Michigan’s 2018 recruiting class made headlines this year, but perhaps not the kind many were hoping for. This year’s group still finished inside the top 25, but that is not where Wolverine fans are accustomed to seeing their team ranked.
This was always expected to be a smaller class given the number of returning players from last year’s team, but Jim Harbaugh and company lost out on a number of high-profile recruits at key positions where they desperately needed reinforcements. Michigan is now hopeful that the offseason transfer market will help bridge the gap where it missed out in recruiting.
Despite a veteran roster returning in 2018, there are still a number of spots in the lineup where a newcomer or two has a chance to make an instant impact.
Tarik Black, WR
For this exercise, redshirt freshmen are included and there is a very good chance that Black receives a medical redshirt after suffering a season-ending injury in Week 3 against Air Force. Black immediately established himself as the No. 1 wide receiver in the opening week against Florida, catching a 46-yard touchdown pass in the first half and likely would have had more if it hadn’t been for poor quarterback play. With Black scheduled to be back, along with fellow starters Grant Perry, Donovan Peoples-Jones and tight end Sean McKeon, the Wolverines can stack up with nearly every other team in the Big Ten in terms of firepower in the passing game. Now if they could just find a quarterback…
Dylan McCaffrey, QB
McCaffrey’s chances to start in 2018 depends heavily on if Ole Miss transfer Shea Patterson is eligible this upcoming year. Patterson is one of a few former Ole Miss players seeking immediate eligibility, claiming that their former coaching staff misled them about the NCAA investigation into the football program. If Patterson becomes immediately eligible, he is the overwhelming favorite to start. If not, there will be a competition between last year’s starter Brandon Peters and McCaffrey. While Peters would appear to be the favorite based on his experience, he did himself no favors in the Outback Bowl, completing just 45 percent of his passes for 186 yards and two interceptions. A former four-star prospect, McCaffrey spent last season on the scout team and wound up being named Scout Team Player of the Year at Michigan’s postseason banquet.
Drew Singleton, LB
Senior Mike McCray has graduated after starting 26 straight games. First-team All-Big Ten linebacker Devin Bush returns in the middle, but who will now be flanking him? There are a number of options, ranging from fifth-year senior Noah Furbush to redshirt freshmen Jordan Anthony and Singleton. A former four-star recruit, Singleton sat out his senior season after tearing his ACL that previous summer. Singleton spent last season redshirting so he hasn't played in a live game in two years now. If fully healthy, which appears to be the case, Singleton could be a seamless fit at weak-side linebacker. At the very least, he will provide capable depth on a Don Brown defense that uses a number of rotations.
James Hudson, OT
Michigan has a major void at left tackle with previous starter Mason Cole off to the NFL. The Wolverines also missed out on a number of highly-rated prospects during the recruiting cycle and there is no immediate option at this point in time currently on the roster. Michigan is reportedly in the top two for Rice transfer Calvin Anderson who would immediately step in as the starter, but Texas, Auburn, Oklahoma and TCU are all in the running as well. One option currently on the roster could be Hudson, a redshirt freshman who switched over from the defensive line midseason last year. Hudson certainly has the athletic makeup (6-5, 302) of an offensive tackle, but is being utilized at a number of spots on the offensive front. Hudson, along with a host of others, will have every chance to see the field in 2018.
Christian Turner, RB
Karan Higdon and Chris Evans return as the clear top two running backs in the rotation after combining for 1,679 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns last season. There is a spot open, though, as the No. 3 back with Ty Isaac graduating. Redshirt sophomore Kareem Walker had just 20 carries last season and would appear in line to receive more carries in 2018, but his status on the roster has been in question after not traveling with the team for the Outback Bowl. If a freshman were to make an impact, look for Turner, a three-star prospect, to have a shot. While the star rating isn’t overly impressive, his offer sheet was, with the likes of Miami, Michigan State, Notre Dame and Wisconsin all extending one.
— Written by Mike Bainbridge, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Bainbridge is a graduate of Northern Illinois University. Follow him on Twitter @MBainbridgeCFF.