Michigan football recruiting 2014: Signing Day class small, but potent

Gregory Shamus

The Wolverines won't end up with the No. 1 overall class many of their fans had been hoping for early on, but they've still found a handful of likely early contributors.

Michigan pulled in a relatively small recruiting class in 2014, but there is no shortage of quality among the 16 commitments. A class spearheaded by five-star defensive back Jabrill Peppers should help return the Wolverines to competing for Big Ten titles and making noise on the national stage. Whether they're set up to top Ohio State is another question.

Michigan's class at a glance
Total signees Five-star prospects Four-star prospects
16 1 8

Michigan has seven early enrollees from the class, led by four-star wide receiver Drake Harris out of Grand Rapids, Mich. Harris ranks as the No. 67 player in the country by 247 Sports' composite rankings, and at 6'4, 180 pounds he fits the larger mold that Brady Hoke covets in a wideout.

Defensive tackle Bryan Mone (Salt Lake City, Utah) and offensive lineman Mason Cole (Tarpon Springs, Fla.) join Harris among Michigan's early enrollees. They rank No. 83 and 87, respectively, in 247's recruiting rankings, though neither appear in the top 100 on the composite list.

The jewel of the Wolverines' class won't be joining until summer. Peppers is the third-best player coming out of high school according to 247 Sports' composite rankings. His highlight reel makes it clear why he is considered one of the best players in the country. You can also take the word of SB Nation recruiting analyst Bud Elliott:

Peppers already looks like an NFL player and is one of the best players I'll scout this year.

Peppers is a physical man-to-man cover cornerback. He's bigger than most of his competition, and he knows how to use his power to dominate them.

A man of Peppers' size should not be able to turn and run like he can with the smoothness that he shows. His ability to accelerate at 200-plus pounds is excellent. His top-end speed is also quite good. Peppers has explosive vertical skills, which paired with his height and length, make him a big asset in the red zone.

Joining Peppers among summer enrollees will be tight end Ian Bunting and linebacker Chase Winovich. Bunting has been a steady climber up recruiting rankings, and is now a consensus four-star player. His 6'7, 223-pound frame foretells a career as a red zone destroyer, assuming he continues to develop. Winovich, who committed over an offer from Ohio State, has the range to play SAM. He may need to add bulk, but he already has the skillset to contribute according to Michigan blog Maize N Brew:

In a couple of years, the battle for the SAM linebacker position is likely going to be very clear-cut; Winovich and McCray. And based off of high school tape, I'd be surprised if Winovich didn't win that battle. Not only does he look like the better all around athlete, I also think he's a better positional fit for the SAM. First, and most obviously, he does a great job coming off the edge and attacking the backfield. He knows how to take on a blocker, and he's surprisingly disciplined for a HS kid (read: NOT JAKE RYAN). I also really like how quick he moves his feet, and how his footwork rarely showcases any wasted motion. His steps are very controlled, concise, and targeted.

Michigan appeared on track for the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation early in the process, but an inevitable momentum halt and a few misses, notably on top-ranked defensive end Da'Shawn Hand, kept the Wolverines' class from being one of the nation's best. Still, there are a number of intriguing developmental prospects. Three-star quarterback Wilton Speight (another early enrollee) stands out as a potential diamond in the rough, after he impressed during practices for the Under Armour Game.

Michigan's class is strong in the front seven, with seven prospects who play along the defensive line or at linebacker, and wide receiver, where Freddy Canteen (6'3, 170 pounds) and Moe Ways (6'3, 192) will join Harris for what should be a humongous future receiving corps.

The size of Michigan's class will keep it from the top of the rankings on recruiting sites, but the quality is excellent by the numbers. An average of 3.44 stars per recruit ranks 14th in the country, according to Rivals.com. With the proper development, Michigan could soon be competing for national titles again.

Top target

The Wolverines still have a chance at Malik McDowell, a five-star defensive end who announces on Signing Day. Division rivals Ohio State and Michigan State are also pushing for him, and McDowell's parents don't appear to be big fans of the Spartans.

More from SB Nation college football:

28 National Signing Day predictions

CFB players forming a union: Why this just might work

Grading this year’s 20 FBS coaching hires

National Signing Day FAQ for casual recruiting fans

College football news | Auburn might claim three old titles

Long CFB reads | The death of a college football player

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