Michigan’s interest in prospects at Nike’s The Opening has always been pretty substantial, but in the first year of Jim Harbaugh’s tenure that number is at an all-time high. The event will host 166 of the nation’s top prospects, and the Wolverines have offered over 80 of them. That dizzying number is rendered more manageable, though, when taking into account that roughly 30 of those are still seriously considering the Maize & Blue.
On the commitment front Michigan has Avon (Ind.) quarterback Brandon Peters and Detroit Cass Tech offensive guard Michael Onwenu representing it this week. Peters is off to a scintillating start after impressing scouts and instructors alike over the first two days of the Elite 11 finals. He’ll be looking to further his quest for top quarterback honors during The Opening. Onwenu, meanwhile, comes in after a few dominant turns at Opening Regionals in Illinois in Ohio. His nimbleness and power at 6-3, 367 lbs. has garnered him a great deal of positive attention already this summer, and now he is looking to cement his reputation against the nation’s best.
Michigan targets joining Onwenu in the offensive line ranks are Hyattsville (Md.) Dematha Catholic offensive guard Terrance Davis, Philadelphia (Pa.) Imhotep offensive guard JohnCarlo Valentin, Lawrenceville (Ga.) Archer offensive tackle E.J. Price, Honolulu (Hawaii) Kaiser offensive guard Michael Elitise, and Hudson (N.C.) offensive guard Landon Dickerson.
With four offensive line commits already in the 2016 class the Wolverines will likely take just one more this year. They’ve been in very strong shape with Davis since he was wowed during his Spring Game trip to Ann Arbor, but his winter decision timeline has left an opening for another target to swoop in. Valentin could be that other target. He too is high on the Maize & Blue after visiting last summer and being offered a few months ago. Additionally Michigan is among the favorites to land Valentin’s good friend and high school teammate, Naseir Upshur (more on him later.)
Elitise and Dickerson are two more out-of-region prospects that have said they are planning to visit Michigan, but Price is the one that has the Wolverines have the strongest shot at. A former Georgia commitment, Price originally hails from the Great Lake State and is a lifelong Wolverine fan. Since decommitting from the Bulldogs last month he has reconnected with Michigan and a visit appears likely.
On the defensive line front The Opening features arguably the top target on Michigan’s board in Paramus (N.J.) Catholic standout Rashan Gary. The five-star standout visited Ann Arbor twice in the last few months, with the most recent trip occurring a few weeks ago with his mom in tow. The Wolverines greatly strengthened their chances to make his last cut before that start his senior season.
Other trenchmen in the Maize & Blue crosshairs are Concord (Calif.) De La Salle defensive tackle Boss Tagaloa and Phoenix (Ariz.) Brophy Prep defensive end Connor Murphy. With Tagaloa it boils down to can Michigan get him on campus for a visit (especially after initially considering him as an offensive linemen)? With Murphy there is a longstanding relationship with Jim Harbaugh dating back to Harbaugh’s courtship of Trent Murphy (Connor’s older brother) at Stanford. As a result Michigan has long been considered one of his heavy favorites.
At tight end Upshur leads the pack of Michigan targets in Oregon. He is coming off another memorable visit to Ann Arbor a few short weeks ago. He released his top eight afterward, but Michigan is thought to be in the upper tier of even that pared down group.
Other targets present at the position are Concord De La Salle’s Devin Asiasi, Abbotsford (B.C) Senior Secondary’s Chase Claypool, and Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy’s Isaac Nauta.
As is the case with Boss Tagaloa, Michigan’s viability with Asiasi comes down to whether it can get him on campus for a visit. Claypool has already visited and vaulted the Wolverines into his top five, but he is expected to announce his commitment at The Opening and most consider the Irish heavy favorites. Nauta has been committed to Florida State for quite some time, but Harbaugh’s hire and his connection to Greg Mattison (Mattison coached Nauta’s uncle at Western Michigan in the mid 80’s) have kept his interest in the Maize & Blue alive. He maintains that he will visit Michigan in the fall.
Stay tuned to the Michigan Insider for part two in which we preview Michigan’s top linebacker, defensive back, and wide receiver targets that will be in action at The Opening.