Yesterday was Early Signing Day for high school football players who are making the next step in their life and prospective careers. It's an important day, as players officially sign their letters of intent and let the world know where they will be playing their college football.
For Jim Harbaugh and the University of Michigan, they needed a great signing day after an embarrassing loss to their arch-rival Ohio State less than a month ago. Since that loss, Michigan has received some good news on their future battles with Ohio State. First, Urban Meyer is leaving Ohio State, for reasons that I don't feel like going into detail about. Regardless of why he's leaving, it's a big development for Michigan, as they have been historically bad against Urban Meyer coached teams. During his time as Ohio State's head coach, Meyer was 7-0 against Michigan. Nobody is happier to see him leave than the Maize and Blue (and people who aren’t fans of domestic abuse incidents being covered up).
The other bit of good news was the crop of young players that Michigan got on this Signing Day.
*All rankings from this point forward are based on ESPN rankings*
25 players signed their letter of intent to Michigan, and this class is the fourth best in the nation and the overall best in the Big Ten.
I'm not going to go into detail on every player, but there are a few big names that deserve mentioning.
Top-ranked safety in the nation
13th ranked player in the nation
This is by far the biggest get of the day for Jim Harbaugh and company. Hill is the best safety in the country and should have no problem being a true freshman starter. Another reason why this is big is that they almost lost him to Alabama. Just two weeks ago, Hill tweeted that he had de-committed from Michigan and was going to the Crimson Tide. However, it seems like Harbaugh put his best pair of khakis on, went to work, and got Hill to flip his commitment back to Michigan. This could be a defining moment in Harbaugh's career as losing a player of Hill's caliber would've been a gigantic blow to a program looking to win its first National Championship since 1997. Hill was the Gatorade Player of the Year in Oklahoma and ran a 4.30 forty-yard dash back in April. He's the real deal.
2nd ranked defensive tackle in the nation
38th ranked player in the nation
Mazi Smith is a monster. Measuring in at 6'3" and 303 pounds, he's not an easy guy to handle. In his senior season of high school, he had 81 tackles, 18 of which were for a loss. He may not be as highly touted as Rashan Gary, who is leaving Michigan for the NFL -- and may very well be a top 5-10 pick -- but he should be able to replace some of the production that Gary had on the defensive line.
4th ranked defensive tackle in the nation
42nd ranked player in the nation
Hinton is similar to Mazi Smith, however, Hinton will probably see time both as a defensive tackle and as a defensive end. Along with his 4-star rating from ESPN, he also received a 5-star from Rivals, which shows just how highly he is thought of as a player. He had 6.5 sacks as a senior in high school and has had success both standing and with his hand in the dirt. If Hinton and Smith are on the same defensive line for the next couple of years, opponents are going to have a hard time establishing a run game or protecting their quarterback.
6th ranked running back in the nation
105th ranked player in the nation
Zach Charbonnet is the running back of the future for this program. He finished his high school career with a total of 577 carries for 4741 yards and 62 touchdowns. He probably won't get the starting job immediately, but in a year or two, he should be getting the bulk of the carries.
13th ranked pro-style Quarterback in the nation
Cade McNamara was nominated for the 2018 National Quarterback of the Year, and for good reason. He had just under 3000 passing yards to go along with 39 touchdowns as a senior. For his career, he broke the Nevada state records with 12,804 passing yards and 146 touchdowns. All on his way to becoming the state’s first ever back-to-back Gatorade Player of the Year. Even with Shea Patterson possibly leaving school for the NFL Draft, it may be a few years before McNamara is under center for Michigan.
Overall, Michigan got letters of intent from one 5-star player, fifteen 4-star players, and nine 3-star players. Four Gatorade Player of the Years (Hill, McNamara, Cornelius Johnson and Mike Sainristil). Also, 14 of the 25 players are on the ESPN Top 300 list.
The one big loss of the day for Michigan was 5-star recruit and the fourth-ranked player in the nation, Zach Harrison, who chose Ohio State over Michigan. That would've been an astronomical get for the Wolverines, but Harrison decided to stay in his home state.
Despite the Buckeyes getting Harrison, along with a few other big-name recruits, this signing day goes down as a win for Michigan. I'm not sure this means Michigan will beat Ohio State next season, but it helps them get closer, and it makes it much more likely that Michigan will be able to beat Ohio State sometime in the next two or three years. Which, even though the ultimate goal is to win a National Championship, beating the Buckeyes is the main priority going into each season for Michigan and their fans.