Michigan Football Recruiting: The Best and Worst of National Signing Day
Compared to other premier college football programs around the country, the Wolverines had a relatively uneventful, relaxed national signing day. Michigan's class gained its final member back in August, and the theme of this year's recruiting cycle was consistent with its last few classes. Head coach Brady Hoke doesn't care for last-minute surprises.
While Michigan's 16-man class slipped all the way to 20th nationally, it's packed top to bottom with elite talent. No. 3 overall recruit Jabrill Peppers is the headliner, but wide receiver Drake Harris has the type of ability that could propel him into next season's starting lineup.
Lawrence Marshall, who is the nation's No. 9-ranked defensive end, is another player with tremendous upside that can help create much-needed pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
But while it was mellow day in Schembechler Hall, it wasn't without its disappointments.
So what was the best and worst of national signing day for the Michigan Wolverines? I'll define "best" as the addition of signees who are likely to have an immediate impact on the team, and I'll define "worst" by highlighting a few recruits who made the decision to sign elsewhere.
All recruiting information courtesy of 247sports.com unless otherwise noted.
No. 1 Best Moment: Jabrill Peppers Signs LOI
Is there any doubt that officially landing Jabrill Peppers was the highlight of the day for Michigan? Peppers' fax arrived in Ann Arbor, Mich. at 8 a.m. ET on the dot, thus saving both Hoke and Michigan fans the stress of having to wait around.
By now you've probably read enough about the potential of Peppers; he's the most dynamic recruit that Michigan has landed in the last decade.
The only question marks surrounding Peppers now have to do with how he'll be used in his freshman season. Will he return kicks and punts? Will Doug Nussmeier lobby to create specific offensive packages that would feature Peppers?
These are all welcome questions for the Wolverines, as a few short months ago Peppers announced that he'd likely take other visits due to questions surrounding Hoke's job security.
No. 2 Best Moment: Lawrence Marshall Signs LOI
Lawrence Marshall, who's the fourth-highest-rated member of Michigan's 2014 class, kept the coaching staff on pins and needles for a few hours before faxing in his letter of intent at 10:53 a.m. ET.
The Southfield, Mich. standout boasts a 6'4" frame, but at just 230 pounds he'll need to make the most of the spring practices to bulk up. As some around the program would say, he needs to be Wellman-ized. Michigan's strength and conditioning coach, Aaron Wellman, is revered for his ability to prepare the bodies of incoming freshmen for the elevated rigors of football at the collegiate level.
Marshall, who was committed to Ohio State for a few days back in Feb. 2013, has the potential to be an impact player right away for the Wolverines. They'll need his help on the defensive line, as the Wolverines finished the 2013 season tied for 66th in the country in team sacks.
No. 1 Worst Moment: Malik McDowell Chooses Michigan State
The biggest disappointment of the day was undoubtedly defensive tackle Malik McDowell's decision to attend rival Michigan State, reportedly defying his parent's wishes in the process. While McDowell's signed paperwork hasn't yet arrived in East Lansing at the time of this writing, it seems to be a mere formality at this point.
Losing McDowell wasn't totally unexpected, but losing the top-ranked player in the state is always a bit of a blow. McDowell had the potential to form a formidable tandem with Bryan Mone on the interior of Michigan's defensive line.
The Wolverines will have an up-close view of what they missed out on for the next four years, as McDowell is poised to be a key contributor to the Spartans' already-stellar defense.
No. 2 Worst Moment: Jeff Jones Signs with Minnesota
It turns out that Michigan arrived a little too late to the Jeff Jones party. The Wolverines offered Jones the day after he turned in an MVP performance at the Under Armour All-American game on Jan. 2. Although Michigan seemed to take a slight lead in his recruitment and even got him to commit to an official visit, Jones ended up canceling.
Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill and his staff had been building a relationship with Jones for years, as he played his high school football right under their noses at Washburn High in Minneapolis. While Jones was surely enticed by the Wolverines' offer, he has a clearer path to playing time with the Golden Gophers.
While Jones has the potential to become a productive back, running backs with his ability are a commodity in college football. What made him an important recruit for Michigan is its lack of depth at the position, particularly with 2015 5-star running back Damien Harris' decommitment. Landing multiple backs in 2015 will be a big priority for Hoke and his staff.
Given the limited scholarships that Hoke had after signing large classes the last two years, this is a strong bunch. I would have liked to see them secure commitments from at least one more offensive lineman, but Juwann Bushell-Beatty will be a nice addition. Signing a running back would have been nice, but Derrick Green and De'Veon Smith are capable of carrying the load next year.
The Wolverines did secure commitments from three wide receivers, and they added some nice depth at linebacker. Overall, there's a lot to like about this 16-man group.