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Where does Michigan turn after missing on Saline 5-star QB CJ Carr?

There are no slam dunks in college recruiting.

Michigan is coming off its best season under Jim Harbaugh with a win over Ohio State and a Big Ten championship, but that success hasn’t translated to momentum on the recruiting trail.

The Wolverines haven’t landed a commit since March, and they received more unfavorable news Thursday night from one of their top targets in the 2024 cycle.

Saline five-star quarterback CJ Carr, the grandson of former Wolverines coach Lloyd Carr and the son of Michigan graduates Jason and Tammi Carr, announced his verbal pledge to Notre Dame, choosing the Irish over Michigan, Michigan State and three other finalists.

RELATED: Why CJ Carr chose different path with Notre Dame football

From an optics perspective, a Michigan legacy and elite national recruit who plays high school football miles down the road for the Big House choosing a rival school is a crushing blow for the Wolverines, who do not have a quarterback committed in the 2023 or 2024 class.

Bu while Michigan has recruited CJ for years, it never appeared to be a viable option for the five-star prospect.

“I never wanted to go to school close to my hometown,” CJ said after his announcement. “I kind of wanted to branch out a little bit and Notre Dame was the perfect place. It’s just always been like that. I remember mentioning to my dad a while ago like, ‘Wow, you went to the same school that you grew up in?’ It was never really appealing to me, honestly.”

It’s hard to fault CJ for wanting to blaze his own path and committing to a Notre Dame program that is flourishing on the recruiting trail under first-year coach Marcus Freeman. The Irish boast the No. 1-ranked class in the country in 2023, per the 247Sports Composite.

CJ also becomes the Irish’s third verbal pledge in 2024, and all three are top-200 recruits.

Meanwhile, the Wolverines are still searching for a spark to jumpstart them on the trail. Their 2023 class, which has six verbal pledges, has dropped out of the top 30 in the national rankings, and they have yet to secure a commitment in the 2024 class.

Landing an elite quarterback in at least one of the next two cycles is imperative, and their options are dwindling after CJ’s decision.

Sure, the Wolverines can continue to recruit him until he signs his national letter of intent, but a flip seems unlikely. So where does Jim Harbaugh’s program turn now?

Detroit Martin Luther King five-star Dante Moore is the top overall target in the 2023 class. Michigan only has three offers out to 2023 quarterbacks, and two – five-star Malachi Nelson and three-star William Watson III – are committed elsewhere.

That leaves Moore, the 12th-ranked recruit overall who is one of the most coveted prospects in the country. The 6-foot-2, 195-pounder has visited Ann Arbor numerous times and is coming off a recent trip to Michigan.

Notre Dame had been considered the favorite to land Moore, but its chances have likely diminished after picking up a commitment from Carr.

However, Michigan still has work to do with Moore. Texas A&M, which signed the top-ranked class in 2022 and has been at the forefront of Name, Image, Likeness discussion, and LSU are still in hot pursuit of the five-star quarterback, while Oregon also is making a strong push.

All three of those schools also are coveting Pittsburg (Calif.) four-star Jaden Rashada, another top-50 prospect nationally, so one will likely drop out of the Moore race if they land Rashada.

The Wolverines welcomed another five-star quarterback to campus last weekend in Charlotte (N.C.) Providence Day School’s Jadyn Davis, the No. 15 overall prospect and No. 4 quarterback in 2024.

Davis, like Moore, would be the top-ranked quarterback Harbaugh has landed if the Wolverines can seal the deal, but also like with Moore, they will have to beat out several other top programs such as Clemson, LSU and Georgia to do so.

Michigan has offered nine quarterbacks in 2024, and five are top-200 recruits who are uncommitted.

Besides Davis, it likely has the best shot at Carlsbad (Calif.) five-star Julian Sayin and Baltimore St. Frances Academy four-star Michael Van Buren, who have both visited Ann Arbor this offseason.

Incumbent starter Cade McNamara is likely heading into his last year at Michigan, and it appears sophomore and former five-star recruit J.J. McCarthy has a bright future ahead. If McCarthy continues to develop, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him leave for the NFL draft after the 2023 season.

That’s why landing an elite quarterback recruit in the next two cycles is paramount. There are still several big fish out there, but the question becomes: can Michigan reel one in? With Carr now committed to Notre Dame, there is one less option.

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