Jim Harbaugh secured the top-ranked recruiting class in the Big Ten
Michigan's 2018 recruiting class made very little impact on the field last season. Three-star wide receiver Ronnie Bell and kicker Jake Moody played the biggest roles for the Wolverines and they were the two lowest-ranked recruits in the class. That won’t be the case with this year’s group, which is ranked eighth overall in the 247Sports Composite Index and first in the Big Ten.
With the Wolverines losing several key pieces on both sides of the ball, Jim Harbaugh and his staff had to hit the trail hard to replenish the depth at defensive line, wide receiver and running back. This incoming class does just that and features a number of highly-rated recruits at positions of need heading into 2019.
Daxton Hill, S
As evidenced by the drubbing at the hands of Ohio State, the Wolverines' defense lacks speed on the back end, especially at safety. That is where five-star Hill comes in as the No. 2-rated safety in this year’s class. Hill’s final weeks before signing day were odd, to say the least, with him committing to Michigan, then announcing that he was flipping to Alabama before eventually landing back with the Wolverines during the early signing period in December. Hill has reportedly been clocked running a 4.3 in the 40-yard dash and could step right into a starting spot on Day 1 with the Wolverines losing Tyree Kinnel to graduation.
Zach Charbonnet, RB
Running back was already a need coming into the offseason with Karan Higdon graduating, but Michigan will now be without backup Chris Evans, who is no longer with the team as he deals with academic issues. If Evans can get his academics back in order, it appears as if the window might be open for a return, but the staff needs to move forward in finding a replacement in case that doesn’t occur. The Wolverines do return former walk-on Tru Wilson, along with promising redshirt freshman Christian Turner, but all eyes this spring will be on the highly-touted Charbonnet out of California. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound back out of California had an extensive offer list from a number of Power 5 programs and is already on Michigan’s campus for workouts as an early enrollee. The starting job won’t be handed to the true freshman, but Charbonnet is all but certain to see snaps immediately in 2019.
Chris Hinton, DT
The Wolverines have some work to do next season at defensive tackle as they lose three contributors in Bryan Mone (graduation), Lawrence Marshall (graduation) and former five-star recruit Aubrey Solomon (transfer). Upperclassmen Michael Dwumfour and Carlos Kemp return as capable starters, but not quite sure either are true difference-makers at the position. Michigan is reportedly in the running for a possible graduate transfer, but it is very likely a freshman or two sees immediate playing time. Hinton finished the recruiting cycle as a borderline five-star and is a versatile player who could find himself at either defensive tackle or strong-side defensive end. The need at tackle likely means Hinton starts inside.
Giles Jackson, WR
Michigan brings back arguably the top wide receiving corps in the Big Ten in 2019 with Donovan Peoples-Jones, Nico Collins, and Tarik Black leading the way. That said, all three are best suited on the outside, and the Wolverines were missing a slot-type that could man the middle of the field. Enter Jackson, who is expected to be used in a multitude of facets, including on quick passes, jet sweeps, and screens. The 5-foot-8 receiver perfectly exemplifies the now famous hashtag by new offensive coordinator Josh Gattis about #SpeedInSpace.
Mazi Smith, DT
Everything above that was written about Chris Hinton applies to Smith as well, though he is a surefire defensive tackle at 6-foot-3 and weighing in at close to 300 pounds. The four-star recruit is an early enrollee already on campus which increases the likelihood that Smith will be in the rotation as a true freshman.
— 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.