From a sheer rankings perspective, Michigan has already assembled a top five class nationally according to Rivals.com. Out of that group, the Wolverines hold seven offensive commits, nine on the defensive side and another specialist to round out the group.
And while it is still quite early in the cycle, Michigan has already cleared several hurdles that will lead to a successful recruiting class by the time National Signing Day comes.
1. J.J. McCarthy is an elite quarterback
Over the past several seasons, Michigan football has produced good-but-not-great seasons on the field, and a continual area in need of improvement has been the quarterback position. In order to beat Ohio State and compete on a national level, Michigan needs to have a game-breaker at quarterback, someone who can not only manage games but take control and produce wins during high-pressure moments.
Michigan has that type of player in Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy five-star J.J. McCarthy. Before transferring to IMG recently, McCarthy spent his last three seasons at La Grange (Ill.) Nazareth Academy and helped push the team to three consecutive state championship game appearances. Given his propensity to show up when the lights are brightest, McCarthy is comfortable with the ball in his hands when the game is on the line.
As an early enrollee, McCarthy will have the opportunity to learn the U-M playbook a little bit earlier than some of his peers and will have the added advantage of playing spring ball in 2021 with the team. These traits when combined with McCarthy's natural leadership tendencies combine with palpable arm talent to create a future impact player at quarterback, something Michigan has been desperately in need of over the past several seasons.
2. Offensive line a strength in 2021 class
This past April, Michigan produced four offensive lineman that were selected in the 2020 NFL Draft (Cesar Ruiz, Ben Bredeson, Jon Runyan Jr. and Michael Onwenu), which is a stark example of the program's success in developing run and pass blockers. But in order for U-M to experience similar success in the 2021 recruiting class, the team would need to assemble an equally high-ceiling group of offensive lineman.
As a result, Michigan has collected four standout lineman pledges, led most notably by an in-state haul of Sterling Heights (Mich.) Adlai Stevenson four-star offensive tackle Giovanni El-Hadi and Detroit (Mich.) Cass Tech four-star center Raheem Anderson. On tape, Anderson actually shows shades of Ruiz as a technically sound center prospect who pays attention to the small details of the position while maintaining his mean streak on the field. El-Hadi, on the other hand, is a powerful bookend lineman that boasts a solid all-around game.
On top of that duo, Michigan landed a commitment from Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy four-star offensive guard Greg Crippen. This season, IMG Academy will have one of the most talent-laden offensive line groups in the nation, and Crippen is the unquestioned leader of the bunch and will be playing center this season, showing positional flexibility. The Wolverines also have a pledge from Bethesda (Md.) Choate Rosemary Hall three-star offensive tackle Tristan Bounds, a massive player at 6-8 that has the frame and length of a blindside blocker.
Though these prospects will not arrive at Michigan for another season, the wealth of talent coming into the U-M program is a positive sign and a product of offensive line coach Ed Warinner's success on the recruiting trail.
3. Receiving threat at tight end: Louis Hansen
Over the past several seasons, Michigan has developed a track record for developing NFL-caliber tight ends under the guidance of head coach Jim Harbaugh. With that reputation working in U-M's favor, the Wolverines were able to secure a pledge from Needham (Mass.) St. Sebastian's four-star tight end Louis Hansen.
Last season, Hansen put together a strong junior campaign with 40 receptions for 530 receiving yards and five touchdowns, but his receiving skills overshadow his production from a year ago. On the field, Hansen moves well for a 6-5, 220-pounder and shows soft hands with the ability to adjust to off-target passes when need be.
Over the offseason, Hansen has tacked on 20 to 25 pounds, and the Michigan commit is focusing more on his blocking prowess this fall, so the Wolverines should expect a complete tight end when he arrives in Ann Arbor.. In due time, Hansen should continue Michigan's run of producing dominant tight ends that eventually wind up in the NFL.
4. Pipelines established at powerhouse programs
While this list focuses on the 2021 recruiting class, Michigan is helping its position with future recruits by locking down several pledges from powerhouse programs. At locations such as IMG Academy or Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas, Michigan is typically interested in a couple players each season. For example, Michigan sports pledges from McCarthy and Crippen at IMG Academy and four-star Jaydon Hood and three-star Ja'Den McBurrows at St. Thomas Aquinas, but both programs will likely have quality prospects in the '22 and '23 cycles as well.
Bobby Acosta is the head coach at IMG Academy, and Michigan has built a quality relationship there, just as the coaching staff has done with Roger Harriott at St. Thomas Aquinas. These bonds help both schools build a level of trust, and a successful career from one of the aforementioned prospects can let younger players know what is possible at Michigan, acting as a free recruiting pitch.
How do you feel about Michigan's 2021 recruiting class? Do you think Michigan will end up with a top five ranking when all is said and done? Let us know!