Michigan recruiting: What you need to know about the Wolverines' Early Signing class
Fresh off a Big Ten Championship Game slaughtering of Iowa, just a few weeks removed from its first win over Ohio State since 2011 and No. 2 in the College Football Playoff and ready to square off with No. 3 Georgia on New Year’s Eve in the Orange Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami — life is pretty good these days for the Michigan Wolverines.
Momentum, without question, will be on Michigan’s side as Early Signing Period approaches on Dec. 15 — and, really, throughout the rest of the 2022 cycle. Michigan has always recruited well, but it’s often lost out on top targets during recent years.
And really, in recent weeks.
But Jim Harbaugh is riding high, taking an unranked team (preseason polls) all the way to college football’s Final Four. If that doesn’t make the Wolverines look better to prospects, nothing will. The Wolverines are hotter than they’ve been in years, and that momentum should continue to manifest itself on the recruiting trail.
There is one possible wrinkle, though: Courtney Morgan won’t be around to see the class he helped build. This past season, the former UM O-lineman joined the Wolverines as their director of player personnel but is now set to join Washington’s staff, according to The Wolverine.
Morgan’s departure may put a slight kink in the pipeline, but it shouldn’t be detrimental to Michigan’s 2022 class.
Note: rankings and list of commits are based on 247Sports’ Composite as of Dec. 13.
By the numbers
Overall rank: 9th
B1G rank: 3rd
Did they find a future QB?
With Cade McNamara likely carrying over to 2022 as the starter, and will-be-sophomore JJ McCarthy waiting in line for his turn, the Wolverines are pretty set at quarterback. McNamara is the now and McCarthy is the future — that’s already been determined.
However, the Wolverines do have one signal-caller committed to its 20-man (at the moment) 2022 class: 3-star Jayden Denegal, the No. 28-ranked QB and N0. 33-ranked player from California. At 6-4 and 215 pounds, he certainly has the prototypical size to be successful in college — and beyond.
Maybe after the McCarthy era? How far into the future are we talking? At the moment, Denegal doesn’t stand out as a QB of the future, because the next 2-3 years already seem to be scheduled.
Who is the best offensive player?
Conventional wisdom would suggest that 4-star WR Tyler Morris is the best offensive player in Michigan’s 2022 class. He’s the No. 16-ranked wideout of this class, a former teammate of JJ McCarthy at Nazareth Academy (Ill.) and is the Wolverines’ highest-ranked offensive recruit. He’s a good one, for sure.
Another potential future offensive star is CJ Stokes, a 3-star RB out of South Carolina.
At 5-11 and 190 pounds, Stokes is built like the backs that have had success at Michigan in recent years. He might be another Karan Higdon or De’Veon Smith. Who knows? He might be the first CJ Stokes. Like Higdon, Smith, and even current star RB Hassan Haskins, Stokes was lightly-to-moderately recruited. No need for the perceived superstar RB recruit. Nope. Michigan develops mid-level prospects — mid-level, as designated by the experts — into bell-cow standouts who add incredible value to the offense.
That might be Stokes. If so, he might end up being the best offensive player of the class.
Who is the best defensive player?
Will Johnson is the No. 1-ranked player in Michigan and the No. 20-ranked player overall. He is Michigan’s top defensive prospect of this current haul, no doubting that. He’s arguably Michigan’s best overall recruit during this cycle too.
The 5-star CB should immediately mix in to a secondary that’s slowly getting younger. Harbaugh makes a point to play all young players during the early games, so it’s definitely possible to see Johnson get some meaningful reps prior to the opening of Big Ten play. If he does well, the 6-3, 190-pounder might stick around and dodge a red-shirt season.
What position did they recruit the best?
The Wolverines loaded up on defensive backs during this recent talent acquisition spree. And depending on what happens with three commits labeled as “ATH,” this year’s class might have the makings of an incredibly deep group of safeties, corners and nickel/rovers.
Johnson is the headliner, but 4-star safety Zeke Barry could also end up finding a quick path to playing time as a true freshman. He just committed on Dec. 3 — likely a product of Michigan’s rise after beating Ohio State.
Also, Keon Sabb just de-committed from Clemson. He was on-hand for Michigan’s win over Ohio State, despite being a Clemson pledge, and always had Michigan under serious consideration. The 4-star safety would be an incredible add to an already robust group of DBs lined up for the Wolverines’ 2022 class.
What position do they still need to recruit?
Michigan has recruited well, filling needs and creating depth. There really isn’t one position that has been underserved — but expect the Wolverines to go after a couple more wide receivers, with 3-star Kaleb Webb of Georgia being a priority.
The Wolverines also have feelers out to 5-star OT Josh Conerly and 4-star DL Deone Walker, a local star out of Detroit Cass Tech.
Did they keep the best players home?
Michigan State nabbed 4 of the top-10 players in the state this year, yet again winning the local battles for top talent. However, Michigan got the No. 1-ranked prep in the Mitten, securing one of its prime targets for this current cycle. If Walker decides to go to Ann Arbor, and Tay’Shawn Trent — a 6-4, 210-pound 3-star WR out of Harper Woods — does the same, the Wolverines might be able to claim a win for in-state recruiting.
Winning locally is important, but Michigan has pipelines that extend beyond its home state boundaries. Michigan has a respectable track record, under Harbaugh, when it comes to getting the best to stay home. He has some work to do, but recent momentum could easily make UM the No. 1 choice for top talent in the Great Lakes State.
Overall, how you should feel about this class …
Feel good. Michigan got Will Johnson. That was one of the top goals, if not the top goal, this time around. Recruiting season is always entertaining, and there is more to come during the Early Signing Period. But so far, UM has a pretty solid 2022 class.