Michigan entered National Signing Day with the 4th ranked recruiting class in the nation and 27 commits in the class. However, Harbaugh and Co. were not done. With a couple expected commits signing papers to confirm their commitments, and an unexpected surprise that came during the Signing of the Stars event, the Wolverines finished with 30 total commits. Despite moving down one spot in the 247 Composite, the class is still one of the best in Michigan history. Below is a profile of the last three commits in the 2017 class, followed by the hits and misses of the class as a whole.
All recruiting rankings come from 247 Composite player and team rankings.
Aubrey Solomon 5*, #2 Defensive Tackle, #25 Overall: Solomon had one of the more interesting recruitments we have seen in recent years. After originally being committed to the Wolverines heading into his senior year, he decommitted after the Wolverines sent him a thank you card for attending the BBQ at the Big House event, which he did not attend (on top of the fact that he wasn’t even there, his name was spelled wrong). His recruitment was then mainly focused on SEC schools like Georgia and Alabama, but with a late push from Harbaugh and his staff, he recommitted to Michigan on Signing Day morning. Coming in at 6’3” and just under 290 pounds, Solomon has the size to contribute early for a Wolverines defensive line that loses all four starters and a ton of production. Based on all the film from his high school career and camps he attended, he looks like he has the ability to be a major force from start to finish while wearing the winged helmet. He could start at defensive tackle next to Mo Hurst or come off the bench in a role similar to Hurst’s in 2016. Either way, expect Solomon to contribute a lot for a young Michigan defense in 2017.
Nico Collins 4*, #23 Wide Receiver, #136 Overall: Collins is one of five wide receivers in the 2017 class, four of whom are rated 4* or higher. His commitment on NSD added to an embarassment of riches in the class at the position. However that talent is well needed as the Wolverines lose over ⅔ of their receiving production from 2016 as Jehu Chesson, Amara Darboh, and Jake Butt all graduated. Additionally, Collins is a major recruiting victory for Harbaugh, as he hails from Alabama. By beating out Nick Saban for his in-state target, Harbaugh has shown that he has his footprint firmly placed in SEC territory. (Solomon is also from Georgia, who says satellite camps were ineffective? (Don’t fret, Harbaugh will find a new way to recruit players from the southeast even with the satellite camp ban)) Collins won’t arrive until the summer, so early-enrollees Tarik Black and Donovan Peoples-Jones will have a better chance to contribute early in 2017. However, don’t count out Collins as a potential contributor during his freshman season. Standing at 6’5”, Collins will present a size mismatch on the outside against defensive backs that Michigan will look to exploit. He should look to add some muscles to that large frame as he is only 195 pounds, but his height will allow him to be a factor in the receiving corps regardless of how quickly he can add muscle.
Brad Robbins 2*, #13 Punter: Brad Robbins commitment came as a surprise to most Wolverines fans. The punter from just outside Columbus, Ohio was committed to Nevada since October 23rd, and very few Wolverines fans and writers even knew Harbaugh had offered him prior to his commitment. Robbins may not be a flashy add to the class, but he will contribute right away. Harbaugh made it very clear that he did not like having Kenny Allen kicking in all three phases (punting, placekicking, and kickoffs) in 2016. Despite his effectiveness and level of play by the end of the season, it is clearly not ideal to only have one player maintaining all three of those responsibilities. Robbins presence will allow RS Freshman Quinn Nordin to focus on place kicking, a major special teams advantage for the Wolverines moving forward. They’ll now have a true punter & kicker for the next four seasons.
Hits and Misses:
Hit: Added depth at positions that have proven importance in Harbaugh and Co.’s system.
With five wide receivers, six defensive linemen, and a highly rated quarterback, Harbaugh reloaded his mainstay positions on both sides of the ball. With superstar talents like Solomon, Collins, Peoples-Jones, Black, Luiji Vilain, and more, there will be both depth and future stars at receiver and across the defensive line. Dylan McCaffrey will have a tough time competing with incumbent starter Wilton Speight and talented RS Freshman Brandon Peters since he won’t arrive until summer, but he will be a star in a few years with some help from the strength and conditioning staff as well as quarterback whisperer Jim Harbaugh.
Miss: No offensive guard in the class.
Many of Michigan’s late season offensive woes stemmed from an ability to run the football. That started with the offensive line. Losing three starters to graduation will not help either as the line will be extremely young. Cesar Ruiz, the nation’s number one center, should be able to come in and start right away, allowing Mason Cole to move to tackle or guard, but with Ben Bredeson expected to move back to his natural position of tackle, there is a still a whole at guard. There are four offensive tackles in the class, including 4* Chuck Filiaga who should compete for playing time right away, but no offensive guards. With the transfer of 5th year senior of Dave Dawson, there is now a major question of who will start around Ruiz/Cole on the interior of the offensive line. Expect guard to be a top priority in the 2018 class, but for now it’ll take some position changes and young contributors to get through the 2017 season.
Hit: Athletic defensive stars who will contribute right away.
It has been well publicized that Michigan’s #1 ranked defense will lose 10 out of 11 starters, most of whom will be selected in the NFL Draft. With the entire secondary and defensive line moving on to the next level, as well as two of three linebackers, Mike McCray will need young stars around him to step up right away. Rashan Gary, Mo Hurst, Tyree Kinnel, Chase Winovich and Lavert Hill all contributed in 2016 and are expected starters, but at the rest of the defensive positions there will be intense competition for immediate playing time. As previously mentioned Solomon and Villain should contribute on a loaded defensive line right away. Four star linebackers Jordan Anthony and Drew Singleton will have a chance to compete for the holes left by Ben Gedeon and Jabrill Peppers. Anthony’s athletic ability should give him a chance to play Pepper’s SAM position, while Singleton’s size and tackling ability will make him a high choice to replace Gedeon at middle linebacker. (Singleton is recovering from a torn ACL so that may affect his ability to compete for a spot right away) In the secondary, Jaylen Kelly-Powell should compete with returners Tyree Kinnel and Khaleke Hudson for playing time. Kelly-Powell’s fellow early-enrollees Ambry Thomas and Benjamin St-Juste (both corners) will compete for snaps as well. Thomas is on the smaller side, and could be a player with a similar style to graduating star Jourdan Lewis. St-Juste is 6’3” and has great wingspan, and that will give the Canadian an opportunity to make an impact right away. We’ve seen Harbaugh show no apprehension in playing freshman on either side of the ball if he feels that they’re game-ready; he will be forced to this year after losing so much talent and experience to graduation and the draft.
Miss: Losing high profile recruiting battles.
When you have 30 recruits make up a top 5 recruiting class, it almost feels like nit-picking when trying to find mistakes. But when Najee Harris (Alabama) and Isaiah Wilson (Georgia) made very public decisions with the Wolverines coming in second, it has a negative effect on the image. Both players would’ve been massive additions to the class and it hurt to lose those battles in such public ways, especially when both were considered Michigan leans at one point or another. However, getting Collins (from Alabama) and Solomon (from Georgia) helps ease the pain in the battle with the SEC schools, and locking down the state of Michigan (the top 6 players in the state are all members of Michigan’s 2017 class) is a major confidence booster moving forward. Harbaugh’s antics and personality will always garner attention, whether it’s positive or negative, but I don’t think many people will complain with 20 wins in two seasons and a top 5 recruiting class. Give him one more year to develop all this talent he’s acquired in the last two classes, and come 2018, expect “College Football Playoff or bust” chatter coming from the media once again.