The Wolverine

January 2022

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 46 of 67

JANUARY 2022 THE WOLVERINE 47 BY EJ HOLLAND T he early signing window has officially closed. Over the last couple of years, more and more prospects have utilized the December signing period as opposed to waiting until February, a month that used to be a spectacle for recruitniks. Now, around 80 percent of recruits are off the board in December and focus is quickly moving to 2023. However, there are a couple of key unsigned prospects still available. The biggest of them all — at least from a Michigan standpoint — is five-star Se- attle Rainier Beach offensive tackle Josh Conerly. Michigan was considered the leader for Conerly shortly after his September visit to Ann Arbor. However, Conerly wanted to keep his options open and made a couple of visits to USC. With new coaching staffs at Pacific No r t hwe s t sc h o o l s Oregon and Washing- ton, Conerly also has stable choices close to home. Alabama and Oklahoma have shown some interest as well. Conerly is in it for the long game and wants to use his ream- ing four official visits — the only one he took was the trip to Michigan for the game against Washington. The Wolver- ines will have to work to get him on cam- pus on his own dime for an unofficial visit. That effort to make sure Conerly sees U-M one more time before signing started in mid-December when offensive line coach Sherrone Moore stopped by his high school and also conducted an in-home visit. Conerly's father, Josh Sr., called the in-home visit "great," while Conerly Jr. enjoyed seeing Moore yet again. Moore flew out to Seattle in the summer to see him for a satellite camp, and Conerly also made an unofficial visit to Michigan in the summer. "I love that he's a Black man in Amer- ica and really understands where I come from," Conerly Jr. said. "He understands my problems and how my days go. We try to talk once a week. I think we have a great relationship, and we've been build- ing it up since he started coaching of- fensive line." Michigan's push for Conerly will con- tinue once the dead period comes to an end in January. Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh purposely did not do an in- home visit with Conerly before Decem- ber's signing day, so he could see him before the prospect's actual decision day — head coaches are only allowed one in- home per recruit. Both Moore and Harbaugh have a lot to sell with Conerly. The Wolverines are in contention to win a national title, while the offensive line has been phenomenal throughout the course of the season. On top of that, Conerly has been open to leaving home and loves the aura that comes with playing at a traditional pow- erhouse like Michigan. "I just love the pride of the program," Conerly said. "Almost all the coaches went to Michigan. There aren't a lot of staffs like that. It's a pride thing. I take a lot of pride in my high school. That's probably the biggest thing that stands out." USC has built momentum after the hire of Lincoln Riley, while Oregon and Washington can sell that new car smell that comes with first-year head coaches. All three schools are a lot closer to Con- erly than Michigan. But the big man himself has stated distance won't be a deciding factor. "My parents don't care and are go- ing to be there regardless," Conerly said. "I'm very thankful for my family. I love that they support me no matter what. I feel like by leaving home, I would gain more personal independence and figure out life to the fullest." Conerly is the only true target on Michigan's board heading into the late period, but it wouldn't be surprising to see the Wolverines get back in the mix for three-star Houston Kinkaid athlete Dillon Bell. A one-time si- lent commit, Bell sided with Geor- gia in the sum- mer but did not sign during the early period. He has preexisting relationships with Michigan assis- tants Mike Hart and Josh Gattis, and vis- ited on multiple occasions in the summer. Michigan flirted with taking another running back late in the cycle, and Bell could fill that role. He also has posi- tion flexibility and spoke to Gattis about playing wide receiver in Ann Arbor dur- ing the early part of his recruitment. The Texan also happens to be the older brother of elite 2023 defensive back Mi- cah Bell, who holds a Michigan offer. U-M could also take a late-round flier on an in-state prospect. Detroit King wide receiver Lynn Wyche-El and West Bloomfield (Mich.) High athlete Michael Williams immediately come to mind. Wyche-El is an explosive slot re- ceiver who could help U-M's push for his teammate and top 2023 quarter- back Dante Moore. On the flip side of the coin, Williams is a productive high school player who starred under assis- tant Ron Bellamy. He has no true po- sition but could be a defensive end or H-Back type. ❑ WHAT'S LEFT? Elite Offensive Tackle Josh Conerly Will Be U-M's Focus For February's Traditional Signing Day Conerly, who is listed as a five-star recruit and the nation's No. 22 overall prospect by the On3 Consensus rankings, is the primary target on Michigan's board heading into the late period. PHOTO BY EJ HOLLAND

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