- Tom VanHaaren, ESPN Staff Writer
Michigan is already off to a great start for its 2014 class with the commitments of ESPN Watch List linebacker Michael Ferns (St. Clairsville, Ohio/St. Clairsville) and offensive lineman Denzel Ward (Chicago/Hales Franciscan).
While those two are committed, they might still be big battles for the Wolverines. Ferns and his team were in the state finals, and Ohio State sent head coach Urban Meyer, offensive line coach Ed Warinner and defensive coordinator Luke Fickell to his game to watch the junior in action.
Michigan fans have nothing to worry about with Ferns, but the Michigan coaching staff will have to fend off other programs until he enrolls early.
The Wolverines have already offered some of the top prospects in the country, so naturally there will be some big battles along the way.
The junior defensive backs are already receiving considerable attention, particularly Damon Webb (Detroit/Cass Tech) and Parrker Westphal (Bolingbrook, Ill./Bolingbrook). Webb has a top four of Michigan, LSU, Michigan State and Ohio State, while Westphal remains open to every school.
Some of the in-state prospects Michigan is targeting also will be a fight to the finish as more and more schools are showing interest. Defensive end Malik McDowell (Detroit/Loyola) has a chance to be one of the top prospects nationally, and Michigan already finds itself fighting with Notre Dame for his commitment, although the Buckeyes are lurking.
Lawrence Marshall (Southfield, Mich./Southfield) is another in-state defensive end who will garner a lot of attention in the near future. Marshall just received offers from Michigan, Pitt and Syracuse, and more should be on their way. He says he’s still open because it’s so early in the process, but Michigan has a good shot with the talented lineman.
Much like the defensive line, the offensive line will always be a focus for Michigan, and there will be some good fights for top prospects there as well. Jamarco Jones (Chicago/De La Salle) and Mason Cole (Tarpon Springs, Fla./East Lake) might be two of the bigger prospects with whom Michigan has a chance early on. Jones has the Wolverines and Buckeyes ranked high. Cole is originally from the Chicago area, and it looks like Michigan, Notre Dame and USC could duke it out when he decides to make his commitment around February. OSU also has offered.
There will be plenty of battles in 2014, but it’s a good position for Michigan to be in. Landing another top-ranked class in 2014 could set the Wolverines up for success on the field in the very near future.