Now that around 80 percent of prospects in the 2019 class have been signed, it’s time to turn attention to the 2020 recruiting class.
After landing what will likely be the top class in the Big Ten after it’s all said and done, Michigan will look to continue its success on the recruiting trail. While the 2020 signing day is a little less than a year out, Michigan’s recruiting board has been taking shape.
In order to get everyone familiar with the recruits that will spend the next year toying with fan’s emotions in order to elate or crush them, I’m going to give a breakdown by position of which players the staff will be pursuing.
Here’s how this is going to work. For every position, there will be five groups. The first will be any commits Michigan has at the position. Next will be the one guy I think Michigan wants the most. He probably has the best chance to end up in the class when it’s all said and done.
The third group will contain all the legitimate targets Michigan is pursuing. The fourth group will be the highly touted national players that maybe Michigan has offered, but are still a long shot to land. The final group will consist of under-the-radar, lower-ranked prospects that aren’t getting a lot of attention yet.
When we look back at these lists at the end of the year, they’re going to look wildly different than what actually happened, but that’s recruiting. I’m still betting a good portion of Michigan’s 2020 class will be named during this exercise, so buckle in and get ready to learn a whole new crop of players!
The first position covered will be the one Michigan has had the most success recruiting under Jim Harbaugh: Quarterback.
Pinnacle (AZ) 3-star JD Johnson
This position looks entirely different than anyone would have expected up until a little over a month ago. Georgia 4-star Harrison Bailey had double digit crystal ball picks for Michigan and he was announcing at the end of November. But a late run by Tennessee saw him end up as a Volunteer to the disappointment of Michigan fans.
Then, just a couple of weeks ago, Michigan landed a surprising commitment from Arizona 3-star JD Johnson. The drop-off from top-50 player in Bailey to the mid 3-star Johnson caused some consternation, but in my prevailing rosy attitude towards Michigan football, I think it could be beneficial.
Every full recruiting cycle under Harbaugh, he has flirted with taking two quarterbacks. The position could use one more guy in the room, considering Shea Patterson will be gone to the NFL after next season and it’s extremely likely someone else, probably Brandon Peters, will be transferring.
Taking two quarterbacks is tough, considering only one can play at a time and getting two blue chip guys to sign in the same class just gives them more competition. But signing someone lowly-ranked like Johnson isn’t going to scare away the elite talent Michigan is pursuing.
On the other hand, if the staff’s evaluation on Johnson is correct and he blows up once he’s not sitting behind the top quarterback in the 2019 class, than Michigan has its usual blue chip in the fold already. Quarterbacks always commit early in the cycle, so it was good for Michigan to at least stake their claim for somebody in the class after its top target went off the board in the 11th hour.
Liberty (CA) 4-star Jay Butterfield
Let’s talk about those top-ranked guys Michigan is still pursuing, though. The No. 1 target after Bailey committed to Tennessee became Jay Butterfield, a 4-star ranked in the top 50. I’d normally feel comfortable with Michigan going hard after the elite California signal caller, but one thing tempering my enthusiasm is the lurking Stanford Cardinal.
Stanford quarterback recruiting is a complete outlier in this age of recruiting. In the last five years, they’ve offered nine quarterbacks total. Of those nine, four have committed to the Cardinal. Their extremely selective process usually results in them landing the guy they want.
Butterfield is probably a guy they want. He’s a Stanford legacy, as his father played football for them. The one saving grace is Stanford hasn’t offered Butterfield yet. What’s holding them back is the quarterback they signed in 2018. Tanner McKee, that cycle’s No. 3 player at the position, took a two-year Mormon mission immediately after high school. He’s scheduled to return right as Butterfield would arrive on campus.
If Stanford is content with just taking McKee, or Butterfield doesn’t want to battle it out with another highly-ranked quarterback who has two more years of physical development, than Michigan has positioned themselves well.
One card up Michigan’s sleeve is the fact Butterfield’s head coach is Ryan Partridge, who happens to be Chris Partridge’s cousin. That connection should be beneficial for the Wolverines. At this point, if Stanford doesn’t end up offering, I think Butterfield ends up in Ann Arbor.
In the Mix
St. Paul’s School (NH) 4-star Parker McQuarrie
If Butterfield does end up staying out west, next on Michigan’s list is McQuarrie. Like so many others, the staff identified the New Englander early, and has seen his stock rise dramatically.
Boston College will be the biggest threat here, as McQuarrie’s brother plays for the team already, which has also given him plenty of opportunities to visit their campus. The 6-foot-7 McQuarrie is a good back-up option for Butterfield and is someone Michigan could land if it puts on the full court press.
Suffield Academy (CT) 3-star Tyler Van Dyke
Van Dyke is also from the Northeast and has a similar offer list to McQuarrie. It’s been pretty quiet with Van Dyke and Michigan, but he’s, at best, fourth in line here. Boston College, NC State and Wisconsin are also interested, but his recruitment is fairly wide open.
St. John Bosco (CA) 5-star DJ Uiagalelei
Uiagalelei is the No. 1 pro-style quarterback in the country. He was originally thought to be going to USC like what star quarterbacks from California are supposed to do. Instead, he was beaten to the punch by the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback in the country, Bryce Young, who committed to the Trojans in July.
Clemson has emerged as the likely destination. Michigan, along with every other major program in the country, has offered, but there doesn’t seem to be much buzz between the two.
Marietta (GA) 4-star Harrison Bailey
I threw Bailey in here because of how his recruitment played out. Michigan had been the clear leader for a long time, and only at the last second did Bailey switch to Tennessee. If Bailey was led by impulse and those good feelings wear off over time, he could end up looking around again.
What’s been buoying Tennessee’s momentum on the recruiting trail has been the new coach smell of Jeremy Pruitt. But if they fail to show improvement in Year 2, it gets harder to sell that outlook to recruits. The race may not be over for Bailey.
Under the Radar
Lexington Catholic (KY) 3-star Beau Allen
Michigan has several prospects in its back pocket they could pull out in an emergency. Allen is a 3-star from Kentucky who visited campus a few times this season. Him and Moiava, who we’ll cover next, are the only two quarterbacks to receive offers from Michigan in this category. Being that he’s from Lexington, his two crystal ball picks are for the hometown Wildcats.
St. John’s (DC) 3-star Sol-Jay Moiava
Moiava is a dual-threat quarterback who is part of the Wolverine’s efforts to insert themselves in Washington DC powerhouse St. John’s, and the DMV region at large. Michigan has already nabbed his teammate, 2018 commit Quinten Johnson. He’s originally from Hawaii, so most of his offers are from schools out west.
Whitmer (OH) 3-star Riley Keller
Keller is a 3-star from Toledo who is trending towards West Virginia. Besides the Mountaineers, his other offers are low Power 5 or MAC schools. His Ohio State crystal ball is outdated.
Canisius (NY) unranked Christian Veilleux
Veilleux is an interesting recruit. He started his high school career in Canada, which is where the staff found him. But last season he moved to Buffalo, New York to play for Canisius, the former school of TJ Wheatley. With that move, he reclassified from the 2021 class to 2020.
As a resident of upstate New York, I selfishly want things to heat up with Christian Veilleux a little more so I can go watch him play. But he’s still unranked and truncating a year of high school may have limited his opportunity to get noticed more. Virginia Tech is the only school that’s offered so far.
Detroit Renaissance (MI) unranked Raequan Beal
Wrapping up the position is Detroit local Raequan Beal. He has great physical tools, but would be a project to develop. He’s visited campus a couple times during the season. Central Michigan is his only offer right now.
Like usual, Michigan is in a good position with quarterback recruits. The program has consistently landed a blue chip talent at the position, and it looks like 2020 will be no different. The story line to watch will be if JD Johnson climbs the rankings or the staff decides to pair him with another recruit down the line.
Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at the running back position.