Michigan recruiting mailbag: Early enrollees playing early, European import, top remaining 2018 targets

  • Kevin Goheen
  • Land of 10
2:01 p.m Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2018 Sports

Have Michigan football recruiting questions? We’ve got answers. Join us every Wednesday for the Land of 10 Michigan recruiting mailbag to discuss Wolverines recruiting. This week, Land of 10 looks at the chances for 2018 early enrollees playing next season, the story behind Germany native Julius Welschof, and some of the top players Michigan is going after to fill out the 2018 class.

Q: Will any of the early enrollees play next year?   — Justin JaySkeet   via Facebook

A: Michigan has only three early enrollees for the 2018 class, which is a drastic drop from the 11 players from the 2017 class that started school last January. That’s more a reflection on the number of returning starters than anything else. There were openings everywhere entering last season when Michigan had to replace 17 of 22 starters. That’s not the case for 2018, when as many as 28 players who made at least one start on offense or defense this season could return.

The doesn’t mean cornerback Myles Sims, quarterback Joe Milton and/or defensive end Taylor Upshaw won’t play as freshmen.

Sims is the most likely to see action because of his position and the possibility of making contributions on special teams. Milton comes in expecting to compete for the starting job against redshirt sophomore Brandon Peters, redshirt freshman Dylan McCaffrey and potentially junior transfer Shea Patterson, depending on whether the NCAA grants his waiver to bypass the normal rule that requires transfers sit out one year. Regardless of the NCAA’s decision, it’s commonplace for freshman quarterbacks to redshirt. Upshaw is in a position group that has had six players signed in the previous two classes. Special teams will be his quickest way onto the field.

Q: Tell me about Julius Welschof from Germany. Don’t know anything about him?   ― Gregory Scott   via Facebook

A: Julius Welschof camped at Michigan and several other schools last summer, and that’s where Wolverines coaches and staff first noticed him. He definitely stood out at 6-foot-6, 250 pounds. Welschof, a defensive end, came over with more than 10 other players from Europe with the organization Premier Players International. PPI was founded and is run by Brandon Collier, who played defensive line at Massachusetts when current Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown was an assistant coach at UMass.

Welschof grew up in Bavaria playing soccer, tennis and skiing, but got into football three years ago. While he hasn’t played against elite competition, Brown said last week during Outback Bowl practices that he doesn’t view Welschof as a project player. Welschof had committed to Georgia Tech but changed his decision and signed with the Wolverines on Dec. 20 after receiving an offer in mid-December.

Q: Do we get Tyler Friday, Ja’Marr Chase? ― Michael Reyes (@MikeArizona11) 

A: Tyler Friday, a defensive lineman from New Jersey, and Ja’Marr Chase, a wide receiver from the New Orleans area, are two of Michigan’s top targets for National Signing Day on Feb. 7. They are rated as 4-star prospects by the 247Sports composite and ranked among the top 100 players in the country — Chase is No. 75 and Friday is No. 85.

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Michigan is among the top three choices for both players and they were both on campus for official visits on Nov. 25. The Wolverines have been recruiting Friday for a couple years and have a strong relationship with him. He has also visited Ohio State and Alabama. Chase was committed to Florida but opened his recruitment when coach Jim McElwain was fired during the season. The Wolverines quickly showed their interest in Chase, who has visited TCU, has a visit lined up to LSU this month and is also interested in Auburn. It will be tough to get him out of the South, but not impossible.

My gut says Michigan signs one of the two, with Friday being the more likely. But I definitely wouldn’t rule out the Wolverines signing both.

Q: Do you have any concerns with Michigan not finishing inside the top five recruiting class? A lot of chatter about this out there? ― Chris Willoughby via Facebook

A: I don’t. Michigan’s last two classes have been ranked No. 8 (2016) and No. 5 (2017) by the 247Sports composite. The 2018 class, which includes 16 signed players and three commits, currently is ranked No. 14. I realize there is prestige in being ranked in the top five or top 10 each year, but more important than the star rating next to a player’s name is how well he is developed once he is signed. Michigan’s recruiting classes have been ranked in the top 10 four times in the last seven years. The other three classes included two coaching changes (Brady Hoke 2011, Jim Harbaugh 2015) and the No. 20 class in 2014.

If Michigan lands two or three top-100 players — such as Friday, Chase, linebacker/safety Otis Reese (No. 93) or offensive tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere (No. 17) — this class will find itself in top-10 range. That’s nothing to be concerned about, in my opinion. What still needs to be proven is that this talent can end Michigan’s Big Ten title drought, which is now at 13 seasons.

Q: Do you think Cameron McGrone will be an instant impact at linebacker? — Alex DeSoto via Facebook

A: This depends on your definition of “instant impact”, but I definitely think Cameron McGrone can play as a freshman and play well. He came back from an ACL injury suffered late in his junior season to have a standout senior season at Lawrence Central High School in Indianapolis. McGrone is playing in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl this week in San Antonio. Michigan returns good depth at linebacker. It loses Mike McCray on the outside, but Noah Furbush has a fifth year of eligibility available if he chooses to use it, and there have been seven linebackers signed in the last two classes.

Josh Ross had a good freshman season playing mostly special teams, while Jordan Anthony and Drew Singleton redshirted in part because of the depth at the linebacker.

McGrone has the physical ability to play early, but he’ll have to earn that playing time against some very good players.

Have a question about Michigan recruiting? Tweet us @Landof10MICH or follow on the Land of 10/Michigan Facebook page and ask us there. We’ll try to answer in a future mailbag. Check to see if your issue already was addressed by reading previous Michigan recruiting mailbags here.

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