In the college football world, the first Wednesday of every February is normally characterized by chaos and waiting on last-minute decisions. It’s National Signing Day, the first day seniors in high school can sign a binding letter of intent to a college of the player’s choice, if offered to play football.
But for the Michigan football team, the 2014 edition of National Signing Day should be relatively quiet — a rarity in the program.
For only the third time since 2002, the Wolverines aren’t expecting anyone to sign who isn’t already committed. Only one player, five-star defensive end Malik McDowell, is believed to be considering Michigan, but the odds of landing him are slim.
“I would be shocked if he chose Michigan,” 247Sports’s Steve Lorenz said. “As of last week, (running back coach Fred) Jackson, his primary recruiter, thought (McDowell) would choose Michigan. But now, his parents know he doesn’t want to go to Michigan, but his parents don’t want Michigan State, so it’s going to be a compromise. If I had to choose, I would say Florida State, but wouldn’t rule out Ohio State.”
Despite the absence of any drama, Michigan is expecting the nine remaining verbal commitments of the 2014 class to sign their letter of intent.
Though nine may seem small, the Wolverines had seven early enrollees, a program record. Quarterback Wilton Speight, wide receivers Freddy Canteen and Drake Harris, defensive tackle Bryan Mone, cornerback Brandon Watson, offensive lineman Mason Cole and linebacker Michael Ferns have already started classes at the University. So why is Michigan seeing so many early enrollees? Look no further than the results of last year’s early enrollees.
“You look at a guy like (freshman tight end) Jake Butt: he’s a perfect example of somebody who benefited tremendously from enrolling early,” Lorenz said. “Those extra six months are huge. It’s just a matter of getting into the playbook early, getting into the weight room and assimilating into Michigan in general.”
Early enrollees aside, Michigan’s remaining nine commits are a group of high-profile players.
Jabrill Peppers, a five-star cornerback from Paramus, N.J., is the Wolverines’ highest-ranked recruit ever. Peppers, who many see as a two-way player, like Charles Woodson during his time at Michigan, is ranked No. 2 overall by ESPN.
The Wolverines are also expecting signings from six other defensive players. By Wednesday night, defensive linemen Lawrence Marshall and Brady Pallante and linebacker’s Noah Furbush, Jared Wangler and Chase Winovich should be declared Wolverines.
Offensively, Michigan is expecting the signatures from tight end Ian Bunting, offensive tackle Juwann Bushell-Beatty and wide receiver Maurice Ways.
But signing day should be relatively uneventful for Michigan coach Brady Hoke — just the way he likes it, says Lorenz.
“You’ll see it happen again with the 2015 class,” Lorenz said. “They like to find a concise, small group of targets early and go after them hard and get them on campus for visit days. I know they are still in it for Malik McDowell, but trust me, if they could avoid situations like this, they would.”