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Tuesday, July 2, 2013
Michigan recruiting: Positions of need

By Chantel Jennings

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan had several areas of need in the 2014 class, chief among them being quarterback and linebacker, largely due to injuries both position groups have suffered. Here’s a look at the top five areas of need and what Michigan has done to address them so far.

Devin Gardner
Michigan needed to build some depth at quarterback behind Devin Gardner.
1. Quarterback. It was very necessary for the Wolverines to pick up a high-level, pocket passing quarterback, which they got with Wilton Speight (Richmond, Va./Collegiate School) pretty early in the recruiting cycle. Because of Russell Bellomy’s torn ACL, that leaves just two scholarship quarterbacks for this upcoming season -- Devin Gardner and Shane Morris. Michigan has three solid quarterback walk-ons, but the Wolverines needed to make sure they picked up a top signal caller in 2014 since they missed in 2012 and Morris was able to enroll early in 2013. Wilton, on the other hand, will enroll early next year so he’ll be fighting for playing time as early as January.

2. Linebacker. This was another position group that saw a major loss when Jake Ryan went down. While the 2014 commits won’t be able to impact Michigan while Ryan is sidelined, his injury did expose the lack of depth at the SAM linebacker position as Greg Mattison moved around other players to fill in for Ryan. The commitment of Chase Winovich (Jefferson Hills, Pa./Thomas Jefferson) was big for that position, and then Michael Ferns (St. Clairsville, Ohio/St. Clairsville) and Noah Furbush (Kenton, Ohio/Kenton) will bring added depth at linebacker.

3. Defensive line. Michigan is still in it with the top defensive end in the nation, Da’Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge), as well as the state’s top defensive lineman, Malik McDowell (Southfield, Mich./Southfield). Picking up commitments from both of those players would really boost what has already been a good haul for the Wolverines. Michigan has an impressive tandem of Bryan Mone (Salt Lake City/Highland), who was one of the Wolverines' earliest commitments in this class, and Lawrence Marshall (Southfield, Mich./Southfield), who changed his once-Ohio State verbal to Michigan.

4. Defensive back. The headliner of the Wolverines’ class is No. 1 cornerback Jabrill Peppers (Paramus, N.J./Paramus Catholic). Up until last week he was Michigan’s only defensive back commitment, but under-the-radar talent Brandon Watson (Elkton, Md./Eastern Christian Academy) turned his camp offer into a commit. This is also a position group where the Wolverines could still pick up a lot of steam based on a few different players. Cornerback Adoree’ Jackson (Gardena, Calif./Junipero Serra) is the No. 2 cornerback behind Peppers and he has serious interest in Michigan. Parrker Westphal (Bolingbrook, Ill./Bolingbrook) is another player who seems like a possible candidate to commit eventually to the Wolverines. Depending on final numbers in this class, they could take one or two more commits here.

5. Tight end. With Gardner at the helm of the Michigan offense, Al Borges has said that -- when the offense is running on all cylinders, as he hopes it does this fall -- it’s a tight end’s heaven. And with just four scholarship tight ends (Devin Funchess, A.J. Williams, Jake Butt and Khalid Hill), it was important for the Wolverines to snag another top guy, which they did when Ian Bunting (Hinsdale, Ill./Hinsdale Central) committed in April. At 6-foot-6, he’s a tall, pass catching tight end that the Wolverines should be able to use as a downfield target. He has a history as a basketball and volleyball player, so he also has jumping abilities. Where he’ll need to make the most strides is bulking up. At 213 pounds, he’s lanky and will need to add a lot of weight if he wants to be able to also be a tight end who can block downfield.