Michigan Wolverines: Brandon Watson

Brady Hoke will sign his fourth Michigan recruiting class Wednesday. Currently, the class sits at 16 commitments and the only real question mark still out there is defensive end Malik McDowell, who will chose between Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Florida State.

Hoke will address the media at 2 p.m. Wednesday, the first time he’ll be able to discuss these players publicly. Follow along on Twitter for updates throughout the day. Until then, here’s a primer to tide you over in your day-before-signing-day wait.

THE 2014 CLASS

Current ranking: No. 12 (16 commits)
Big Ten teams ahead of Michigan: Ohio State (No. 6, 22 commits)
Big Ten teams in the top 40: Penn State (No. 22, 24 commits), Wisconsin (No. 31, 27 commits), Northwestern (No. 35, 15 commits), Michigan State (No. 39, 20 commits)

Commits by position:

Quarterback: 1 | Wilton Speight*
Running back: 0
Wide receiver: 3 | Drake Harris*, Maurice Ways, Freddy Canteen*
Tight end: 1 | Ian Bunting
Offensive line: 2 | Juwann Bushell-Beatty, Mason Cole*
Defensive line: 3 | Bryan Mone*, Lawrence Marshall, Brady Pallante
Linebacker: 4 | Michael Ferns*, Noah Furbush, Chase Winovich, Jared Wangler
Defensive back: 2 | Jabrill Peppers, Brandon Watson
*denotes early enrollee, already signed letter of intent

WHAT TO KNOW

[+] EnlargeJabrill Peppers
Miller Safrit/ESPNThe Wolverines have been able to hang on to top cornerback Jabrill Peppers, which is no easy feat.
Dry spell: Michigan hasn’t received a commitment since Aug. 8, 2013 (Wangler). At that point, the Wolverines recruiting class was ranked No. 6 in the Recruiting Nation rankings. Between the on-field play during a 7-6 season and other teams stepping up their recruiting games, the Wolverines missed out on several top targets.

No. 1 at one time: Last April, when the 2014 class rankings debuted, the Wolverines were ranked No. 6. In May, Michigan climbed to No. 1. At that point, Michigan had nine commits, eight of whom were ranked in the top 150. Since that point, several Wolverines commits dropped in the rankings, and now they have nine commits in the ESPN 300. And when Michigan was the No. 1 class, the Wolverines were still in on several top recruits in the 2014 class. Of those big-name prospects, the only one to commit to the Wolverines was Peppers, the No. 1 cornerback in the country.

The players who chose other schools over Michigan were defensive end Da’Shawn Hand (Alabama), wide receiver Corey Holmes (Notre Dame), Alex Bars (Notre Dame), wide receiver Artavis Scott (Clemson) and defensive back Parrker Westphal (Northwestern). The most troubling part of that is how the Wolverines had personal connections with so many of those players. Holmes grew up a die-hard Michigan fan. Bars’ older brother is on the Michigan roster. Scott is best friends with Cole. Westphal’s high school position coach played at Michigan. And yet, the Wolverines missed on all of them.

Top commit: Peppers. Not only is he the most important commit from an on-field standpoint -- he should be an immediate contributor for a struggling secondary -- but the fact that a 7-6 Michigan team could keep the commitment from the No. 1 cornerback in the nation says a lot about the relationships that were formed. He had offers from Alabama, LSU, Ohio State and almost everywhere else. He could have left for any school. But the fact that the Michigan coaches were able to keep Peppers during a tumultuous season can be considered more of a coup than getting Peppers committed in the first place.

Lineage: Wangler. The name should sound familiar to most Michigan fans. John Wangler was a quarterback for Michigan (1977-80) and is most remembered for his 45-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Carter that gave the Wolverines a victory over Indiana in 1979. Jared’s older brother Jack, a walk-on wide receiver on Michigan’s roster, will be a sophomore when Jared enrolls.

More and more depth: Linebackers. It looks as though the Michigan linebackers group is going to get stronger. This season, that group was the most consistent defensive position group for the Wolverines, and now they’ll add four more quality players. Among Jake Ryan, Desmond Morgan, James Ross, Joe Bolden and Ben Gedeon, there won’t be much playing time for the taking, which means these players are going to be able to learn behind some very talented guys while also competing against them in workouts. Greg Mattison just keeps adding talent to the well he already has at linebacker, so look for this group to continue being the most consistent for the Wolverines in seasons to come.

[+] EnlargeBryan Mone
Courtesy of IntersportBy enrolling early, defensive tackle Bryan Mone could be in line for early playing time.
Early enrollees: 6. This is the second season in a row that Hoke has had six early enrollees. Last season, offensive lineman Kyle Bosch, offensive lineman Logan Tuley-Tillman, tight end Jake Butt, defensive end Taco Charlton, defensive back Ross Douglas and defensive back Dymonte Thomas enrolled early. Of those six, three were big contributors this past season, which bodes well for the six who came in early this year. Speight adds solid depth at quarterback, but he likely won’t need to contribute next season. Cole and Ferns are in similar positions in that they’re both talented, but because of the depth in front of them, it could take them longer to earn playing time. The two guys who could be the quickest to see playing time would be Harris or Mone, as both come in at positions that could use more bodies and talent. Both will have extra time with their position coaches and with the playbook.

No commits: Running back. The fact that the Wolverines aren’t bringing in a running back in this class isn’t a huge concern. Between Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith (and Drake Johnson, assuming he recovers well), the Wolverines are in good hands for the next few seasons. However, after losing the commitment of running back Damien Harris, the No. 1 running back in the 2015 class, there's a bit of a concern considering he was going to provide depth. Including Harris, Michigan has offered scholarships to three running backs in the 2015 class.

Early enrollees set to hit Ann Arbor 

January, 5, 2014
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Michigan has seven early enrollees set to hit campus from its 2014 class.

Drake Harris (Grand Rapids, Mich./Grand Rapids Christian), Wilton Speight (Richmond, Va./Collegiate School), Michael Ferns (St. Clairsville, Ohio/St. Clairsville), Mason Cole (Tarpon Springs, Fla./East Lake), Bryan Mone (Salt Lake City/Highland), Freddy Canteen (Elkton, Md./Eastern Christian Academy) and teammate Brandon Watson are all headed up to Ann Arbor to begin their new journey.

Speight, Harris, Ferns and Canteen answered a few questions on enrolling early and what is next for them.

Q: What are you most nervous about?

Wilton Speight: "A lot of people say school, but I went to such a tough high school that I’m not too worried about that. More of the winter workouts and the conditioning is absurd."

Midyear signings: Michigan

December, 21, 2013
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According to ESPN's Tom VanHaaren, the following players have signed financial aid agreements with Michigan:

Bryan Mone DT Salt Lake City/Highland
HT: 6-4 WT: 315
Positional Rank: No. 5 DT
Stars: 4
ESPN 300 (No. 75)
Under Armour All-American

Drake Harris WR Grand Rapids, Mich./Grand Rapids Christian
HT: 6-3 WT: 172
Positional Rank: No. 10 WR
Stars: 4
ESPN 300 (No. 85)
Under Armour All-American

Michael Ferns ILB St. Clairsville, Ohio/St. Clairsville
HT: 6-3 WT: 228
Positional Rank: No. 7 ILB
Stars: 4
ESPN 300 (No. 125)
Under Armour All-American

Wilton Speight QB-PP Richmond, Va./Collegiate
HT: 6-6 WT: 230
Positional Rank: No. 6 QB-PP
Stars: 4
ESPN 300 (No. 133)
Under Armour All-American

Mason Cole OT Tarpon Springs, Fla./East Lake
HT: 6-5 WT: 266
Positional Rank: No. 15 OT
Stars: 4
ESPN 300 (No. 153)

Brandon Watson CB Elkton, Md./Eastern Christian
HT: 5-11 WT: 179
Positional Rank: No. 51 CB
Stars: 3

Freddy Canteen WR Elkton, Md./Eastern Christian
HT: 6-0 WT: 170
Positional Rank: No. 159 WR
Stars: 3

Michigan makes offers to QB Sills, others 

December, 6, 2013
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Now that the season has finished and a contact period is open, the Michigan coaching staff has been on the road scouting prospects. Plenty of 2015 targets have had Michigan coaches in their school, and a few recently received offers from the Wolverines.


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Best Big Ten classes by position 

September, 10, 2013
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Each class within the Big Ten has its strengths and weaknesses, but there is a lot of talent joining the conference. Here is a look at the top classes in the Big Ten by position.

Quarterback
Strongest class: Penn State


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Roundtable: Borrowing, BBQ and surprises 

July, 25, 2013
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Every Thursday our writers sit down and discuss three topics in Michigan sports. Today, they steal football players from other Big Ten teams, ponder this weekend’s barbecue and reflect on the offseason.

1. If you could steal an offensive and defensive player from another Big Ten team before this year's fall camp, who would you pick and why?


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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- When cornerback Brandon Watson (Elkton, Md./Eastern Christian Academy) and wide receiver Freddy Canteen (Elkton, Md./Eastern Christian Academy) were last in Ann Arbor, they were there to prove themselves.

They came to Michigan’s camp in July with a singular mission: to earn scholarship offers.

And they left with that mission completed, but in the midst of it all, they didn’t really do much else.


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Summer recruit wrap: Michigan 

July, 23, 2013
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The summer camp season proved to be exciting, as it always is. Here are 10 things we learned through this summer.

1. Camp will always be a proving ground

The 2014 class will only have about 18 members, so when Michigan headed into this summer’s camp with 10 commitments, it was unsure how many camp offers would really exist (especially considering how many highly-ranked guys had, and still have, interest in Michigan). But for guys like Brandon Watson (Elkton, Md./Eastern Christian Academy) and Freddy Canteen (Elkton, Md./Eastern Christian Academy), camp was all they needed. Their performances there were enough to garner offers. Sooner rather than later, those two turned those offers into commitments. And it wasn’t just true in the 2014 class. Offensive lineman Jon Runyan Jr. (Philadelphia/St. Joseph’s Prep) became the Wolverines' third commitment in the 2015 class after he proved himself at camp and picked up and offer.

2. The barbecue in the Big House is still … big


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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.


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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan’s summer football camp has always been a place for under-the-radar talent to be seen by the Wolverine coaching staff. Last summer, the camp produced an offer and commitment from 2013 cornerback Channing Stribling.

Last week, 2015 offensive lineman Jon Runyan Jr. (Philadelphia/St. Joseph’s) turned his camp offer into a verbal commitment. And on Saturday, two more camp offers turned into commitments.

The Wolverines picked up commitments from high school teammates Brandon Watson (Elkton, Md./Eastern Christian Academy) and Freddy Canteen (Elkton, Md./Eastern Christian Academy), Eastern Christian Academy coach Dwayne Thomas confirmed to ESPN.com via phone.

“When you put together the combination of athletics and academics together, for them, Michigan was a no-brainer,” Thomas said.

Canteen and Watson are the Wolverines 12th and 13th commitments in the 2014 class.

Watson will play exclusively as a cornerback for Michigan, so he’ll join Jabrill Peppers (Paramus, N.J./Paramus Catholic), the No. 1 CB in the nation, in Michigan’s secondary. Canteen is Michigan’s third wide receiver commitment, joining two in-state commitments -- Drake Harris (Grand Rapids, Mich./Grand Rapids Christian) and Moe Ways (Beverly Hills, Mich./Detroit Country Day).

Eastern Christian Academy is not the typical high school. It has produced several top recruits, including 2015 USC quarterback commit David Sills (Elkton, Md./Eastern Christian Academy), but it doesn’t have a typical high school foundation.

It lacks “any traditional school components, such as a building or full-time faculty” and is “partnered with National Connections, a nationally accredited online institution, to design and administer courses for the students,” according to a September 2012 Washington Post article.

So while the headquarters for Eastern Christian Academy is in Maryland, the two boys are actually from Delaware, which has been a reason why the two prospects haven’t had a ton of attention, according to their coach.

“Being that we’re from Delaware, a lot of coaches don’t get a chance to see them in the spring because there is no spring football,” Thomas said. “So as they get out and get to camps, schools get a chance to see what their talent is.”

Canteen chose Michigan over offers from Hawaii, Maryland and Rutgers, while Watson picked the Wolverines over Boston College, Connecticut, Rutgers and Temple.

However, Thomas believes the two were under-recruited and will excel at Michigan under the tutelage of secondary coach Curt Mallory and wide receiver coach Jeff Hecklinski.

“Freddy Canteen is, in my opinion, the best route-runner in the country. I think every camp that he goes to, people get a chance to find that out,” Thomas said. “And Brandon has this unique combination of speed, strength and hip flexibility that will allow him to be physical with the big receivers, and he’s agile enough to run and defend the smaller receivers as well.”

Recruiting Roundtable: Camp surprises? 

June, 24, 2013
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Tom is on vacation this week, but before he left, we sat down to hash out a few recruiting topics. We didn’t invite in any outside writers this week, but we did throw in an extra question for good measure. This week, we look at the 2014 class and Michigan’s football camp.

1. Do any of the 2014 commits remind you of any current Michigan players?


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Notebook: Michigan camp 

June, 20, 2013
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- With 11 of 16 spots filled in Michigan’s 2014 recruiting class, this summer’s football camp was a bit odd. Generally, with at least 10 spots open, rising seniors will show up for the opportunity to compete for a scholarship. However, with so few spots, the competition in the 2014 class seemed few and far between.

Even so, a few 2014 prospects did manage to earn offers. Elkton (Md.) Eastern Christian Academy teammates wide receiver Freddy Canteen (Elkton, Md./Eastern Christian Academy) and defensive back Brandon Watson both earned offers, and there were a few other 2014 prospects who looked solid through camp on whom Michigan coaches might keep tabs.

STANDOUT PERFORMERS


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Recruiting reporter Tom VanHaaren breaks down summer college football recruiting efforts in the Big Ten.
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