Q&A: WolverinesWire Talks Michigan Recruiting With 247Sports' Steve Lorenz

Q&A: WolverinesWire Talks Michigan Recruiting With 247Sports' Steve Lorenz

Football

Q&A: WolverinesWire Talks Michigan Recruiting With 247Sports' Steve Lorenz


Fans have different views on how Michigan has done on the recruiting trail the past few years. Steve Lorenz gives his view on how the Wolverines have fared and how they’re moving forward.


Q&A: WolverinesWire Talks Michigan Recruiting With 247Sports’ Steve Lorenz

Depending on who you ask, Michigan is doing great recruiting under Jim Harbaugh or the program is in complete free fall.

The program had back-to-back Top 5 classes in 2016-17, but 2018 saw a smaller class, and one without the high-powered, highly rated talent of its predecessors.

For many, that’s cause for concern about the direction of the Wolverines recruiting, especially on the heels of an 8-5 season, which included losses to every team with a winning record.

But programs aren’t built in a day, and neither are teams. WolverinesWire spoke with 247Sports’ Steve Lorenz, perhaps the best in the business when it comes to Michigan recruiting, about where the maize and blue stand with prospects in 2019, the coaching staff’s approach and his view of how things have shaken out to this point under Jim Harbaugh.

A lot of people have made a big deal out of Michigan’s 2018 class and how it’s not nearly at the level of the previous two. What are your thoughts about how Michigan has done last year and early into the 2019 class?

Michigan missed late on some big targets in the 2018 class. Tyler Friday probably would be the primary one. Probably Jarrett Patterson, Nic Petit-Frere fit into that category, too. Maybe Patterson, more so. Petit-Frere was never a certainty or maybe even a likelihood that he was going to Michigan.

As far as the group of three-star guys that they decided to offer, recruit and take commitments from early in the cycle and then sign, I think it’s a situation where it is a test of the staff’s ability to evaluate. But I think we’ve seen, or are starting to see, that their evaluations have been mostly strong, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. And that’s the thing — what, four defensive backs were three-star guys? And defensive back is probably one of the best spots they’ve evaluated thus far.

I think it’s probably a deal, like I said, a battle between evaluations, recruiting services and sky-is-falling fans that need something to complain about. The bulk of that class was signed or was on pace to sign or committed — however you want to put it — well before Michigan had an 8-5 season. If anything, 8-5 maybe led to a couple of those misses that I mentioned. To me, if you want to look at it negative in ’18, it’d be that.

In 2019, I think the class is out to a fine start. I think they have a great offensive line class building, with a potential to finish out strong there, too. The one thing they’ve done really well this cycle, in my opinion, is they’ve gotten almost all of their top targets on campus already. And those are guys, a lot of them, have come from a long ways away. You’ve got Quavaris Crouch coming out twice. You’ve got Zach Charbonnet coming up from California. You’ve got John Emery coming up from Louisiana. You have — (Te’Cory Couch) decommitted — but you have the kids from Miami coming up for visits. I just think they’ve done a good job. Most of those have been unofficial, though, right? They have the kids from Miami for the official. But they’ve done a good job getting a lot of the guys that they really want on campus.

Now it’s finish the summer out strong, have a good season, then close strong at the end. That’s kind of what it comes down to. I don’t think you’ll see a ranking that reflects last year again, maybe, unless they have a really small class, but again, they’re also not afraid to take a three-star prospect. I think they’ve made that clear. Again, if people have a problem with that, we’ll just have to see how that plays out, right?

A lot of people want to see those higher end four-stars and five-stars they’ve gotten. They’ve got Herron and Hinton in this particular class as of current.

Who are some other names — like you mentioned Quavaris Crouch — who are some other names that Michigan fans — whether you mentioned them before or not — that Michigan fans should really be paying attention to their recruitment? That Michigan really has a good shot with?

Well, I think Mazi Smith, the defensive tackle from East Kentwood (MI) is a name that comes to mind immediately. Crouch is somebody I think they –again, not much respect from the reporters and schools down south, as far as Michigan’s position there — but, I think Michigan is very much in that race. Charbonnet is another one. We have him ranked in the 200s, he’s a four-star. But I think he’s right at the top of Michigan’s running back board, and I think they’re in a really good spot right now.

As far as the four/five-star guys: Trevor Keegan, on the offensive line. It’s kind of been a weird recruitment, but I think Michigan — they’ll be hosting him this upcoming weekend — he’ll be on campus the 22nd. There’s a pretty good shot there. I think it’s Michigan and Ohio State. Zach Harrison, I don’t know. We’ll see. He’ll be on campus as well, I believe, on Thursday. Still have to assume it’s Ohio State, but Michigan, Al Washington, has done a great job in that race.

You have the two safeties, Daxton Hill and Lewis Cine, are guys that Michigan both have a legitimate shot with at this point. I think Cine maybe a little better of a shot with, actually. The Hill recruitment seems to be back and forth a lot. And Cine will be on campus the 22nd as well for his official. It will be his first time, so…

Really, D.J. Turner, too. He’s a three-star, but Michigan is in excellent shape there. Probably in better shape than anybody we talked about.

They’re in the race for pretty much most of those top targets. You go to our top targets page, all those guys they’re at least in the top four or five with, for sure, if not higher for most of them. Kind of like, at this point last year, they were in a similar position. Success there will come to winning on the field this fall. But at the same time though, I don’t expect them to have an 8-5 season this year, but I just think that the foundation is there that they’re class overall will be better in ’19 than ’18 for those who care about the ranking and the ratings and stuff like that, regardless.

I get a lot of questions as of late as to what’s going on with in-state recruiting. Things seem to be somewhat down there compared to ’16 and ’17, when Michigan seemed to be able to go and get the top guys in-state that they wanted.

Last year wasn’t quite as good and this year they seem to be fading down the stretch for some of the guys they were looking at. Do you have any opinions as to why that is, or is it just that the players aren’t necessarily fitting into what Michigan wants to do? Or are those players not considering Michigan?

I think it’s a mix. The Belleville kids have not been an option for months. That whole situation has been played out publicly. That’s an isolated incident, is the best way to put it there. I don’t think their lack of success with Dobbs and Barnett are indicative of a downtick in in-state recruiting. I think it’s just an isolated incident.

Really, it’s a lot like it is every year. They’ve offered a decent amount of guys, but six or seven of them are guys they’re really enamored with or in on. I think the biggest miss would be Logan Brown, out of East Kentwood — Mazi Smith’s teammate. But just a kid Wisconsin offered earlier. He just liked Wisconsin more. It happens. I compared it to Ben Bredeson, who did the opposite — Wisconsin native who liked Michigan more and decided to pick Michigan. Even though Wisconsin (has) great production on the field, great production on the offensive line. He just liked Michigan better. Michigan was a better fit. So that was the Logan Brown deal.

I think the Lance Dixon situation — that’s a miss for the staff. There’s really no way to twist that. Whether he was a VIPER or a WILL linebacker, I think he was a guy they were going to take either way. He appears to be a kid that just wants to leave the area. People say that there’s less effort in-state, which is stupid. Chris Partridge and Al Washington are recruiting Lance Dixon. Those two are maybe the most aggressive recruiters on the staff. But that’s a miss, too.

But again, you’ve got Mazi Smith, you’ve got Karsen Barnhart — two of those six or seven names. Again, Dobbs and Barnett would be two of those names, but that’s kind of an isolated incident there.

I think 2020, 2021 — I think it will be like it was in 2016, 2017 for Michigan. I’m skeptical that 8-5 is really why Michigan is really not — Dixon’s not going to Michigan State. Brown’s not going to Michigan State. And Dobbs may not even go to Michigan State — that’s up in the air right now, as well. So it’s not as if these kids are spurning Michigan for Michigan State, let’s say. They’re just guys that are choosing some different programs. Some are losses, some are not losses.

Last thing: you mentioned how Partridge and Al Washington have been some of the most aggressive recruiters. Al Washington being a new hire. Sherrone Moore, another aggressive recruiter.

The recruiting staff looks completely different than when Harbaugh first arrived. What do you make of that and the complexion of how they go about recruiting? How is it different? Is what they’re doing better, and, if so, why do you think so?

They’re very adamant about fit across the board. There’s those guys — they’re the elite guys. The five-stars, the Top 100 players in the country that everyone’s going to want, Michigan included. But once you get past that point, I think the variance in projecting a recruit’s success can vary kind of wildly. And I think Michigan, under Harbaugh — people always want to point at recruiting coordinators and these people as to why Michigan maybe didn’t finish ’18 strong, let’s say — when in fact, they really are maybe doing a better job of getting kids up to Ann Arbor earlier in the process. That used to be an issue, in my opinion, in getting guys up. And that’s not the easiest thing in the world to do, to get a family to fly out to Michigan from California, let’s say, on their own dime. I think they’ve done a really good job there.

A lot of the guys they take, a lot of it’s predicated on just their fit. That could be schematically, but I also think there’s an academic baseline — is the best way to put it. You look at the way they recruit their preferred walk-ons. Most of those guys are committed to Ivy League schools or are being recruited by Ivy League schools. I think when it comes to scholarship guys, there’s similar aspirations, but you don’t have to abide by such high academic standards with scholarship kids. That’s where I think, with Magee and Dudek and those guys, they’ve done a good job at look for who fits. And again, like I said, they don’t care if it’s a three-star or a four-star. And whether, again, five years down the road, we’re looking back and saying that was to their detriment, so be it. I’m just telling you what they are doing, and the way that they’re doing it. No opinion on my end other than I think the coaching staff itself does a good job of evaluating.

It’s fit, evaluations. They just want kids that fit the program socially, schematically and academically.

Check out more of Steve Lorenz’s work at The Michigan Insider, and follow him at @TremendousUM on Twitter.

Contact/Follow @WolverinesWire@isaiahhole

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