Jim Harbaugh took some criticism for Signing Of The Stars 2016, but by god, he actually signed some stars.
To be able to say that in 2017 is quite the feat, considering the 2016 class is only sophomores or redshirt freshmen right now. They’re a huge part of the team, and many of them are performing quite well. Here’s a rundown on the progress so far from the 8th-ranked 2016 recruiting class:
(All rankings from the 247 Composite)
Rashan Gary DE
National Rank: 1, Position Rank: 1 (DT)
Have you heard of this guy? Gary had a relatively quiet freshman year rotating on the line. He wasn’t racking up stats early this year as a starter, but he’s started to come on of late. He’s got 2.5 sacks, 6.5 TFL and 33 tackles this year to go along with his generally disruptive presence.
Ben Bredeson OG
National Rank: 41, Position Rank: 5 (OT)
Bredeson is the full-time starter at left guard after seeing a fair amount of playing time last year after Grant Newsome’s injury. The cheese-fed Wisconsin-native is exactly the type of lineman that usually ends up a Badger, but Michigan snatched him away, and it’s a good thing for this team that they did. The Wolverine o-line has only been okay this season, but it would be much worse without Bredeson in it. He was one of Michigan’s best o-linemen against Minnesota on Saturday and played a big part in paving the way for 371 Wolverine rushing yards.
Brandon Peters PRO
National Rank: 64, Position Rank: 6
Have you heard this name in the news lately? As a redshirt freshman that started the season third on the depth chart, Peters has taken a moribund passing game and made it at least adequate enough to give the run game the space it needs to succeed. He’s not being asked to do much, but he’s getting the job done, even with a sub-standard 6.57 yards per attempt.
David Long CB
National Rank: 68, Position Rank: 8
Long is one half of a sophomore cornerback duo that has shown very little drop-off from last year’s great heights. You don’t hear his name often, which is a good thing for players in the secondary–Michigan fans are hoping it stays that way.
Devin Asiasi TE
National Rank: 79, Position Rank: 3
Asiasi got homesick last year and transferred to UCLA after showing a lot of promise as a freshman. The tight end was a total bonus in the 2016 recruiting class, but alas, it was too good to be true.
Michael Onwenu OG
National Rank: 94, Position Rank: 4
Onwenu is listed at 350 pounds, but it’s probably something more planet-sized like 380. If I was 380 pounds I wouldn’t have the strength to get out of bed, let alone sprint downfield and make opposing safeties dive out of my way for fear of having to be picked out of the turf with tweezers. The Cass Tech product has been arguably Michigan’s best o-lineman this year and is playing incredibly well for a sophomore at a position where experience is paramount.
Kareem Walker RB
National Rank: 106, Position Rank: 5
Walker hasn’t seen much time after having some grade issues last year and an injury this year, but he looked good against Rutgers, averaging 5.7 YPA. Look for him to make his mark in a year or two when the backfield is less crowded.
Kekoa Crawford WR
National Rank: 126, Position Rank: 21
It’s hard to call any sophomore a miss, but Harbaugh and the coaching staff might have whiffed on this one. Crawford had several receivers in front of him last year but looked okay as a freshman. Coming into this year he was supposed to be the number one option but has struggled along with the rest of the passing game. Younger players are playing in front of him now–never a good sign.
Lavert Hill CB
National Rank: 142, Position Rank: 12
Hill is the other half of the sophomore cornerback duo and has been slightly more impressive than Long. One imagines this season has been strange for Hill–he’s playing great but the two other teams that were in on his soap opera of a recruitment, Michigan State and Penn State, have both beaten the Wolverines. Hill has been great after some coaching criticism during fall camp, and as an upperclassman he has as good a chance as any of Michigan’s acclaimed 2016 class to become an All American.
Ron Johnson WDE
National Rank: 306, Position Rank: 23
He’s been named scout team Player Of The Week twice this season but has made no impact other than that. Check back in two to three years when Chase Winovich and Rashan Gary are gone.
Carlo Kemp SDE
National Rank: 314, Position Rank: 15
He’s seen time as a reserve this season but hasn’t made a noteworthy impact. He’s closer to significant playing time than Johnson, so check back if there’s an injury on the d-line or in one to three years.
Devin Bush Jr. ILB
National Rank: 326, Position Rank: 14
Michigan stopped pursuing higher-ranked linebackers because they were set with Bush, and they were right. In his first year starting, Bush has been a human missile of a linebacker, registering 77 tackles, five sacks, eight TFL and six PBUs.
Chris Evans RB
National Rank: 338, Position Rank: 9 (APB)
Evans looked good as change-of-pace back least year and came into the season as the starting running back, but bad luck getting blocks led to other running backs taking away his snaps. He had by far the best game of his career on Saturday against Minnesota, gaining 191 yards with touchdowns of 60 and 67 yards, but Karan Higdon had an equally impressive night. If he can establish himself as a real receiving threat, something he was in high school, he will gain more playing time, but right now he feels like one part of a crowded backfield.
Nick Eubanks TE
National Rank: 369, Position Rank: 15
Per usual with Harbaugh, there are a lot of tight ends on the roster. Eubanks made a 61-yard touchdown catch against Florida but has been dealing with injuries since. Check back when he’s fully-healed.
Khaleke Hudson Viper
National Rank: 386, Position Rank: 19 (S)
Hudson was criminally underrated as a recruit and he’s proven it this season. The Jabrill Peppers heir apparent on defense just broke the Michigan TFL record on Saturday against the Gophers in what Pro Football Focus is considering a near-perfect performance, plus he forced the fumble that sealed the game for the Wolverines. Hudson started the year as the starter at Viper and now has a death-grip on it. The only question for Michigan fans now is whether Hudson will be around for one or two more years.
Eddie McDoom WR
National Rank: 408, Position Rank: 69
Unfortunately for McDoom, having the best name on the roster has not translated to the best play on the roster. There is playing time available at receiver for anyone who can go and get it, but McDoom hasn’t been able to. So far, he’s just been used a few times on jet sweeps. If things click, he could see a lot of action in the future.
Elysee-Mbem Bosse ILB
National Rank: 499, Position Rank: 19
He’s been MIA so far but could see time next year when Mike McCray is gone.
Nate Johnson CB
National Rank: 597, Position Rank: 97 (WR)
Johnson was moved to defense at the beginning of the season (never a good sign) and then was booted off the team in early October after allegedly assaulting a woman he’d been dating.
Quinn Nordin K
National Rank: 703, Position Rank: 1
Nordin was the best kicker in the Big Ten until Saturday when he missed a 41-yarder and an extra point (for the second time this year). If he gets things figured out he’s a huge asset who can boom them from 60.
Joshua Uche WDE
National Rank: 716, Position Rank: 43
Uche is buried for now beneath a very good and deep Wolverine front-seven.
Kingston Davis FB
National Rank: 741, Position Rank: 1
Davis left the program citing a desire to play linebacker combined with a crowded depth chart at fullback (this is a Harbaugh team after all).
Stephen Spanellis OL
National Rank: 745, Position Rank: 32
He’s just started to garner some playing time on the o-line, but he doesn’t seem like the answer to Michigan’s pass-blocking woes.
Josh Metellus S
National Rank: 749, Position Rank: 48
Here’s your starting safety for the Wolverines, ranked all the way down at 48 for his position. Metellus is a solid if unspectacular starter on one of the nastiest defenses in the country. His stats aren’t impressive (only 14 tackles and two PBUs), but that’s probably because there are too many playmakers in the front-seven. Boring safeties are good.
Sean McKeon TE
National Rank: 864, Position Rank: 45
Plucked from Don Brown’s neck of the woods, McKeon burst onto the scene this season and grabbed hold of the starting pass-catching tight end job. He’s Michigan’s most reliable receiver and a plausible blocker, with 24 catches on the year. He’s the diamond in the rough from 2016’s class, on a Jake Butt-like trajectory.
Michael Dwumfour DT
National Rank: 957, Position Rank: 59
Many thought Dwumfour’s offer was an afterthought, an effort to sweeten the pot for Gary by letting him bring his buddy along. As a backup d-lineman this year, Dwumfour’s proven he belongs. When he picked up half a sack against Rutgers, Gary and Maurice Hurst were ecstatic on the sideline. He could be starting as soon as next year.
Devin Gil LB
National Rank: NA, Position Rank: 65
Gil hasn’t seen much time other thank in the Florida game where he filled in for Mike McCray for a series. He looked okay and could start as soon as next year when McCray is gone.