ANN ARBOR, Mich. – During a period in which college football normally takes a back seat to basketball between the end of the regular season and the start of bowl games, Michigan is making some noise on the recruiting front.
Along with his regular visits to high school players, Jim Harbaugh apparently has taken the time to pursue several potential transfers. Among them is former five-star quarterback Shea Patterson, who ended up at Ole Miss despite being the No. 1 quarterback in the nation out of Toledo in 2016.
Ole Miss was hit with heavy sanctions last month, including a 2018 bowl ban and scholarship reductions. As a result, the school has granted all of its players the option to transfer anywhere in the country, and it's possible they will become immediately eligible to play.
A Michigan plane was spotted in Oxford earlier this week as Harbaugh reportedly met with at least one Ole Miss player.
This should make the Internet fun for a minute pic.twitter.com/YmCdTMnQm5— Chase Parham (@RivalsChase) December 5, 2017
A Snapchat from Ole Miss safety Deontay Anderson showed Harbaugh across the table at an IHOP restaurant.
Is Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh in Oxford, MS? Deontay Anderson, who recently retained the services of Thomas Mars requesting a transfer from Ole Miss, posted this picture this morning. pic.twitter.com/MFZ3wbtem6— Brad Logan (@BradLoganCOTE) December 5, 2017
On Monday, Michigan recruiting expert Brandon Brown, of The Wolverine Lounge, broke the news that Patterson, Anderson and wide receiver Van Jefferson would visit Ann Arbor this weekend.
There have also been rumblings that Michigan is targeting offensive lineman Greg Little, tight end Jacob Mathis, linebacker Breon Dixon and offensive lineman Bryce Matthews, according to Rivals' Andrew Vailliencourt.
Here's a look at all seven players and how they could impact Michigan.
QB Shea Patterson
Reported interest: Extremely high
Patterson is the most high-profile transfer candidate on the Ole Miss roster, and for good reason. In parts of two seasons with Ole Miss, Patterson has completed 60.7 percent of his passes for 3,139 yards, 23 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
While Patterson's 12 picks in 10 games are a concern, his talent is obvious, and the ability to run is also a huge plus. Patterson was rated the No. 1 quarterback in the 2016 recruiting class and the No. 4 overall player.
Michigan fielded one of the top defenses in the nation for the second season in a row this year, but the offense was too one-dimensional to overcome. The Wolverines ranked 112th in passing yards per game, 119th in passing touchdowns and 111th in passer rating.
After Wilton Speight went down with a back injury and John O'Korn was benched due to accuracy issues, redshirt freshman Brandon Peters stabilized the offense for a few games. He threw for four touchdowns and zero interceptions, but the coaches were very cautious with the play calling.
Patterson would give Michigan another player to compete with Peters and freshman Dylan McCaffery for the starting quarterback job. It's the most important position on the roster, and was a major weakness for Michigan this season. If Patterson can reach his enormous potential, or even push Peters to improve more during the offseason, he could be Harbaugh's biggest pickup.
S Deontay Anderson
Reported interest: Very high
While Michigan's defense is already stacked with returning talent, it could use a playmaker at the safety position. Michigan's safeties struggled during some of the biggest games, especially Penn State and Ohio State.
Anderson was the No. 2 safety in the nation in 2016 and was one of the most highly sought recruits in the class. He held 43 scholarship offers, including offers from Alabama, LSU, Texas, Auburn, Clemson, Florida State, Ohio State, Southern Cal, Oklahoma and Michigan.
Anderson has already made it clear he has interest in Michigan through the Snapchat of Harbaugh in Oxford. If he enters the mix with Tyree Kinnel and Josh Metellus, Don Brown will have even more pieces to work with on defense.
WR Van Jefferson
Reported interest: High
If quarterback was Michigan's greatest weakness in 2017, wide receiver is right in the mix.
After Tarik Black went down with a foot injury against Air Force, Michigan really struggled to find reliable targets in the passing game. It was a battle for the young receivers to create separation, and even when the quarterbacks were on target, there were too many dropped passes.
With Black and former No. 1 wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones returning as sophomores next year, Van Jefferson could be strong candidate for a deadly trio.
Jefferson has the experience the rest of Michigan's receivers lack, catching 91 passes for 999 yards and four touchdowns over the last two years. He was a four-star recruit in 2015 and the No. 11 overall receiver.
OL Greg Little
Reported interest: None
The trio of players listed above have been pretty clear about their interest in Michigan, but Greg Little has been silent.
Michigan desperately needs help on the offensive line, and Little was one of the three players ranked ahead of Patterson in the 2016 class. He was the No. 1 offensive tackle in the nation and ranked only behind Michigan's Rashan Gary and Clemson's Dexter Lawrence in the overall list.
It's unclear if Little has any interest in Michigan, but with Mason Cole graduating and major problems on the right side of the line, the Wolverines could definitely use him.
TE Jacob Mathis
Reported interest: Unclear
In terms of need, tight end is way down the list for Harbaugh's current roster. Michigan already has Sean McKeon, Zach Gentry, Nick Eubanks and Tyrone Wheatley Jr. making an impact at tight end.
But Jacob Mathis has been linked to Michigan this week, and it makes sense that he would have interest after Harbaugh recruited him heavily out of high school. Mathis took an official visit to Ann Arbor before committing to the Rebels.
The No. 11 tight end in the 2016 class, Mathis was the 311th rated player overall.
LB Breon Dixon
Reported interest: Unclear
Breon Dixon was just a true freshman at Ole Miss this season, but held a scholarship offer from Harbaugh.
Dixon was the No. 12 inside linebacker and the No. 257 overall player in the 2017 class. His impressive offer list included Georgia, Alabama, Auburn, Oklahoma and Southern Cal.
Michigan doesn't have a huge need at linebacker with Devin Bush and Khaleke Hudson returning and several talented young players lying in wait. Josh Ross, Drew Singleton and Jordan Anthony all committed to Michigan from Dixon's class.
OT Bryce Mathews
Reported interest: Low
If Harbaugh can't land Little, he could strengthen the tackle position by adding former four-star Bryce Mathews.
Mathews was the No. 24 tackle in the class of 2016 and held an offer from Michigan. The Wolverines have missed on some of their top offensive line targets the last two years, so adding a solid talent such as Mathews would help.
Mathews only had 11 scholarship offers, but among them were Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State, so he has the raw talent to play anywhere.
It appears Harbaugh is unlikely to land Mathews, however, as he tweeted Wednesday that he's happy at Ole Miss and isn't planning to go to Michigan "any time soon."