The Weekly Update at WolverineNation is a sneak peek inside Michigan recruiting.
The next few weeks are obviously a big deal for Michigan and every other program out there as we're getting close to signing day for the 2013 class. Saturday is the first big step with running back Derrick Green (Richmond, Va./Hermitage) announcing at 4 p.m. EST.
Green said the three hats on the table will be Michigan, Auburn and Tennessee. He also said in the past that Michigan was his leader. I don't believe much has changed with him leading up to Saturday, but he has done a good job keeping everything close.
It seems as though there wasn't enough time for the new coaches at Tennessee and Auburn to build a relationship with Green. That being said, I am not 100 percent positive on Green's choice, but I do feel Michigan still is the team to beat.
The other prospect Michigan is going after as of now is tight end Durham Smythe (Belton, Texas/Belton), who will be visiting Ann Arbor on Feb. 1.
Smythe is a former Texas commit and will be visiting Notre Dame before his visit to Michigan. Notre Dame has a good-sized visitor list for this weekend and has a lot of momentum going.
It seemed as though Stanford had the best shot with Smythe, but the Cardinal lost offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton to the Indianapolis Colts. Smythe has said not much will change with regard to his feelings about Stanford, but you can't help but think that makes him have a few second thoughts. Head coach David Shaw remains, so that likely helps calm some of the offensive questions, but Hamilton still is a major loss for Stanford.
Since Michigan gets the last visit before signing day, the coaching staff will get the last opportunity to make a big impression. I believe Michigan is likely a little behind right now, so we'll see what the visit does for the Wolverines.
Outside of Green and Smythe, fans have wondered if there will be any late surprises to the class. Since there are only two spots left, it all depends on the decisions of Green and Smythe.
Speaking of tight ends, it is looking as though Michigan will make the position a big priority going forward. There are four tight ends in the 2012 and 2013 class -- two athletic pass catchers and two blockers -- and Michigan already has extended a few offers for 2014.
Nic Weishar (Chicago/Marist), Daniel Helm (Chatham, Ill./Glenwood) and Garrett Dickerson (Oradell, N.J./Bergen Catholic) all seem like realistic options at this point. I have pointed out that Michael Ferns has been recruiting Weishar hard in the past few months and is continuing those efforts.
It's interesting to look at the Chicago area because there are quite a few top tight ends in that region. Michigan hasn't offered Ian Bunting (Hinsdale, Ill./Hinsdale), but the coaches have been in contact. He's yet another Chicago area tight end who should receive a decent amount of offers.
"[The coaches] were out a few weeks ago. I had finals last week, so I was focusing on that," he said. "Last time I talked to Coach [Dan] Ferrigno he let me know they are definitely interested and that they want to get me on campus again sometime soon."
Bunting says he doesn't have a top list yet, but Michigan would definitely be high on his list if he was to make one right now, adding that an offer from the Wolverines would be huge.
Bunting is 6-foot-6 and none of the four tight ends mentioned here is shorter than 6-4, which is a main reason why Michigan is targeting them. If Michigan can land one or two of these tight ends it would make the spot one of the stronger offensive positions going forward.
Michigan has been in contact with 2014 linebacker Brandon Lee (Indianapolis/Lawrence Central) recently, and even sent a coach out to his school on Wednesday.
Lee is an ESPN Watch List prospect with offers from Ball State, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisville and Purdue.
The coaches have told Lee they are interested but would like to do some further evaluation.
"I'm high on their list and right now they're just waiting until the week after next to finalize how many players they're going to take at each position in my class," he said. "They'll evaluate my film once again as a staff, so that's what the wait is."
The Michigan coaches have told Lee they see him as a SAM backer. Lee believes his film shows enough that Michigan will be interested.