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Thursday, April 18, 2013
ESPN 150 Targets: Michigan

By Tom VanHaaren

Jabrill Peppers
A recent visit to Ann Arbor has vaulted Michigan to the top of the list for cornerback Jabrill Peppers, the No. 2 player in the ESPN 150.
With the release of the ESPN 150, here are a look at some key Michigan targets within the top list:

1. CB Jabrill Peppers (Paramus, N.J./Paramus Catholic)
6-foot-1, 205 pounds
ESPN 150 Rank: 2

Why Michigan wants him: Peppers would be a perfect fit for what Michigan wants at cornerback. He's tall, has length and would be versatile in Michigan's defense. Peppers is a bigger corner that can play zone or man-to-man, and would match up well with bigger receivers in the Big Ten.

Who else wants him: Ohio State, LSU and Stanford

Odds they get him: As of right now Michigan has a very good shot with Peppers. After his visit to Ann Arbor, Peppers vaulted Michigan to the top of his list along with Stanford and Ohio State. He plans on making it out to Stanford in July, but has not set a decision date yet. If he were making his decision today the Wolverines would likely be the choice.

2. DE Da'Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge)
6-4, 245
ESPN 150 Rank: 4

Why Michigan wants him: Defensive line will always be a focus for Michigan, since head coach Brady Hoke and defensive coordinator Greg Mattison are both line coaches at heart. Hand possesses a lot of characteristics the Michigan coaches look for. He's smart, well put together, comes off the edge well and can be somewhat versatile situationally. Hand is one of the most sought-after defensive linemen in this class and would be a big addition for Michigan, or any program for that matter.

Who else wants him: Alabama, Florida, South Carolina and Virginia Tech

Odds they get him: It's likely that Hand will take his time with the process and take his official visits, so there is plenty of time for things to change. However, as of right now Michigan has a very good chance with Hand. He has expressed that the Michigan coaching staff is his favorite and came away very impressed after his trip to Ann Arbor. It's not unrealistic to say that Michigan could be his final landing spot.

3. OL Alex Bars (Nashville, Tenn./Montgomery Bell)
6-6, 285
ESPN 150 Rank: 55

Why Michigan wants him: From his scouting report: "Bars is a tackle who is stronger as a run blocker at this stage, but has good ability to develop into a well-rounded tackle at the college level. A redshirt year would be ideal, but he has the upside to develop into a multi-year starter with some time and work in areas."

Who else wants him: Florida, Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Notre Dame, Ohio State, South Carolina, Stanford and Tennessee.

Odds Michigan gets him: Michigan landed Bars' brother, Blake, in the 2012 class, so there is a level of comfort there for the whole family. Having his brother at Michigan has given him a look at the ins and outs of the program, but it doesn't necessarily mean Michigan is where he'll end up. He has a lot of big options and has been exploring those options lately. It looks as though Michigan does have a very good shot with Bars, who plans on deciding soon.

4. ATH John "JuJu" Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Poly)
6-1, 185
ESPN 150 Rank: 62

Why Michigan wants him: From his scouting report: "Defensively, Smith has the range and feel for the high point safety. He is savvy disguising coverage and placing himself in position to make a play. He reads and reacts instantly." Smith could play offense or defense in college, and is the definition of an athlete. His versatility would be welcomed at Michigan.

Who else wants him: USC, UCLA, Ohio State, Michigan, Notre Dame

Odds Michigan gets him: There is a good chance Smith stays out West, but Michigan has piqued his interest. He says he would like to visit Ann Arbor, so if he takes that visit it will be a good gauge of his actual interest.

Malik McDowell
DE Malik McDowell, No. 60 in the ESPN 300, will visit FSU this weekend, but don't expect a decision soon.
5. DE Malik McDowell (Detroit/Loyola)
6-5, 260
ESPN 150 Rank: 69

Why Michigan wants him: McDowell is a highly ranked, in-state defensive lineman. He would be a perfect fit for Greg Mattison's defense as a guy who starts at strongside defensive end then moves inside on passing situations. McDowell has excellent size and is deceptively athletic. Adding him to the defensive line would help get Michigan closer to building a disruptive front four.

Who else wants him: Florida, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Ohio State

Odds Michigan gets him: Michigan has a very good shot with McDowell. He has been up for numerous visits and it seems as though the coaching staff is gaining some momentum with the talented defensive lineman. If things keep going the way they are then there is a good chance he ends up at Michigan.

6. WR Artavis Scott (Tarpon Springs, Fla./East Lake)
5-11, 177
ESPN 150 Rank: 85

Why Michigan wants him: From his scouting report: "Displays very good stop and start ability and lateral quickness -- has a lot of wiggle and body control on a flexible frame. He does a very good job of selling vertical routes every snap to get open. Has a good feel for setting the defender up at the top of his route. Fights hard for extra yards at the end of runs."

Who else wants him: Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Ohio State, UCF

Odds Michigan gets him: Scott was up for Michigan's spring game, and while I still think there is work to do, I think he got a little more comfortable with Michigan. The distance from home might be an issue, but I do think Michigan has a shot here. It's going to be a battle with the Southern schools if Michigan wants him.

7. CB Parrker Westphal (Bolingbrook, Ill./Bolingbrook)
6-0, 185
ESPN 150 Rank: 87

Why Michigan wants him: Westphal, much like Peppers, is a bigger defensive back who would bring length and range to Michigan's secondary. He's athletic, plays multiple sports and multiple positions and would be versatile in Michigan's defensive scheme.

Who else wants him: Florida, Illinois, Notre Dame, Ohio State

Odds Michigan gets him: Westphal initially said that Michigan set the standard after his first trip to Ann Arbor. That hasn't changed much, but Westphal is still entertaining every school on his list. It will be difficult to beat out Michigan, though, so there is a good chance he ends up in this class as well.

8. LB Kyron Watson (East St. Louis, Ill./East St. Louis)
6-1, 210
ESPN 150 Rank: 100

Why Michigan wants him: Watson hits like a ton of bricks and the coaching staff has told him they like what they've seen. He is a little on the short side to play SAM, but he does look versatile enough to play a few different spots. His athleticism, speed and willingness to hit is what the defensive coaches like to see.

Who else wants him: Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, Purdue, Syracuse and TCU

Odds Michigan gets him: This one will be interesting because Watson has said Michigan currently leads. He had to reschedule a visit to Ann Arbor, so we will likely know more about his actual interest after he reschedules his visit. The Wolverines' offer also might spark some interest from other schools, so there could be more competition on the way.

9. DE Lawrence Marshall
(Southfield, Mich./Southfield)

6-4, 205
ESPN 150 Rank: 107

Why Michigan wants him: From his scouting report: "Marshall has the tools to grow into a physical and real productive defender at the college level. He might not be physically imposing at this stage, but is a tough and physical prospect who won't lose many phone booth battles. As a pass rusher he demonstrates some speed-to-power capabilities."

Who else wants him:Michigan State, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Mississippi State

Odds Michigan gets him: The one-time Ohio State commit has shown a good amount of interest in Michigan, but he also is fond of Michigan State. Marshall has said that he now wants to take his time with the process and make sure he gets it right the second time around. Michigan is recruiting some high-end defensive line prospects, and with a smaller number of scholarships available it might be interesting to see where Marshall fits. The Wolverines are likely battling Sparty the most right now, but they aren't out of it yet.

10. OL Juwann Bushell-Beatty (Paramus, N.J./Paramus Catholic)
6-6, 320
ESPN 150 Rank: 120

Why Michigan wants him: From his scouting report: "Bushell-Beatty is a prospect who could see a transition to the next level at tackle, though a move inside to guard is possible as well. A big kid with some tools to develop into an effective starting college lineman."

Who else wants him: Florida, Florida State, Miami (Fla.), Tennessee and West Virginia

Odds Michigan gets him: After his visit to Michigan, Bushell-Beatty said the Wolverines were in front. It looks as though he could be making his decision before his season and if all stays the same Michigan could land him.