Michigan Football National Signing Day: 5 Takeaways from Wolverines' 2014 Class
It's not quite at the level of the 2013 class, but Michigan's 2014 haul promises to move the Wolverines forward into the future.
Or so coach Brady Hoke hopes.
With 16 commits and seven early enrollees prior to national signing day, his program touts the No. 2-ranked collection of preps in the Big Ten, per 247Sports, which gives the bunch an overall ranking of No. 17.
Wolverines-in-waiting will quickly make their verbals official by signing their letters of intent. This slideshow will examine five takeaways from Team 135's new arrivals.
Recruit rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.
Update..and for the better if you're Hoke. NSD was a success.
Seeing two of Hoke's prime-time prospects separate themselves from Michigan just weeks prior to NSD was alarming, so much so that expecting something out of the ordinary to happen Wednesday is almost mandatory.
For now, Jabrill Peppers, the gem of 2014, seems to be a lock. Although he's firm with Hoke, Peppers could be a recruit to flip at the final moment. Sure, it's unlikely to happen—Peppers is all but Michigan's.
However, keep an eye out for late action.
For starters, Marshall is a former high school teammate of Malik McDowell, Southfield's 5-star defensive end who's torn between Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State and Florida State.
Should McDowell go to Columbus, Marshall may decide to follow. In the past, former high school teammates/friends have done so.
This season's NSD has an uneasy feeling. In all likelihood, Hoke will get all of his players and enter spring ball with a smile on his face. But that'd be too easy.
Don't rule out some impossible-sounding McDowell-Marshall move. If anything crazy is to happen, it's safe to say that McDowell will somehow be involved. His parents don't want him in East Lansing, per Joe Rexrode of the Detroit Free Press, but Malik wants to attend Michigan State.
His recruitment has become a circus, and a ripple effect could easily touch Ann Arbor.
Malik McDowell recruitment one B1G drama http://t.co/VwVv1Nf9rY— ESPN Big Ten (@ESPN_BigTen) February 4, 2014
Again, there is a strong likelihood that Michigan signs each of its remaining nine commits. But NSD has proven that nothing is impossible, something that you've either read or heard several times within the past few days.
UPDATE: McDowell has now signed with Michigan State according to the Detroit Free Press.
Get Excited About Noah Furbush
At 6'4" and 240 pounds, Noah Furbush has the ideal frame for versatility. Should he hit the weights and gain weight, he could easily translate his speed and instincts to defensive end.
As of now, he's right about there in terms of size for a solid Big Ten linebacker. Tabbed as a 3-star recruit by 247Sports, Furbush may be one of the most overlooked prospects of Hoke's 2014 class.
Everyone talks about Peppers, and rightfully so, but there are others brimming with hidden talent.
Michigan fans will have to wait until fall to see Furbush, but that doesn't mean they won't get an early glimpse at a future linebacker...
...he's next on this list.
Meet Michael Ferns
At 6'3" and 238 pounds, Michael Ferns could be just as valuable and versatile as Furbush.
Imagine an interchangeable pair capable of not only pass rushing, but pass coverage. As defensive ends/linebackers—depending on formation—Ferns and Furbush could turn into an effective combination.
Also, it's difficult not to like the potential plays on names—lots of foliage jokes.
Ferns' assertive nature should also be appreciated, as he's not afraid to speak up about change.
Sure, it was only a correction tweet, not a direct "listen to me now" aimed at ESPN. But the tweet could indicate Ferns' eye for detail. If he'll call out the mother ship for a mistake, best believe he'll do the same thing to an out-of-position player in practice.
Well, that's the idea.
All kidding aside, Ferns' leadership is his best asset. He helped lead the Team 135 movement on social media and is known for being stable and trustworthy.
Michigan May Have New QB
Look, Devin Gardner has the starting job until someone takes it from him.
However, that could be sooner rather than later.
Shane Morris played well enough during Team 134's 31-14 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl loss to K-State to deserve consideration come spring. An early enrollee, 2014 arrival Wilton Speight could also join the party.
Hoke's said the following about the position battle, per Angelique S. Chengelis of the Detroit News.
I think that’s an unknown [Gardner's role, per Chengelis]. Again, we were 7-6. And we’ve got a lot of young guys. We’ve got a lot of competition. Now, does Devin have the most experience? Yes, there’s no question.
I thought he [Morris, per Chengelis] did a really good job of being composed. I thought he did a great job on his preparation. He represented himself well in that game. He probably surprised some people how athletic he is. When he took the run down the field, it surprised me even a little bit he did such a good job with it.
Speight has the size—he's 6'6" and 220 pounds, ideal for a pro-style offense that's now run by coordinator Doug Nussmeier, who has a proven track record of developing quarterbacks.
The Wolverines' dismal 2013 season should have been enough to reconsider a few things, namely who lines up behind center. Gardner has the experience, and he's a great athlete—don't discount his importance to the team. However, Morris and Speight are the future.
Perhaps a little Richmond Collegiate magic will benefit Speight. Russell Wilson, a former Collegiate star, just led the Seattle Seahawks to a Super Bowl victory. That loose connection interests everyone, including guys who'll be competing directly with Speight.
@WiltonSpeight hey dude you know Russell Wilson?— Shane Morris (@ShaneMorris_7) February 2, 2014
Of course, Morris could have been poking fun at Speight. In jest or not, Morris has to know that he'll be challenged this season—and that's exactly what the offense needs. There has been zero depth at quarterback since Chad Henne's departure in 2007.
Hoke's history of top-10 classes is coming back to haunt him.
For some reason, those thoroughbred athletes haven't reached their potential, and that's as much Hoke's fault as it is the entire staff's.
FWIW, Brady Hoke said yesterday he flatly told his entire coaching staff that kids weren't developing fast enough, and that needed to change— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) February 5, 2014
This year, Hoke's No. 17-ranked class would do itself a favor by rapidly maturing from Day 1, which is nearly impossible but not out of the question.
For the class to do that, Hoke must adjust his approach—that's all there is to it. His past philosophies haven't worked, so turning a new leaf with Team 135's younger members would be a welcome change.
Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81