|Very early look at 2014 numbers and needs|
|Written by Matt Pargoff|
The Wolverines early success in recruiting for the class of 2013 is unprecedented at Michigan, with nearly the entire class filled still seven months away from when prospects can first sign binding letters of intent. This has allowed the Maize and Blue to shift some its focus a year ahead, extending offers and recruiting prospects for 2014. We take a very early look at numbers and needs for that class.
The chart below jumps two years ahead, listing the verbally committed recruits for 2013 during their second year of college. Current rising juniors would be added as true freshmen in 2014.
Complications and Stipulations
Before diving in on numbers for 2014, it is important to note that the 2013 recruiting effort is not complete, and certain outcomes will still affect the total scholarship availability next year. Michigan currently sits at 22 commitments for rising seniors, but has only 20 scholarships available for that class. The Michigan coaching staff has told prospects that it expects to sign a total of 24 players to the class. That means that a minimum of four juniors, sophomores or freshmen from the current Michigan team are expected to be lost to attrition between now and signing day.
If all four losses come from the current group of junior eligible players, and things go according to plan in signing 24 recruits, then the numbers for 2014 will decrease by two more scholarships than what is shown above. However, if a member of the 2013 recruiting class takes the place of an underclassman who leaves early, it will not affect scholarship availability for 2014.
Quarterback Devin Gardner is listed on the 2014 team chart above as a senior. This based on the assumption that he will be granted a fifth year of eligibility by the NCAA for medical hardship, due to missing most of his freshman season with back problems. That determination has not been reached, however, and still won’t be for some time. If the NCAA denies Gardner’s petition for a fifth year, then the Wolverines will get another scholarship for 2014.
As you can probably tell, the earlier this sort of analysis is conducted, the more complicated it becomes.
For the sake of simplicity, we’ll assume that everything goes according to plan – 24 players sign with Michigan in February and the overages are matched by the early departure of four current juniors on the team. In addition, we’ll assume that Gardner gets his fifth year of eligibility.
Under those circumstances, Michigan has 70 players scheduled to have eligibility in 2014, plus two additional members of the 2013 class, bringing the total to 72. Therefore, under the NCAA limit of 85 scholarship players on a team, the Wolverines will have at least 13 scholarships to give to 2014 prospects.
Keep in mind that this is seven months earlier than we’ve ever done this analysis before. Normally taking the first look at scholarship availability in February, there are typically far fewer slots available than end up signing in the class. A lot can change in seven months and even more will change over the course of the 19 months before rising juniors can sign with a school.
Think of 13 as the bare minimum size of the 2014 class, but expect a class size much closer to around 20 or so. Perhaps slightly more. That’s just an estimate, but around seven players in a year would not be considered atypical levels of attrition.
Once again, taking such an early look creates a layer of complication and that is likewise the case with an evaluation of needs. Only 19 percent of the players projected to be on the 2014 team have set foot on the college game field. Another eight percent have gone through fall practices, but ended up redshirting. That makes an evaluation of what Michigan has, and what Michigan needs to fill, based largely on recruiting hype.
That may also provide another cautionary note for coaching staffs that offer too many prospects before their junior season of high school. Generally speaking though, if one strives for balance in each class, with players at each positions – rarely overloading or going empty at a given spot – it tends to work out best that way.
Regardless of the fallbacks in doing this sort of analysis so early, there are a few obvious areas of need for 2014.
Quarterback: Michigan is getting one of the nation’s best for the 2013 class with Shane Morris of Warren (Mich.) De La Salle itching to get started in the Maize and Blue. Despite the key addition that he provides, however, the numbers are still lacking at the position. There is still no guarantee that Gardner will get his redshirt and regardless of that situation, depth at that spot is just too low. While quarterback is the one position that Michigan hasn’t offered for the 2014 class, it will certainly be a major area of need.
Running Back: We have been big fans of the skillset presented by Dennis Norfleet since he was just a sophomore in high school. He is quick, fast and despite his size, he doesn’t go down easy. That said, his size could affect his durability, as well as his chances of being an every down back. As a result, the ideal situation for Michigan would be to land a top end running back in the 2013 recruiting class. The Wolverines are still in the mix for both Derrick Green of Richmond (Va.) Hermitage and Jordan Wilkins of Cordova (Tenn.) St. Benedict. Realistically though, the odds do not favor the Maize and Blue in either recruitment. Consequently, the running back position could become the single greatest area of need for the 2014 class.
Wide Receiver: Receiver may or may not be a major need for 2014 depending on how things finish up in 2013. Michigan leads for Laquon Treadwell of Crete (Ill.) Monee, and should the Wolverines gain his commitment, or a pledge from another top end receiver prospect, then the need will decrease significantly. Brady Hoke and his staff have secured numbers at the position, but few elite level prospects so far. As noted, balance in each class is key, so Michigan will likely sign receivers in 2014 regardless. But the finish to the 2013 class will determine just how important filling that need becomes.
Defensive Depth: While Michigan has landed good players in the current and previous classes, added depth looks to be a major 2014 priority at cornerback, safety and defensive end. The Wolverines are still in the running for players like defensive end Joe Mathis of Upland (Calif.) and defensive back Leon McQuay III of Seffner (Fla.) Armwood. Landing either one would certainly affect the need for depth at their respective positions. But for the three positions listed, as things stand right now, added depth will need to be added in the 2014 recruiting effort.