It’s still relatively early in Michigan’s recruiting of the 2017 freshman football class, but coach Jim Harbaugh and staff are flooding the market with offers and already have landed a key five-star quarterback who, just by his presence in the class, could wind up attracting big-time skill players.
Michigan has 12 commitments, including five-star quarterback Dylan McCaffrey, and the class currently is ranked No. 8 by 247Sports composite rankings.
“The class is off to a good start,” said Allen Trieu, Midwest recruiting manager for Scout. “As it’s been under Harbaugh, if you’re going to go after top national guys as they’re doing, you’re going to have to wait. There are a lot of guys they’d like to have who are in the process of looking at things and there will be an ebb and flow and change right up to signing day, but certainly I think it’s a really good start to the class.”
Landing McCaffrey, an elite 6-foot-5, 200-pound quarterback, on the heels of signing quarterback Brandon Peters in the last class, has been key for Michigan’s 2017 class pursuits, according to Steve Lorenz, who handles recruiting for Wolverine247.
“They’ve gotten tougher,” Lorenz said of Michigan’s overall recruiting. “They’ve built a bridge with quarterback recruiting with Peters and McCaffrey.
"Teams that are in the top five every year have elite quarterback play, and Michigan has gotten two of the best in each cycle. Both are top-three quarterbacks in their classes, and two years with Harbaugh they’ll be ready to go.
“Getting a quarterback wrapped up after the Peters recruitment was massive. The other big thing that stands out in this class is (A.J.) Dillon and (O’Maury) Samuels are two freaks in terms of physical abilities at running back.”
As the class currently stands, McCaffrey, the younger brother of Stanford Heisman Trophy finalist Christian McCaffrey, is the top prospect.
“I don’t know he’ll end up as the highest-ranked player in the class,” Trieu said, “but based on his position and his name and what he’s accomplished and that he committed early, I think he’s going to shake out as the crown jewel of the class. He’s the real deal.”
Landing a top quarterback early can pay dividends in recruiting, as he begins communicating with top skill position prospects.
“For the most part, Dylan McCaffrey was probably their No. 1 overall target,” Lorenz said. “It was pivotal for them to land him, because getting a five-star quarterback builds interest with skill players. It’s not going to hurt them with (Cass Tech receiver) Donovan Peoples-Jones. It’s nice to have a visible elite guy and he’s got the McCaffrey name, he’s Christian’s brother, and that’s something they can build off of.”
A year ago, the Wolverines clearly had position needs, primarily linebacker, and that’s what Harbaugh and his staff attacked. This year, the concerns are not as evident.
“You don’t go into this year with any dire needs,” Trieu said. “Last year, holy cow, they needed linebackers. I don’t think you necessarily have that kind of position now, red alert, you need to get these players. In terms of offensive line depth, they don’t have that yet. They have a lot of offers out. They’re trending well for a couple of those guys.
“There are needs in the class but there’s definitely not the same level of almost desperation as it was with the linebacker position last year. This gives you the luxury to take the best players you can take.”
But Harbaugh and staff have found talent less flashy than five-star McCaffrey, Lorenz said. He singled out defensive tackle Phil Paea, a three star from Berrien Springs.
“I really like what they’ve done in the mid-three star to low-four star range,” Lorenz said. “There are a few guys who may move up (in rankings) in the process but even if they don’t, they’re going to be good players.
“We have (Paea) as a mid-three star. This is a kid from southwest Michigan with offers from USC, Oregon, Notre Dame, schools that not only know a good defensive tackle, but you don’t see them offer in Michigan that much. This is the perfect example of a guy they’ve found and they recruited him really hard.”
Among the top Michigan targets are Peoples-Jones, a five-star and top-rated player in Michigan and a top receiver nationally. Jaylen Kelly-Powell, a safety from Cass Tech, and defensive end Corey Malone-Hatcher from St. Joseph. The most interesting development regarding Peoples-Jones, who has expressed an interest in following his father into medicine, has been shadowing surgeons at U-M Hospital.
“They all are pretty serious targets,” Trieu said. “I wouldn’t be a surprised if all three ended up in the class. Peoples-Jones is a consensus top 2-3 receiver in country, No.1 in state, and (Michigan has) moved further up lately with him. He’s a really smart kid who wants to go into med school, and it’s really important for him and his mom that he do that. That experience is a recruiting chip no one else has.”
MICHIGAN FOOTBALL COMMITMENTS 2017
Star ratings by Scout.com.
A.J. Dillon, RB, Lawrence Academy, Groton, Mass. – Three stars
Carter Dunaway, TE, Birmingham Brother Rice – Two stars
JaRaymond Hall, OT, Oak Park – Four stars
Chase Lasater, LB, Trinity Christian Academy, Jacksonville, Fla. – Two stars
Ben Mason, LB, Newtown High, Sandy Hook, Conn. – Three stars
Dylan McCaffrey, QB Valor Christian High, Highlands Ranch, Colo. – Four stars
Phil Paea, DT, Berrien Springs (Mich.) High – Three stars
Josh Ross, LB, Orchard Lake St. Mary’s – Four stars
Benjamin St. Juste, CB, Cegep du Vieux Montreal – Three stars
O’Maury Samuels, RB, Los Lunas (N.M.) High – Four stars
Kurt Taylor, RB, Newton High, Covington, Mass. – Three stars
J’Marick Woods, S, Florence (Ala.) High – Four stars