ANN ARBOR, Mich. — When the Michigan football team regroups in January to begin preparations for the 2019 season, it won’t have to wait long to see what its latest recruiting class is capable of.
Speaking on the Inside Michigan Football radio show this week, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh confirmed that eight Wolverine recruits would enroll early. Cornerback Jalen Perry, defensive end Gabe Newburg, receiver Mike Sainristil, tight end Erick All, defensive end David Ojabo, running back Zach Charbonnet, quarterback Cade McNamara and defensive tackle Mazi Smith are all slated to move to Ann Arbor before classes begin January 9 to begin their collegiate careers early.
“We tell them to just pack a duffle bag of clothes, a toothbrush and a great attitude,” Harbaugh said of the early enrollees, citing that Director of Football Operations Mark Taurisani, Strength and Conditioning coach Ben Herbert and the Wolverines’ coaches take pride in making the transition to college as easy as possible. “It’s really turnkey … it’s all laid out when it comes to the midyear. Just show up with a great attitude, and be excited about taking that next step in their life. Every guy seems ready to do that.”
While Michigan is slated to return most of its starters for a second season in a row, there will be starting jobs available that early enrollees could be pushing for. Karan Higdon’s graduation opens up a number of available carries for Charbonnet to compete for alongside Chris Evans, Tru Wilson, Christian Turner and others. Newburg and Ojabo are doubtful to pass Josh Uche and Kwity Paye at defensive end, but could battle to crack the rotation. The same could be said for Smith, as he battles Carlo Kemp and Mike Dwumfour.
Though Michigan hasn’t started a freshman cornerback in the last five seasons, it’s not infeasible that Perry — a top-200 cornerback — contends with Ambry Thomas, Sammy Faustin, Vincent Gray and others for serious snaps.
All, McNamara and Sainristil are less likely to compete for a two-deep spot, but fit a theme Harbaugh found prevalent in his class — ranked seventh nationally and first in the Big Ten per the 247Sports Composite Team Rankings. The group wants to work, and it wants to work now.
“The guys are definitely bigger, and stronger and faster, smarter, than I think guys were 10 years, 20 years, for sure 30 years ago,” Harbaugh said when asked about recruits being more physically and emotionally ready than in the past. “… They’ve all met with Ben (Herbert), Ben’s met with all these guys. They’re hungry, they’re hungry to get the workouts, they want to see the playbook. They want to get going as quickly as possible.
“Real highlight about this group; they’re not afraid to work.”