Michigan Football Recruiting: A Guide to National Signing Day 2014

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

National Signing Day for Michigan has been very uneventful under Brady Hoke’s regime… and he wouldn’t have it any other way.

Brady Hoke’s recruiting strategy while at Michigan has been less tortoise and much more hare, with many players giving Hoke verbal commitments months before signing day arrives. In fact, in Brady’s first three full recruiting classes (including this one), only five players have pledged their commitment to the Wolverines within two months of National Signing Day. Only one, Dennis Norfleet, did not give a verbal commitment before signing on the dotted line. Norfleet was a signing day addition to the class after Hoke and staff held off on an offer until signing day. Norfleet was previously committed to the University of Cincinnatti.

This year’s National Signing Day is gearing up to be equally as uneventful, with nearly half of Michigan’s 2014 recruiting class already signed and prepared to enroll early. This year’s cast of early enrollees include WR Freddy Canteen, OL Mason Cole, LB Michael Ferns, WR Drake Harris, DT Bryan Mone, QB Wilton Speight, and DB Brandon Watson. These players, especially WR Drake Harris and DT Bryan Mone, are looking to make a good first impression and hopefully crack the starting lineup come fall.

In addition to the early enrollees Michigan is looking to bolster their roster with players who have verbally committed, but have not yet signed their letters of intent. These players include TE Ian Bunting, OL Juwan Bushell-Beatty, LB Noah Furbush, DE Lawrence Marshall, DT, Brady Pallante, LB Jared Wangler, WR Maurice Ways, LB Chase Winovich, and of course DB/RB/Do everything guy Jabrill Peppers. Despite many attempts to be swayed, especially in Jabrill’s case, all of these players seem firm in their commitments and will don the legendary winged helmet.

The one question mark surrounding Michigan’s recruiting class is whether or not they will land 5-star DE/DT Malik McDowell. McDowell, who finished up his high school career playing alongside current Michigan commit Lawrence Marshall, has played his cards very close to the chest. Once thought to be a heavy Michigan lean, McDowell has seemed to really open things up. He recently released his top four schools – Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, and Florida State – and each team can make their case that they are in fact the front runner at this time. Most will agree that the two Michigan schools seem to hold the edge, although which one is in front is anybody’s guess. With signing day approaching, each school will certainly be giving Malik a lot of attention in an attempt to secure his signature.

It seems to be McDowell or bust to round out the class. Michigan has cooled on Minnesota RB commit Jeff Jones as well as current (for now) USF RB commit Marlon Mack. Mack switched his commitment from UCLA to Louisville to USF all in about two days time. The numbers show that Michigan’s recruiting class will be very small next year, and the coaching staff may have decided it would be better to bank the extra scholarships than to use them on either Jones or Mack.

Unfortunately, only time will tell if Hoke is going to pull a rabbit out of his hat with a surprise signing day commitment, or if this hare is going to sit back and enjoy the view. Either way, signing day should be a big win for Michigan. (Caution: watch for tortoises).