The work on the recruiting trail for 2016 is complete and national signing day is in the books. So, barring a few late tweaks or transfers, rosters across the Big Ten are pretty much set. The ESPN.com reporting crew is taking a look at what each team in the conference looks like with a new class on the way.
Next up: Michigan Wolverines
Team’s position of strength: Secondary
Jabrill Peppers may get most of the headlines this offseason, but he’s the tip of the iceberg for the talent Michigan has in its secondary. Jourdan Lewis might be the best cover corner in the Big Ten (if not all of college football) next fall after deciding to return for his senior season. Dymonte Thomas had a strong finish to the season, which sets him up to replace outgoing traffic director Jarrod Wilson at safety. Jeremy Clark, Channing Stribling and Delano Hill add another layer of experience.
The strong got stronger last week as well when the Wolverines signed two of the top 20 cornerback prospects in the country in David Long and Lavert Hill. Michigan was still among the worst FBS teams in creating turnovers in 2015 and will need their playmakers in the secondary, new and old, to help change that if the Wolverines are going to compete for a Big Ten title.
Team’s biggest need heading into signing day: Linebackers
Joe Bolden and Desmond Morgan combined for 154 tackles in the middle of Michigan’s defense last fall. Despite posting three consecutive shutouts at one point, the Wolverines still had some trouble stopping a strong spread rushing attack (See Ohio State, Indiana). Bolden and Morgan are out of eligibility, as is fellow starter James Ross. That leaves almost no experience at a position that could use an upgrade in speed. Ben Gedeon (34 tackles in 2015) is the only returning linebacker with significant playing time on his resume.
How Michigan addressed the need: Michigan stocked up with big athletes on National Signing Day, collecting at least four players who could eventually help in the middle of the defense. First among them is early enrollee Devin Bush. The four-star recruit from Florida said he sees an opportunity to get on the field immediately in Ann Arbor. Elysee Mbem-Bosse, Carlo Kemp and Josh Uche have a longer road to playing time, but should be able to help in the future. Middle linebacker Dytarious Johnson is also expected to join them if he can sort out a transcript issue.
Biggest need remaining: Offensive line
A late defection in the recruiting process when Devery Hamilton switched to Stanford left Michigan with three offensive linemen in this class. That puts a lot of pressure on that group to all pan out well, especially after picking up only three last year as well. They have enough returning starters to continue improving in the trenches in 2016, but it wouldn’t be much of a surprise to see the Wolverines move some of their biggest tight ends or defensive linemen to the line in coming years or supplement with graduate transfers. Either way, expect the offensive line to be a big focus for the 2017 class.