Firstly, I know a lot of you don't like ESPN, probably because of their apparent bias to the SEC. But with six national titles in a row, its certainly feasible to say that recruits in the south east are at least on average, better. States like Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana are consistently putting top players into the college game and the pros - and this is why ESPN tends to rate them higher. Better competition in high school produces better players.
Fortunately for Michigan, and other Midwest programs, the talent in Ohio and Michigan this year has been at a very high level, and this is reflected in Michigan's class ranking, which currently lies at #7. Anyway, without further ado, let's see where UM's commits and targets line up.
ESPN 150 Members:
CB Terry Richardson - 4* (81), #68 overall, #5 CB
OLB Royce Jenkins-Stone - 4* (80), #113 overall, #9 OLB
OG Kyle Kalis - 4* (80), #132 overall, #10 OG
MLB Joe Bolden - 4* (80), #142 overall, #5 MLB
Outside ESPN 150:
DT Ondre Pipkins - 4* (80), #16 DT
DE Chris Wormley - 4* (80), #16 DE
TE Devin Funchess - 4* (80), #5 TE
MLB James Ross - 4* (80), #8 MLB
S Jarrod Wilson - 4* (80), #13 S
DE Mario Ojemudia - 4* (80), #20 DE
OT Erik Magnuson - 4* (79), #27 OT
OT Ben Braden - 3* (79), #50 OT
DT Matt Godin - 3* (79), #32 DT
WR Jehu Chesson - 3* (79), #58 WR
OT Blake Bars - 3* (79), #54 OT
DE Tom Strobel - 3* (78), #61 DE
OG Caleb Stacey - 3* (78), #35 OG
MLB Kaleb Ringer - 3* (78), #23 MLB
WR Amara Darboh - 3* (78), #82 WR
TE A.J Williams - 3* (77), #36 TE
S Jeremy Clark - 3* (76), #52 S
S Allen Gant - 3* (75)
FB Siona Houma - 2* (74), #4 FB
RB Drake Johnson - 2* (72), #161 RB
Right now, you may be fuming at a couple of snubs whilst cursing that perceived ESPN bias. Personally, I don't think it's that bad. Let's start off with the positives. Terry Richardson is still rated very highly despite his size, which tells us they think he's a really good cover guy.
Joe Bolden made a leap up into the ESPN 150 after his good showing at the Under Armor game, and Ondre Pipkins made a big jump (3 rating points) up to a four star prospect. He probably should be in the 150, but clearly the analysts have found something they don't like.
James Ross is one of the top commits in the class, I'm telling you right now. He's underrated here for sure, and it's probably just because of his size. Tom Strobel is also lower than expected, considering scout has him as a top 100 guy. There are other commits that should be higher too.
Drake Johnson a two star (72)? This is harsh for a guy that put up great numbers and has incredible speed. Whether he goes on to have a great UM career or not, he's better than that rating suggests.
Are there really 81 WRs better than Amara Darboh? No, there aren't.
This is still a positive set of results, you must take into consideration that ESPN gives harsher grades than the other sites. For example they've only handed out 11 five stars this year. Personally I like this, a 5* player should be something special, someone that is ready to dominate at the next level almost immediately.
As fans we naturally assume that the site that gives our recruits the best ratings, is the best 'ranker'. I bet a few of you will be thinking right now that scout.com is the best, and maybe they are. But maybe its because they have many of our commits ranked in the top 100. I use ESPN rankings for this site because they give the most detailed evaluations of commits (i.e a long description of their strengths and weaknesses).
Josh Garnett is rated as a four star prospect (#42 overall, 82 rating) and the #3 OG in the nation. This would obviously be a great pickup if we can land him, as it would help push us up the rankings.
Armani Reeves is a four star prospect (80 rating), and he's listed as the #23 ATH in the class.
Sam Grant is a three star prospect, with a 78 rating.