The Wolverine

January 2021

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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28 THE WOLVERINE JANUARY 2021 BY EJ HOLLAND A lthough Michigan suffered two flips on day one of the early signing period, Dec. 16, in top-100 overall pros- pect Branden Jennings, a linebacker who signed with Maryland, and fellow four-star defender Quintin Somerville, a defensive end who inked with UCLA, given the current situation around the football program and questions sur- rounding Jim Harbaugh's future, early signing day was a success. In addition to holding onto all of their other pledges, the Wolverines withstood a late run at wideout Xavier Worthy by Alabama, got a late-night surprise when four-star linebacker Jay- don Hood — who was expected to wait until February to make a final decision — inked with the squad and added a crown jewel with the signature of top- 100 running back Donovan Edwards, a popular Detroit area star that could pay dividends within the state's borders for years to come. Here's how I would rank U-M's 20 sign- ees, starting with the group's top pros- pect, based on many in-person evalua- tions, significant film review and talking with various sources for input: 1. LB Junior Colson Colson is my highest-rated player in Michigan's 2021 class. No senior film is available, but I had an opportunity to see Colson twice in-game this season as well as in 7-on-7 action and a private workout this offseason. I also saw him in-game as a junior and took a deep dive into his clips from that year. The 6-2, 230-pounder is everything you want in a linebacker. He is built like a tank, with thick upper and lower halves, and is a punishing inside 'backer that fills gaps in a hurry with the instincts to dissect plays almost instantaneously. Colson has a ton of speed, but his lat- eral quickness and flexibility make him special. A guy his size should not be able to move the way he does. He can also cover and blitz off the edge. Colson has been recruited for Michi- gan's 'viper' spot because of his explo- siveness, but he can make an impact in any of the linebacker roles. He still has plenty of upside as well. A converted wide receiver, he just started playing linebacker as a sophomore. For being from Haiti, where football is an afterthought, and recently learning a new position, Colson is much further along than one would think. He's a high- ceiling, high-floor kid that will be tough to keep off the field as a true freshman. 2. QB J.J. McCarthy Is McCarthy a five-star prospect? It's very close. While he didn't put up su- per gaudy numbers as a senior, he was extremely efficient. Early in his high school career, the passer forced throws while trying to make a play, including two interceptions during my in-game evaluation when he was a junior. How- ever, he improved in that area, throwing no picks as a senior. The 6-3, 195-pounder still isn't afraid to take shots, trusting his elite arm talent, and is very capable of making throws no other signal-caller in the class can. Mc- Carthy's ball placement is elite as well, and his arm strength is superior. He could be more consistent from an accuracy standpoint after he completed just 58 percent of his passes as a senior (though he did suffer from some drops). He is special when moving around the pocket, and his escapability is extremely impressive. McCarthy is capable of mak- ing Johnny Manziel-like Houdini plays. While he doesn't run a lot, when he does, McCarthy is quick and elusive, and often picks up chunks of yards. He has added good weight and strength to what was a thin frame. McCarthy, who would likely have re- ceived a five-star bump with more of a dominant senior year, has all the intan- gibles — he is an incredible leader and relentless worker. He will have a chance to win the starting quarterback job as a true freshman at Michigan. 3. RB Donovan Edwards Edwards took a big step — very good to elite back — from his junior to senior year. A powerful ball carrier, the 5-11, 190-pounder wants to punish defend- ers with his strength and power. He is excellent between the tackles and a master at picking up big chunk yards to keep the chains moving. Im- proved short-area quickness and more wiggle will aid his game. However, Ed- wards has adequate speed and is capa- ble of breaking off long runs, especially after wearing down opposing defenses. He can make plays going east and west on tosses and read options out of the wildcat. Edwards runs like a train and is especially dangerous when he gets a full head of steam. He's a plus player as a receiver, capa- ble of turning a short screen into a big play. Edwards can also line up wide, run routes and catch the ball. A true three-down back that will pun- ish the defense, Edwards produces a couple of long runs every game and creates mismatches as a receiver. He's similar to 2020 Pro Bowler Aaron Jones of the Green Bay Packers. Fans can ex- pect Edwards to make his mark in Ann Arbor as a true freshman. 4. WR Xavier Worthy Worthy may have received a higher grade had I seen him in more than just a private workout setting. His junior reel is very impressive, but he was not able to take the next step as a senior due to California's cancellation of prep football. With that said, Worthy is still one of the fastest and most electric players in the country. Built like a track athlete with a shorter torso and long legs, the 6-1, 160-pounder glides like a gazelle FOOTBALL RECRUITING Power Ranking Michigan's Early Signees Linebacker Junior Colson is regarded as a con- sensus four-star recruit and is ranked among the top 150 prospects in the land by all three major recruiting services, two of which list him in the top 100. PHOTO COURTESY RIVALS.COM

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