There were a couple of big hits and also a few strikes for Michigan on Wednesday, the first day of the Early Signing Period, and in the end it was trending toward a top-10 class for the Wolverines.
There was never any doubt five-star quarterback J.J. McCarthy would make it official on Wednesday, as the highest-ranking player among the 2021 freshmen. There was a bit more suspense later in the day, first with local four-star running back Donovan Edwards and, later, four-star California receiver Xavier Worthy.
Donovan Edwards gives interviews after announcing his college choice of Michigan. (Photo: Daniel Mears, The Detroit News)
Outside of West Bloomfield High with light snow falling, Edwards, ranked No. 3 on The Detroit News Blue Chip list, committed to Michigan before an ESPN2 audience. Worthy, who had entertained recent interest from Alabama, signed with Michigan, becoming the Wolverines’ second-highest-rated player in this class, which leans heavily on offense.
But there were some negatives for the Wolverines, who saw two four-star defensive players flip their commitments from Michigan. Defensive lineman Quintin Somerville is now a UCLA commit, and linebacker Branden Jennings flipped to Maryland. This was a definite hit for Michigan, which struggled defensively this season and lacks depth, particularly in the interior of the defensive line and at linebacker.
Players on Wednesday seemed to suggest Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, who has one year remaining on his contract and is expected to soon discuss an extension with athletic director Warde Manuel, has told them he’s “all in.” But the lack of anything concrete regarding Harbaugh’s future, as well as his staff, seems to have been problematic enough that the two players flipped.
“For them to keep a lot of the guys in the class even though a couple flipped today, I thought they did a great job here down the stretch,” 247Sports recruiting expert Allen Trieu said on BTN. “J.J. McCarthy, when you hear him speak, he had a lot to do with that. The other kids who stayed true in the class, they had a lot to do with that. The kids really recruit each other a lot now, and this Michigan class deserves a lot of credit for that, along with the coaching staff.”
McCarthy was asked how he has handled the speculation regarding Harbaugh and said on BTN that he has embraced being the point man as glue for this class.
“It’s the same role that I signed up for when I committed to the school because I’m committed to his university for a lot more reasons than just the game of football,” McCarthy said. “The role I was kinda stepping into was being a leader of this class and being able to keep our guys together and keep our guys committed and kinda get the same guys, like Donovan Edwards whe he committed. It’s awesome to be surrounded with this type of mold and these types of guys and kinda playing the role of keeping everything together with them.”
Edwards said when he first met McCarthy, it was as though they had known each other their entire lives. He feels a similar commitment to the class and felt good about what Harbaugh has shared with him.
“He just told me he’s all in,” Edwards said of Harbaugh. “He played at Michigan, so I mean he’s all in with us.”
Both will join somewhat crowded position group. Joe Milton started five games at quarterback this fall during the abbreviated nine-game schedule – the Wolverines canceled their final three games, including Saturday at Iowa, because of COVID-19-related issues – and Cade McNamara started the last game against Penn State.
“I’m going to work as hard as I can to do whatever I can to win football games whether that be holding the clipboard or playing behind Cade and Joe and learning from them or starting,” McCarthy said. “It’s all whatever the coaches want and whatever we need to win football games.”
Running back Hassan Haskins, who earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors by the media and coaches this week, as Michigan did not place an offensive player on the all-conference teams, is expected to return along with Zach Charbonnet and Blake Corum. Edwards, who was coached by former Michigan receiver Ron Bellamy, likes what his game offers.
“I feel I’m dangerous at any given point of the game and I also feel like I’m a game-changing type of player,” he said.
Giovanni El-Hadi, from Sterling Heights Stevenson, is third highest-rated recruit behind McCarthy and Worthy, and four-star linebacker Junior Colson is the highest-rated defensive player in the class.