ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Michigan football got very little help from its freshman class last season, but according to head coach Jim Harbaugh, at least 11 true freshmen will contribute early in the 2019 season.
Harbaugh was asked about the No. 8-ranked 2019 recruiting class Monday at his final preseason press conference. The 26-player class was the top group in the Big Ten this offseason.
Some of the names Harbaugh mentioned won't come as a surprise. Daxton Hill, Chris Hinton and Zach Charbonnet were all top-50 players in the nation and play positions of need.
Others, such as Mike Sainristil, Mazi Smith, Giles Jackson and Erick All, have gotten praise from coaches throughout fall camp.
There are also some surprise players who have worked their way into the mix: David Ojabo, Cornelius Johnson, D.J. Turner and Caden Kolesar.
It appears Michigan will get freshman contributions on both side of the ball, starting with Hill, the No. 1 safety in the class.
"Dax Hill is everything that was advertised," Harbaugh said. "He's doing a great job. He's going to play a lot on special teams. He's going to play and work into that safety position, but he's really done extremely well."
After Michigan's defense got torched by the speed of Ohio State and Florida to end the 2018 season, Hill is a much-needed addition to the secondary.
The Wolverines made an obvious effort this cycle to improve team speed on offense and defense.
Sainristil is one example of how Michigan worried about targeting speed on the recruiting trail and found a way to make that speed an immediate factor.
Originally a three-star cornerback, Sainristil immediately flipped to wide receiver after enrolling early at Michigan. He's already worked his way into a major role on the offense and could even be a starter, according to coaches.
"Mike Sainristil -- I know we talked about Mike a lot, but he's going to be playing a lot at the receiver position and is in a return battle right now to be a punt returner and a kickoff returner," Harbaugh said.
He's one of a handful of offensive players looking to cash in on new offensive coordinator Josh Gattis' offensive philosophy.
"Offensively, Zach Charbonnet has stood out and done extremely well," Harbaugh said. "There's been others -- Erick All is going to play quite a bit. Receivers Cornelius Johnson, Giles Jackson will be playing both special teams and then working their way into the receiver position."
While Sainristil benefited from enrolling early, Charbonnet had to sit out the spring due to surgery. He's now in a battle with Christian Turner and Tru Wilson for the starting running back spot.
On defense, Hinton and Smith are expected to provide some critical depth along a defensive line that lost both Rashan Gary and Chase Winovich to the NFL draft.
"Mazi Smith came in as a mid-year," Harbaugh said. "He's been here quite awhile now -- a full nine months. He's been really good. Also, Chris Hinton -- you look at him and say, 'That's somebody who's going to be playing this year quite a bit.'"
Ojabo was considered a raw talent on the recruiting trail, but Harbaugh also mentioned him as a defensive lineman who could see the field.
"David Ojabo is coming on very, very strong and keeps having his best practice, it seems, every time we go out there," Harbaugh said.
In the secondary, Hill isn't the only freshman knocking on the door. With No. 2 cornerback Ambry Thomas questionable for the opener against Middle Tennessee State, Turner is in the mix to enter the rotation.
"D.J. Turner has been really good playing in special teams," Harbaugh said. "Kind of like Dax, he'll play special teams, probably starting on a few right now, and work in at that corner position, but he looks ready to play, as well.
"Caden Kolesar contributes on special teams. I think we can see that. He's going to be very good and playing."
You can watch Harbaugh's full press conference below.
Copyright 2019 by WDIV ClickOnDetroit - All rights reserved.