Michigan Needs Its Early Enrollees to Play Big Roles in 2014

Andrew Coppens@@andycoppensContributor IJanuary 14, 2014


The beauty of college football is that every year is different, players graduate, and new recruiting classes come into programs. 

After a miserable 7-6 season in 2013, Michigan will introduce seven new faces to the program early this year, according to Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press.

The group of seven got a warm welcome from head coach Brady Hoke, via MGoBlue.com:

We're very excited about these seven young men joining our family. Each of them represents what we want in our program: high-character guys who take academics seriously, and football players who we believe have the potential and work ethic to be successful at the winningest football program in the country. We think enrolling and getting on campus helps them as they acclimate in those areas, as well as socially, and we look forward to them starting their classes and getting into our conditioning program.

Judging by the performance of the Wolverines offense this past season, an infusion of talent and hopefully production would go a long way toward getting this team back to winning a lot of football games once again.

While seven early enrollees may not seem like a large number, it is for Michigan. There are currently 16 known verbal commitments and just a few spots left open in the 2014 class. 

Having just under half of that class enter school, get in the weight room and learn the playbook is a huge advantage. 

Four of this year's seven are set to join an offense that will be under the direction of new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier. 

With a new coach in place, that means everyone will start on an even playing field for game time, and that's good news for the four incoming freshmen. For an offense that struggled to be consistent, new blood could also be a very good thing.  

The headliner of the group is 247Sports.com 4-star wide receiver Drake Harris from Grand Rapids, Michigan. He's coming into a position group that returns just 21 receptions from last year.

At 6'4" and 180 lbs, he has the body to contribute to the offense right away.

He won't be expected to immediately replace the numbers put up by the departed Jeremy Gallon, but Gallon's departure opens up plenty of opportunities for a young wide receiver group overall, and Harris will be thrown into the mix right away. 

If he shows a glimpse of big-play ability, he could earn significant playing time. 

However, the best place for an early enrollee to make an impact is in the beleaguered offensive line. That's where 247Sports.com composite 4-star Mason Cole comes in. 

While he's just a freshman and his body will need some work, the young offensive linemen last year never lived up to expectations, and any resemblance of solid play could put him in a position to earn a job early on. 

Defensively, there is competition for playing time available in the middle of the defensive line, and 247Sports.com's 4-star defensive tackle Bryan Mone could fit right into that competition with his 6'4", 338-lb frame.  

Aug 31, 2013; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; (Editors note: Caption correction) Michigan Wolverines defensive back Blake Countess (18) and defensive end Taco Charlton (33) celebrate with fans after the game against the Central Michigan Chippewas at Michigan Stadium.
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Some will say earning any playing time, let alone starting, is a bit much to ask out of freshmen. At Michigan, the only thing that these 2014 early enrollees need to do is look at last year's class as proof that enrolling early will give them a leg up. 

Four early enrollees from last year's class—Taco Charlton, Jake Butt, Kyle Bosch and Dymonte Thomas—saw extensive playing time, and some even wound up starting.  

With the disaster that was a 7-6 season in the rearview mirror and plenty of new competitions to be won at key spots, this year's crop of early enrollees needs to bring something to the table quickly. 

On paper, this group has the talent to be special, but the sooner it's seen on the field, the better off the Wolverines will be in turning things around.


Andy Coppens is Bleacher Report's lead writer for the Big Ten. You can follow him on Twitter: @ andycoppens.


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