Michigan has 18 verbal commitments to its 2018 football class so far, and all but two are expected to sign their letters of intent during the three-day early signing period that begins Wednesday.
It’s a new world in recruiting, although the established signing day the first Wednesday in February remains intact. The addition of an early signing period has shaken things up for recruiting analysts whose heavy December workload tracking down recruits replaces what was a typical January.
And for college coaching staffs and high school players, this is too new to tell how exactly it has been embraced. College coaches have had to juggle bowl-game preparations with recruiting.
“It’s just that everything is a month earlier for me,” said Allen Trieu, who covers Midwest Football recruiting for 247Sports and is a frequent Detroit News contributor. “For the kids and coaches, it’s uncharted territory. It’s not viewed extremely positively, and part of that is because it’s Year 1. The guinea pigs always have it the hardest.”
Otis Reese, the Wolverines’ highest-rated commitment, a 6-foot-4, 206-pound linebacker ranked No. 6 at his position by 247Sports, is not expected to sign during the early period. In fact, he may not sign at all with the Wolverines, although the staff has made a significant push to keep him in the fold.
Reese is from Leesburg, Ga., and he is getting considerable pressure from Georgia to head to Athens and not Ann Arbor.
“He’s outstanding,” Trieu said. “He fits what (Michigan) does (defensively), as well.”
Brandon Brown, a recruiting expert and reporter for Rivals’ TheWolverine.com, said that while Georgia is making its big push for Reese, Georgia outside linebacker coach Kevin Sherrer will move to Tennessee to take over as defensive coordinator.
“For months it’s looked like a done deal, he’s going to flip to Georgia,” Brown said, adding Reese didn’t want to draw attention while he prepared for his delayed state title game. “Now there are some shake-ups on the (Georgia) defensive staff, while (Chris) Partridge, (Jim) Harbaugh, (Devin) Bush and Don Brown have been putting on the full-court press trying to hang onto him. But there’s a lot of pressure for him to stay home.”
Quarterback Kevin Doyle is not expected to sign during the early period, and tight end Mustapha Muhammad, who was expected to delay signing, apparently will sign Wednesday, according to Brown.
A recruit to watch, Brown and Trieu, said, is four-star offensive lineman Jalen Mayfield from Grand Rapids Catholic Central.
“I’ve seen him a lot,” said Trieu, who lives in that area of the state. “He has a chance to be one of the best guys in the class, although he may not play right away.”
Brown said Rivals has Mayfield rated three stars but believe he’s a four-star recruit.
“He’s a winner,” Brown said of Mayfield, who helped lead the team to a Division 4 state title. “I’ve watched a ton of offensive linemen, and he’s in the top two, three most athletic offensive linemen I’ve seen. He played basketball his whole life, and it just shows on the field. I think he’s still a little bit undersized, but he has a bright future.”
Brown also likes cornerback Myles Sims and quarterback Joe Milton. Both are expected to enroll early.
“He has a ton of upside,” Brown said of Sims. “We’ve seen a lot of young corners at Michigan — Ambry Thomas comes to mind — get playing time right away, and they’re built similarly. (Michigan) coaches had him ranked high on the board. He’s a smart kid and seems to fit the program on and off the field. He’s from Georgia where the staff is recruiting heavily. He’s the type of kid who can come in and thrive and will have a shot to make the two-deep and see the field in the fall.”
The knock on Milton has been his completion percentage, having made just 47.9 percent of his throws his senior season.
Still, Brown sees plenty of upside for the nearly 6-foot-6, 230-pound quarterback.
“I love Joe Milton,” he said. “His numbers and stats are not that good. His completion percent is bad, less than 50 percent, but I saw him live and did a face-to-face video with him — he’s a monster and runs around like a deer. He legitimately can throw the ball 75 yards in the air.”
Trieu said Michigan under Harbaugh is signing “full classes” meaning he wants the best players at every position, although if there is a position of need, the staff will actively work to fill those spots.
Right now, Rivals has Michigan’s recruiting class ranked No. 15, while the 247Sports composite has the Wolverines No. 12.
Michigan is not in the running, Brown, said for any “big-time stars” and said the class will wind up being about 22 freshmen. Trieu said the bulk of Michigan’s recruiting work for next fall is done, but the staff is still pursuing players.
“If you’re Michigan, Ohio State, Notre Dame, you’re still going to have guys on the board,” Trieu said. “There’s going to be stuff to do, just not as much.”