s possible.
But as of now, UM hasn’t added a scholarship QB to its 2023 class.
Best position group: OL
The addition of Stanford transfer Myles Hinton makes it easy to tab the O-line as Michigan’s best position group of the 2023 cycle. The younger brother of former UM standout Chris Hinton, Myles Hinton should instantly excel at either tackle position on the 2-time Joe Moore Award-winning offensive line.
But there is another 4-star transfer that deserves attention: LaDarius Henderson, formerly of Arizona State. He’s not 6-6 and 300 pounds like Hinton, but Henderson is a big dude at 6-6 and 270 pounds. Henderson is known as an interior lineman, but he’s athletic enough to move out to a tackle spot if necessary.
Adding to the spoils, 4-star prospects Amir Herring and Nathan Efobi are also committed to the 2023 class. Oh, wait! There is more! Evan Link, another 4-star, committed at the beginning of the season.
Michigan did well in the portal but it also did well with a grassroots approach on the trail.
Biggest need filled: OL
Refilling the fuel for college football’s best offensive line was obviously a must for the Wolverines, who will lose starters Zak Zinter (G) and Ryan Hayes (OT), and that’s just what they did during this past cycle. The Wolverines did well at linebacker and ATH positions, but the OL has been one of the biggest keys to success for UM during the past 2 seasons — so why stop a good thing?
Biggest potential flip
Up until a few days ago, Roderick Pierce was the biggest flip candidate for the Wolverines. Luckily for them, Pierce pledged on Dec. 14 and helped the Wolverines maintain their strong D-line recruiting under DL coach Mike Elston. Pierce, a 3-star DL, was previously committed to Wisconsin.
They’re not technically committed to any school. But they’re not committed to Michigan, so they might as well be pledged to another program: Nyckoles Harbor and Malachi Coleman.
Harbor, the No. 16 player in the nation, remains of high interest to the Wolverines. The 5-star ATH could do wonders on both sides the ball. At 6-5 and 225 pounds, he could, in theory, be an effective TE/WR hybrid (think Devin Funchess or Nick Eubanks); or he could have success as a pass-rush specialist.
At 6-5 and 205 pounds, Coleman, another 5-star ATH, could be a two-way weapon for the Wolverines. There haven’t been any full-time, two-way players during the Harbaugh era at Michigan; but Coleman could end up becoming one. And really, so could Harbor.
With interest from just about every high-profile program in the country, Harbor and Coleman could be tough gets for the Wolverines — but there is always a chance, right?
Overall, Harbaugh has another class that appears to be even across the board. There aren’t any holes or glaring needs in this group. Loaded at ATH and OL, the Wolverines addressed two areas that have led to success: strength up front, offensively; and plenty of play-making athletes.
Solid haul, so far, for the Wolverines. And it should get even better as the cycle continues.