Promise of 'fireworks' holds true on early Signing Day

Wednesday, December 19, 2018 - 2:09pm

For the first time in his tenure at Michigan, coach Jim Harbaugh likely secured the top recruiting class in the conference.

For the first time in his tenure at Michigan, coach Jim Harbaugh likely secured the top recruiting class in the conference. Buy this photo
Evan Aaron/Daily

As it turns out, when Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh promised National Signing Day “fireworks” on his podcast Tuesday, he meant it.

The Wolverines secured letters of intent from a vast majority of their seventh-ranked recruiting class on Wednesday’s early singing day, locking in 25 commitments across the board. None were more notable than the pledge from safety Daxton Hill, who wrapped up one of the more chaotic recruitments in recent Michigan history by flipping back to the Wolverines after verbally flipping his commitment to Alabama just 11 days ago. News of his commitment, in the end, came quietly from the Michigan football Twitter account around 8 a.m., a tweet he later quoted with maize and blue hearts.

The ends, in this case, will justify the means.

Hill — ranked 8th overall nationally, according to 247Sports composite rankings — serves as the crown jewel of the class. He’s one of the fastest players in this class nationally, boasting a 4.30 40-yard dash time. His tape displays an ability to translate that speed onto the field. In turn, he should figure prominently into the plans at safety right away, if not as a day-one starter.

In addition to Hill, Michigan secured the commitment of four-star wide receiver, Cornelius Johnson, who is the Wolverines’ fifth top-300 receiver in the last three years.

The news wasn’t all good Wednesday for Harbaugh and his staff, though.

Five-star defensive end Zach Harrison signed his letter of intent to play for Ohio State, after long toying with the idea of leaving his hometown outside of Columbus to play in Ann Arbor. For weeks, many perceived Harrison to be a slight Michigan lean, though that had been trending toward the Buckeyes since their 62-39 defeat of the Wolverines last month.

Ohio State officially sealed that commitment Wednesday.

“It’s been a long process, but I’ve decided to continue my athletic and academic career at The Ohio State University,” Harrison announced midday, via a live stream from his high school.

Beyond those three, Michigan locked in several players whose commitments stood on more solid ground. The class features one of the deeper offensive line groups in the country, boasting six commitments along the line. Guard Nolan Rumler and tackles Trevor Keegan and Trente Jones — all four-star recruits — highlight the group.

Elsewhere along the offense, four-star running back Zach Charbonnet, ranked No. 42 overall and No. 3 among running backs in the country, leads a group of promising weapons. Charbonnet boasts a combination of speed and strength that should allow him to see the field early in his career. Charbonnet is the highest-rated Michigan running back commit since Derrick Green in 2013, and will have a chance to crack the two-deep next season with Karan Higdon graduating.

Four-star athlete Giles Jackson adds an electrifying element to this class the likes of which the Wolverines have arguably lacked in recent years. Jackson is ranked as the No. 298 player nationally — 43rd among receivers. Michigan lists Jackson as a wide receiver on its roster, though he could figure into the equation in a creative role. 

At quarterback, Michigan adds Cade McNamara, a four-star signal-caller from Nevada. At 6-foot-1 McNamara projects more similarly to currrent quarterback Shea Patterson — in terms of agility and pocket presence— than, say, Wilton Speight or Dylan McCaffery. In Nevada, McNamara set just about every record possible, totaling over 12,000 yards and 146 touchdowns en route to earning two-time Nevada player of the year. Needless to say, though, the Big Ten will be a jump in competition.

Defensively, as to be expected, Don Brown and co. bring in a deep haul. Four-star interior defensive linemen Mazi Smith and Chris Hinton could be expected to contribute early, especially given the departure of Aubrey Solomon. Four-star linebacker Anthony Solomon slots into the fast, rangy linebacker mold that is quickly becoming the norm. Four-star cornerback Jalen Perry, previously committed to Georgia, represents a coup in the secondary to complement Hill. Four-star defensive end David Ojabo projects as the premier outside pass-rusher in Michigan’s class.

In total, the Wolverines bring in 15 four-star players and nine three-star players to go along with Hill, the lone five-star, according to 247sports composite ranking. It will likely finish as Harbaugh’s third top-10 class nationally, and, barring something unforeseen, the first time at Michigan he’s compiled the top class in the conference.