By RICKY LINDSAY, Sports Editor
The first leap into the 2014 football season is in the books. On Wednesday, the Michigan Wolverines football team rounded out its twelfth-ranked recruiting class after nine players in the class of 2014 signed their National Letters of Intent.
With Michigan securing most of its talent through early commitments, National Signing Day turned out to be a quiet event in Ann Arbor. Seven of the Wolverines’ 16 total signees have already enrolled in the university (Freddy Canteen, Drake Harris, Wilton Speight, Bryan Mone, Michael Ferns, Brandon Watson, and Mason Cole).
Cornerback Jabrill Peppers from Paramus, New Jersey, headlines the class as its crown jewel. The No. 1 ranked cornerback and No. 2 player overall in the country (ESPN) is expected to make an immediate impact in the Wolverines’ thin secondary. Comparisons already exists between Peppers and Charles Woodson, one of the most dynamic Wolverines in program history.
Head coach Brady Hoke swooped into the Paramus pipeline with this recruiting class. Offensive tackle Juwann Bushell-Beatty will be joining high school teammate Peppers in Ann Arbor. ESPN ranked Bushell-Beatty as the No. 11 offensive tackle in the country.
Michigan’s recurring problem last season was its offensive line. With the departure of three-year starter Taylor Lewan, Bushell-Beatty could be in line for eventual playing time.
Ian Bunting joins the fold at tight end for the Wolverines. Hailing from Hinsdale, Illinois, the No. 6 ranked tight end by ESPN has an opportunity to grow behind Michigan’s star Devin Funchess, as well as Jake Butt and A.J. Williams.
Like always, Michigan managed to lure recruits through its local pipeline.
Defensive end Lawrence Marshall, wide receiver Maurice Ways, and outside linebacker Jared Wangler all hail from southeastern Michigan.
Marshall, the No. 13 ranked defensive end by ESPN, will likely have to wait a year to see playing time with the Wolverines boasting positional depth. Ways has a chance to compete right away against early enrollees Drake Harris and Freddy Canteen for starts amongst a thin group of wide receivers.
Wangler, the son of former Michigan quarterback John Wangler (1977-1980) joins brother Jack as a Wolverine. Jared flipped from Penn State last August and will provide depth to an already strong linebacker corps.
Linebackers were a constant target for the Wolverines in the class of 2014. The team already possesses early enrollee Michael Ferns. Along with Wangler, inside linebacker Noah Furbush only adds to that depth. A native of Kenton, Ohio, Furbush was ESPN’s No. 21 ranked linebacker in the class.
Brady Pallante from Naples, Florida, rounds out the 2014 class on National Signing Day. The No. 117 ranked defensive tackle originally planned to greyshirt this year, but received a scholarship last November to join the team this season. At 6-foot-1, Pallante is undersized, but he does compare to former Wolverine and Detroit Catholic Central star Mike Martin. Both Martin and Pallante possess the same height and were heavyweight wrestling state champions.