Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh and athletic director Warde Manuel shoot down NFL rumors on Sunday, Dec. 9, 2018, at Crisler Center.
Nick Baumgardner, Freep
The final stretch has arrived.
And, for Michigan football, there’s a lot going on.
The 2018-19 football recruiting calendar will enter a dead period Monday before opening up for the early signing period Wednesday. For Michigan, and every other program, the first half of December is now incredibly hectic.
With the commitment of 4-star offensive tackle Trevor Keegan on Friday, Michigan entered the weekend with 24 public commitments. But a lot still up in the air.
The two biggest situations still hanging for Michigan involve two of the top prospects in the 2019 class: 5-star defensive end Zach Harrison and 5-star safety Daxton Hill.
Harrison, a 6-foot-5, 243-pound defensive end from just north of Columbus, Ohio, is the No. 4-ranked player in the class and has been the center of a Michigan-Ohio State recruiting race for some time now. Penn State’s been in the mix, too, but most recruiting analysts have this one down to the Wolverines or Buckeyes.
And no one’s quite sure what will happen. Harrison is expected to make a low-key announcement Wednesday as he sends in his letter-of-intent to the school of his choice.
“He’ll be as quiet as a mouse about it and just do it on his own terms,” 247sports analyst Steve Lorenz said this week.
Hill, meanwhile, decommitted from Michigan and flipped to Alabama on Saturday after committing to Michigan back in September. The No. 8-ranked player in the class has said very little about his decision to make a change this late in the process. He’s said even less about whether or not he’ll sign this week or wait until February.
What we do know, however, is that Michigan is still recruiting him and still hopeful he’ll be part of its class.
If Harrison and Hill are in, Michigan will finish the cycle with one of the top classes in America. If one’s in, this is still probably a top-10 group. If both are out? Then it’s two more giant late-cycle misses for Harbaugh and company.
There are other opportunities for Michigan late in the game. The Wolverines are also in heavy pursuit of 4-star linebacker, and Miami commit, Anthony Solomon. Solomon was scheduled to be on campus this weekend for an official visit just days after the Hurricanes lost defensive coordinator Manny Diaz to Temple.
Cornelius Johnson, a 4-star receiver from Connecticut, is also scheduled to be on campus for an official visit this weekend. Michigan’s a finalist and Johnson is expected to announce his decision Wednesday.
Kalen Deloach is a 4-star linebacker from Georgia, and a current Florida State commit, that Michigan’s been pushing hard for this month. Deloach is scheduled to make his official visit to FSU this weekend, but the Wolverines appear to have put themselves in the discussion.
Some recruiting races could spill into January, as players still have the option of waiting to sign on the traditional first Wednesday in February, though if last year is any guide, the majority of the class will wrap up this week.
The current final push revolves around the finishing touches to a 2019 cycle that will produce some quality talent for Michigan, regardless of how this finishes.
Defensive lineman Chris Hinton and running back Zach Charbonnet are both top-50 talents. The Wolverines are also still expected to sign touted 4-star prospects Mazi Smith (defensive tackle), Nolan Rumler (guard), Trente Jones (tackle), Jalen Perry (corner) and Giles Jackson (receiver). Quarterback Cade McNamara, the No. 275-ranked player in the class, is also expected to sign this week.
Michigan’s recruiting, overall, appears to be in a better place than it was a year ago at this time. The Wolverines are still in the hunt for Harrison, one of the best players in America. Whether or not they’re still in the mix for Hill remains to be seen, but the fact it’s a conversation is something that wasn’t happening a year ago as the Wolverines slumped into Outback Bowl prep at 8-4.
The Wolverines didn’t sign a top 100 prospect last season. All of their major late pushes came up empty.
Michigan could change that this week. Or, it could find more of the same.
The finish is all that matters.
Contact Nick Baumgardner: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nickbaumgardner.