The No. 12 Michigan football team finished its season on a high note, beating No. 25 Florida, 41-7, in the Citrus Bowl to cap a 10-3 season under first-year coach Jim Harbaugh.
Wednesday, the Wolverines will look to finish strong on the recruiting trail as well, with several top targets slated to announce on National Signing Day and Michigan strongly in contention for a top-5 class nationally.
In what will be Harbaugh’s first full recruiting cycle after being hired near the end of the 2015 period, Michigan currently has the sixth-best recruiting class in the nation, according to 247Sports.
The list of targets Michigan is after has a varied national flavor, with players from the Midwest, East Coast and West Coast all set to decide.
Chief among those prospects is Rashan Gary.
Gary is a defensive lineman who is ranked as the No. 1 player in the nation according to the 247Sports.com Composite Rankings, a system that takes the rankings of all four major recruiting websites into account before creating a holistic list.
He attends the same high school, Paramus Catholic, that current redshirt freshmen Jabrill Peppers and Juwan Bushell-Beatty did.
Michigan linebackers and special teams coach Chris Partridge, who was recently promoted from director of player personnel in recruiting, used to be the head coach of Paramus Catholic, and the relationship between Partridge and Gary has often been cited as a key factor in Gary’s interest in Michigan.
Gary is the first recruit to be ranked No. 1 overall by all four major recruiting websites since Robert Nkemdiche in 2013 and would be the highest-rated recruit Michigan has signed since the debut of the 247Sports Composite.
The primary contenders for Gary appear to be Michigan, Clemson — where Gary reportedly took an official visit this past weekend — Alabama and Ole Miss. According to the 247Sports Crystal Ball, 80 percent of the predictions for Gary’s final destination are Michigan, as of the time of this article.
From his film, it is clear that Gary possesses a rare blend of power and speed for his size, can play all over the defensive line and seems like a good bet to crack the depth chart of any school he chooses.
But Gary isn’t the only highly touted defensive lineman Michigan is after.
Boss Tagaloa, the No. 13 defensive tackle in the nation according to 247Sports, will also be announcing his decision Wednesday.
Tagaloa is from California and attends Concord De La Salle, the same high school as another highly-touted prospect that the Wolverines are after: Devin Asiasi.
Asiasi is rated the No. 3 tight end in the nation by 247sports, but could also be a defensive end. He’s a bulky yet athletic pass-catcher who even took snaps for his high school team as a wildcat quarterback.
Tagaloa and Asiasi are considering the Wolverines among a group of finalists, though most of the pair’s other finalists are closer to their home of Northern California.
The two have said they would like to attend the same school, but it is unknown whether they will follow through with their plans to be a package deal.
Michigan has not signed a recruit from De La Salle, widely regarded as a powerhouse, since quarterback Matt Gutierrez in 2002.
In addition to the De La Salle duo, the Wolverines will look to add another California prospect in Victor Viramontes. Viramontes was once a verbal commitment to Michigan but backed off his pledge in early December. He has positional versatility and could find time on the field as a quarterback, fullback, H-back or even linebacker.
Another prospect from the West who Michigan would love to add to its class is Connor Murphy, a long and athletic defensive end from Arizona.
Harbaugh also shares a personal relationship with Murphy’s family, having recruited Murphy’s older brother Trent while at Stanford.
Despite the national scope of their recruiting, the Wolverines have not forgotten about their home state. Michigan is after three prospects from the Great Lakes state in Lavert Hill, Quinn Nordin and Alaric Jackson.
Hill, the younger brother of current Wolverine junior safety Delano Hill, will announce at 9 a.m. on Wednesday. He is a highly-rated cornerback from Detroit King High School, the 2015 Michigan Division 2 state champions, and has taken official visits to Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State and Tennessee.
Hill, who was named the Lockheed Martin Air Defender of the Year by the U.S. Army All-American Bowl Selection Committee, has great agility and speed, and he could even contribute in the return game at the collegiate level.
Coincidentally, Nordin shares a recruiting tie with Hill — both were once verbal commitments to Penn State.
Nordin, ranked as the best kicker in the nation by 247Sports, is also well-known for more than his kicking prowess — he received media attention this summer when he participated in a commitment video to announce his initial choice of Penn State.
He will presumably choose between the three schools he took official visits to: Michigan, Baylor and Southern California.
Jackson, a 6-foot-7 offensive tackle from Detroit Renaissance High School, was slated to choose his college destination Monday, but reportedly received a scholarship offer from the Wolverines the same day and postponed his decision until Wednesday. Detroit Renaissance coach Lou Beatty told the Daily on Tuesday that he did not know where Jackson would commit.
“(Jackson) is an athletic big man,” Beatty said. “He can move really well, and he’s a tenacious player.”
Jackson, who has been a basketball player for most of his life, could be the offensive tackle that replaces Devery Hamilton in Michigan’s class. Hamilton switched his commitment to Stanford this past weekend.
From the Summer Swarm camps to the overnight “sleepover” visits with recruits, Harbaugh and his staff have shown that they will leave no stone unturned in their efforts to secure the best possible recruiting class. And their seemingly unorthodox tactics have generated a lot of attention.
With so many prospects left to announce on National Signing Day, Michigan could make its final recruiting splash a big one.