Promising Quote Is Promising
Is four-star LB Josh McMillon looking blue? [photo via 247]
It's no secret that Michigan's scholarship availability for the 2015 class is dwindling. Per Sam Webb, that fact is not lost on four-star TN LB Josh McMillon, who's spoken very highly of the Wolverines lately ($):
One of the topics of discussion in recent weeks has been Michigan’s dwindling scholarship availability. McMillon is well aware that there is only one scholarship left for a linebacker, but he has made it a point to not let it affect his recruitment.
“They said I was number one on their boards, so I feel like if they did take someone it would be my loss rather than theirs,” he stated.
Well, hello there.
McMillon will visit for the BBQ at the Big House on July 27th, and he's also got trips planned to Alabama (July 12th) and Auburn (TBD) before a decision he'll make either in August or September. McMillon spoke in glowing terms about his last visit to Ann Arbor—when he was the first recruit to see the new Schembechler Hall renovations—from both a football and academic standpoint, as well as his close relationship with Chris Singletary.
A potential commitment from McMillon could leave four-star UT OLB Osa Masina, who named Michigan to his top five on Thursday, out of a spot—he doesn't plan to decide until the Army AA Game, per 247's Evan Flood ($). This is what we call a good problem.
Prospects are looking up on the defensive line, as well. Four-star NC SDE Darian Roseboro has Michigan as the only non-ACC/SEC school in his top six thanks to the connection he and his family have made with the coaching staff, especially Roy Manning, per Webb's latest DetNews article:
“I like the coaching staff,” said Roseboro to Scout.com. “They’re all down to earth and I have a real good relationship with them. I also enjoyed being around the players when I visited and I like the environment.”
His connection with Michigan assistant Roy Manning served as the catalyst for his initial interest. During the visit that bond quickly expanded to also include Roseboro’s parents.
“We got along perfect,” Roseboro’s father Johnny said. “(Manning) was like someone I have known for years. We just clicked and I liked that. He didn’t try to be anybody else. They are themselves. What you see is what you get. I like that.
Webb confirms that Roseboro will be in attendance at the BBQ, which gives U-M the chance to make another strong impression before he makes his college choice on August 29th. The whole article is well worth your time; notably, both Roseboro's mother and father made sure to note that distance won't play a factor, which is excellent news for Michigan given the other finalists. There's a very good chance the Wolverines add two highly touted defenders to the 2015 class before football season begins.
Obligatory 2015 Running Backs Update
While Damien Harris, Jacques Patrick, and Ray-Ray McCloud were also in attendance, the 2015 running back creating the most Michigan recruiting buzz at The Opening was Mike Weber, who showed up rocking the Maize and Blue, something both Alex Malzone and Darrin Kirkland were eager to point out. Whether on their own volition or by instruction from the coaches, Michigan's current commits have made Weber their top recruiting priority at the position, per GBW's Josh Newkirk ($):
“I’d probably say Mikey (Weber),” Malzone said, when asked which running back he wanted this years class. “I talk to Mikey a lot. I’ve known him from Cass Tech, Michigan native.
“Mike Weber, we’re getting him to go blue.”
With Malzone and Nussmeier both making Weber their No. 1 priority, Weber has no choice but to choose Michigan, right?
“Alex [Malzone] has just been saying come down there and have a good time with him,” Weber said on conversation with Malzone. “Hopefully that will affect my decision.”
Weber's recruitment has increasingly looked like an in-state battle; according to Newkirk, one-time contender Tennessee has backed off lately in their efforts to land Weber, potentially eliminating one of his top five schools.
Positive news for Michigan State could also be positive news for Michigan in this case. The Spartans pulled a recruiting coup on Friday, landing four-star OH RB LJ Scott in a head-to-head win over Ohio State. The Only Colors is projecting a relatively small class for MSU, and it's quite possible the Spartans are done with running back recruiting for 2015. That'd leave Ohio State, Wisconsin, and possibly Miami (YTM) as Michigan's competition for Weber, and the Wolverines would likely be out in front of that group. We should find out more when he's on campus for the BBQ.
That's good news on its own, and better still since U-M is on the outside looking in for their other top running back targets. Four-star FL RB Jacques Patrick told Scout that while Michigan is staying in regular contact with him, Florida State and Alabama are his top two schools ($). With an announcement already planned for October 27th, it looks unlikely U-M will climb back into contention.
Same goes for four-star FL ATH/RB Ray-Ray McCloud, who told Rivals' Adam Krohn that he'll decide on July 28th, and he already has his mind made up ($):
"I know the school I'm choosing," he said. "It felt right for me every time I went on campus, and the relationships I have with the coaches."
Florida is the overwhelming favorite. McCloud hasn't made it to Michigan's campus and doesn't plan to before his decision, so it's about time to wish him happy trails.
U-M isn't entirely out of quality options if Weber ends up elsewhere, however. There's always the chance Damien Harris re-commits, though that's not my expectation, and GBW reports that four-star Florida back and current soft Miami commit Dexter Williams will take official visits to Michigan, USC, and possibly Notre Dame ($).
In 2016 running back news, Michigan could be in on another ex-North Carolina commit after previously reeling in 2015 TE Chris Clark after his decommitment from the Tar Heels. The coach of four-star NC RB Antonio Williams told 247's Steve Lorenz that Michigan is "absolutely under consideration" after Williams decommitted from UNC over the weekend ($). Once again, it's Roy Manning making a major impact in that area:
"I know [Williams and Manning] had a great relationship for a long time," [Williams' coach] said. "We had always been led to believe that Michigan was going to make Antonio the first RB offer in their class, but they backed off a bit after he made his commitment to North Carolina. Antonio really likes Michigan a lot and always have. We are going to sit down in the very near future and discuss what his next moves are going to be as far as visits go."
Williams himself said he's looking to talk to Manning "as soon as he can," presumably to set up a visit. If he gets on campus, an offer is likely to follow for the nation's #8-ranked running back on the 247 Composite.
Kirkland, deWeaver Impress At Camps
While I can't find anything on Alex Malzone that isn't recruiting-related, Darrin Kirkland's performance at The Opening earned positive reviews, impressing Scout's national scouting guru over the course of the three-day event, per Newkirk ($):
“Kirkland stood out early in footwork drills and then showed his change of direction and straight ahead speed in one-on-one drills,” said Scout national recruiting analyst Brian Dohn, on Kirkland’s Tuesday performance. “He moved fast but remained patient. He was able to beat the running back to the point of attack on several drills and used his length well.”
Kirkland also took the opportunity to pitch Michigan to Weber, Harris, Patrick, and Masina. 247's Clint Brewster listed him as one of five Michigan commits or targets who look primed for a ratings bump after The Opening; Weber also made the cut after showing some impressive receiving ability out the backfield.
Meanwhile, 2016 QB commit Messiah deWeaver participated in the Rivals250 Underclassmen Challenge on Saturday, and Josh Helmholdt ranked him as the fourth-best signal-caller in attendance ($):
DeWeaver came to Jacksonville on a run of outstanding off-season performances, and he continued that momentum on Saturday. A year ago, the Ohio native had real loose mechanics and struggled with consistency, but he has developed into one of the more well-rounded quarterbacks in the 2016 class with clean mechanics and good footwork. The recent Michigan commit made some of his best throws during one-on-one play, fitting passes into tight windows and varying his trajectory well.
At the same event, 2016 Orchard Lake St. Mary's four-star Daelin Hayes won positional MVP honors among linebackers ($). He picked up a Notre Dame offer after a standout performance at their camp last month, adding to a list that already includes U-M, OSU, MSU, PSU, Tennessee, and Wisconsin. While this is a Midwest battle in the early going, and Michigan should be in good position to land him, expect more big-time competition to appear—he's looking like one of the top LB prospects in the class regardless of region.
The goal of Draftageddon is to draft a team of Big Ten players that seems generally more impressive than that of your competitors. Along the way, we'll learn a lot of alarming things, like maybe Maryland is good? Full details are in the first post.
PREVIOUSLY ON DRAFTAGEDDON
- Everyone not grabbing dual-threat senior QBs grabs defensive linemen
- Seth takes Venric Mark in front of just about everyone
- Nothing terribly remarkable happens
- BISB takes all the guys I want
- A ridiculous amount of time is spent discussing the merits of one particular interior lineman from Rutgers
- WILDCARD TIME as Brian takes a quarterback despite already having a quarterback.
- Peppers drafted in WILDCARD TIME II.
- Someone drafts an Illinois defender! I know!
ROUND 17 - PICK 2: Adolphus Washington, DT, Ohio State
O: QB Connor Cook (MSU), RB Ameer Abdullah (NE), WR Devin Funchess (U-M), SLOT Dontre Wilson (OSU), TE Maxx Williams (MN), LT Brandon Scherff (IA), LG Kaleb Johnson (RU), RT Tyler Marz (WI)
D: WDE Shilique Calhoun (MSU), SDE Andre Monroe (MD), NT Darius Kilgo (MD), DT Adolphus Washington (OSU), OLB Chi Chi Ariguzo (NW), OLB Matt Robinson (MD), CB Desmond King (IA), S John Lowdermilk (IA), HSP Earnest Thomas III (IL)
ST: KR/PR Ameer Adbullah (NE)
ACE: I was really hoping Trinca-Passat would fall just a little further, but I'll happily settle for the fourth member of Ohio State's fearsome defensive line. Adolphus Washington came to Ohio State as a five-star defensive end in the class of 2012; as a freshman he backed up Big Ten DPOY John Simon at DE, recording three sacks in ten games, including a sack/fumble against Taylor Lewan when he beat him clean around the edge. In 2013 he was a valuable backup all along the defensive line, lining up both inside and outside en route to picking up two more sacks among his four TFLs in 12 games despite playing at less than 100%.
Washington was initially a starter at SDE last season, but a groin injury in game two against San Diego State cost him the next two games, and when he returned he'd been Wally Pipped by Joey Bosa—no shame there. With Bosa's emergence, Washington finally has a place to call his own on the defensive line, as the OSU coaches made him a permanent defensive tackle in the spring; in fact, his ascension to the starting lineup was so inevitable that senior Joel Hale, who started 11 games at DT last season, volunteered to move to offensive guard after turning down the same move a year prior.
No longer concerned with maintaining edge-rushing speed, Washington is a solid 288 pounds, and he should be even bigger by the fall. He won't have to worry about too many double-teams with Kilgo commanding two blockers and the Calhoun/Monroe duo coming off the edge. (He won't in real life, either, though neither he nor Michael Bennett is a true two-gap nose.) He can be disruptive as a penetrating three-tech who's retained enough quickness to be very dangerous on stunts. As he settles into his new position, he should only get better, too.
I know it's been two years since I made the very same selection, so perhaps it will work out better this time, but best of luck with the whole Campbell thing, Brian. From the FFFF you linked:
Strong safety Ibraheim Campbell also acquitted himself well in this regard, flowing downhill aggressively and making a couple nice tackles pretty close to the LOS; he was also prone to taking poor angles, however, and had a couple whiffs in there too.
Run defense is his strength. I considered drafting him instead of Thomas, but I like Thomas's controlled aggression—and thumping hits—against screens and run plays more, especially in confined spaces, and I'll wait to grab another safety more suitable for coverage purposes in a later round.
ACE: Oh, and I'm pretty sure I've already won this whole thing anyway.
Brandon Scherff is 11 foot 5, 890 pounds?!
BISB: Eh, his pad level is probably terrible. Plus he's in legal trouble for crushing Oberyn Martell's skull in a fight.
ACE: Oh man, I watched that episode on the DVR, and as soon as it ended I flipped to overtime of Game 7 between the Kings and Blackhawks.
The surgeon general's warning for this course of action is simply: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Okay I'll stop now, but only because watching Melvin Gordon rip off huge gains against Thomas is making me kick myself about the Mark pick.
ACE: Seth, your ability to link highlights that have zero context due to pore-o-vision—and, in the case of the second one, showing Thomas execute his assignment while an entirely different defender is late to get to the fullback—is unparalleled.
BRYAN: You just have to look at the tape REALLY closely.
SETH: Didn't really affect the play but he sat there and ate tight end. I can keep pulling these out but I really don't think anybody should be watching this much Illini secondary play without, like, protective gear or heavy drugs.
BRYAN: You're talking to the guy who did the App State, Miami (NTM) and Rutgers HTTV previews. Ace has seen things even the Illini couldn't dream of seeing.
Please send help.
ROUND 17 - PICK 3: Deon Long, WR, Maryland
DRAFT ALL THE MARYLANDS
O: QB Devin Gardner (UM), RB Jeremy Langford (MSU), RB Tevin Coleman (IU), WR Kenny Bell (Neb), WR Shane Wynn (IU), WR Deon Long (MD), OT Donovan Smith (PSU), OT Jack Conklin (MSU), C Austin Blythe (Iowa)
D: DT Louis Trinca-Pasat (Iowa), DE Joey Bosa (OSU), DE Noah Spence (OSU), LB Jake Ryan (UM), LB Mike Hull (PSU), CB Sojourn Shelton (Wisky), CB Jabrill Peppers (UM), S Kurtis Drummond (MSU)
ST: Bell (KR), Peppers (PR)
BISB: It's hard for me to explain Long's continued presence on the board, other than to think that people didn't see enough separation between Long and teammate Levern Jacobs to warrant grabbing one until the other was gone. But I'm amazed he's still here in Round 17, and I gladly yoink him at this point.
Long caught 32 passes for 489 yards despite (a) only playing six and a half games, and (b) sharing targets with Stefon Diggs. Extrapolate that out over Maryland's 13 game season (i.e. multiply by 2) and he was on pace for a 64 catch, 978 yard season. His 15.3 YPC and 8.9 yards per target would have been among the best in the Big Ten last year if Maryland had been in the Big Ten last year. A really good all-around receiver, especially on slants and fades/outs. He finds separation to the outside, and he has great body control and sideline awareness. He can also high-point the ball well for a moderately-sized receiver. He was also a 5-star coming out of high school, which, while it means nothing, means something. Jacobs is solid, but Long is a little bigger, a little faster, and was the starter over Jacobs when everyone was healthy.
Between Kenny Bell, Shane Wynn, and Deon Long, I feel like I should be okay in the ball-catchy department.
[AFTER THE JUMP: Marcus Rush, more like Marcus Stationary Bike Amirite; BISB doubles down on Maryland; a long discussion about the philosophy of safeties; BISB reminds us all that Kurtis Drummond exists about 600 times.]
The annual recruiting extravaganza known as the BBQ at The Big House is just a couple of weeks away on July 27th and already the list of visitors is quite star-studded. A blend of committed and uncommitted prospects from multiple classes will be in attendance for what has proved to be a huge recruiting tool in past classes. Below is who I’ve been able to contact in order to start putting together a list of who will be in attendance and who won’t be. Of course there are many prospects that are still unsure, they are listed as well.
CB Marcus Lewis
CB Mook Reynolds
CB Garrett Taylor
DE Kengera Daniel
K Andrew David
LB Darrin Kirkland Jr.
LB Joshua McMillon
QB Alex Malzone
RB Damien Harris
RB Mike Weber
S Tyree Kinnel
TE Chris Clark
WR Grant Perry
CB Iman Marshall
DE Darian Roseboro
LB Tyriq Thompson
OL Jon Runyan Jr.
TE Tyrone Wheatley Jr.
WR Brian Cole
LB Asmar Bilal
OL Grant Newsome
OL Patrick Allen
OL Connor Williams
RB Alec Murphy
S Kahlil Haughton
WR Lawrence Cager
CB Lavert Hill
QB Messiah deWeaver
RB Elijah Holyfield
TE Luke Farrell
TE Naseir Upshur
WR Austin Mack
LB Daelin Hayes
OL Ben Bredeson
OL Erik Swenson
CB Levonta Taylor
OL Liam Eichenberg
OL Michal Menet
RB Kentrail Moran
RB Kareem Walker
TE Jake Hausmann
WR Binjimen Victor
A visitor list for an event like this is always subject to change and I know there are several others who belong in one of the categories that I just haven’t heard back from yet. Unfortunately for the readers I am embarking on my honeymoon tomorrow so I won’t be adding or subtracting to or from this list for at least a week.
The question this week is a simple one. Of the Michigan games you've attended, which one is your favorite, and what makes it stand out so much?
Seth: I've got so many Michigan memories with my dad that I can't separate (or I'm just not ready to think about) them, but even if I could it would still be the one when I started going without him that sticks out: The '98 Penn State game.
It was a chilly, kind of overcast, sweatshirty Michigan fall afternoon and I was a first-year flying solo. My freshman year came right after the national championship and the "Halo" stadium expansion, and that meant fewer student seats available with way too much demand. The freshmen were at the bottom of that list, thus I wound up with the option of getting only a "half-pack" or no tickets. Since I went to all the games with my dad and his friends anyway, what did it matter? So it wasn't until the PSU game, when my dad wasn't going, and Steve Kyritz offered me his ticket, that I got to see my first game from the student section. Since I'd been informed not sitting in your seat was SOP in that mass of human bodies, I wound up squeezed and standing sideways on a bench in the 30-somethings.
And it was a hell of a game to do that. That PSU team was very good (they came in ranked #9) and the last time we'd faced them was Judgment Day/Party at Bollinger's House. Michigan was still floundering in the #20s because of the two losses to open the season.
What made the day was each time Penn State got near us they'd get blown back by three sections of 18- to 21-year old raging psychotics possessed of toilet paper rolls and marshmallows. The Nits didn't arrive until later in the 1st quarter, and Michigan blocked a FG. They came down again and Michigan stood them up on the goal line three times before PSU let time expire in the quarter to get the hell away from us (they didn't get in on 4th down either). In the 4th quarter Penn State kept getting pinned deep against us, and the linemen couldn't hear the calls, meaning we were treated to a TFL fest. Michigan won 27-0 and by Mondaywas back in the top 15.
Michigan with my dad was this paced thing we enjoyed like a baseball game while he and his best friend worked through their complicated lives. His standard cheer was a clap-clap-fistpump. PSU '98 was the first time I experienced the Big House as a visceral thing I did with my whole body. I still sat with my dad at least a game a year, but when it came time to sign up for '99 student tickets I was one of the first in line.
The Mathlete: I don't think that was the real ticket, I didn't see the official game sponsor noted anywhere.
[Hit THE JUMP for the obvious answer, a far less obvious answer, and one that falls somewhere in the middle.]
If only coach Mattison knew how to FaceTime. pic.twitter.com/uG1JwVwnlv
— Frank Clark (@UMclark57) July 10, 2014
First, the mandatory comment about charge: good charge, Frank Clark. Way to keep on top of that.
Then: this is hilarious but it is also just, like, art, man. Yeah.
CLARK: coach you gotta point the phone at you
MATTISON: I am pointing it at me
CLARK: coach you are probably not a cloud or the sky or the rays of the sun
MATTISON: but I could be
CLARK: yeah but you're not, you're a bald guy, I've seen
MATTISON: but I could be the sky and the sun and a bald crown
CLARK: ok coach
Welcome. Orson wrote a terrific thing about the Brazil kid weeping so hard he was trying to shove a cup through his face in case that would help:
I have nothing for you. Maybe it's worse when your team is good, and there is the hope of winning. If you'll notice, fans of desolate, perpetually forlorn carrion wagons like Kentucky football or tragedians like Ole Miss fans don't hold up cups to their faces, clutch their eyes, and try to literally vomit their sorrow into a Coke cup after losing by six goals on their home turf. Brazil fans do, because shame has a prerequisite: the standard, or the notion that you will be somewhere that is not crying so hard you have to compress yourself into some kind of ball to keep from shattering into a thousand tiny pieces.
Intermittent reinforcement is apparently the way to get obedience: sometimes you get the thing. Other times you do not get the thing. Sports is very intermittent reinforcement. So congrats, kid! If you haven't sworn off soccer forever already, you are the proud recipient of a lifetime mania that will probably work out just fine because you're Brazilian.
Brutal! Mark Emmert showed for a congressional hearing that went even worse than the court thing did.
McCaskill offered some of the sharpest criticism of Emmert, questioning why his role exists if he can’t shape reform or prevent athletic departments from investigating sexual assaults.
“I can’t tell if you’re in charge or a minion” to the schools, McCaskill said. “If you’re merely a monetary pass-through, why should you exist?”
"I'm a good cartel," Emmert said under his breath. "A good one." New Jersey's Corey Booker:
"When they can lord over you the removal of your scholarship - because it does still happen, athletes are still exploited, that if they blow out their knee, if they somehow don't meet the mandates of a coach, they lose their scholarship, they don't get their degree -- to me, this is plain and simple the dark side of the NCAA, where athletes are being exploited," Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) later said, noting that some issues he dealt with as a college athlete 20 years ago are still being dealt with by athletes today.
If the NCAA thinks they're going to get antitrust help from Congress, that hearing was some cold water. I know Democrats and Republicans and whatnot, but this may be an organization with a worse public image than Congress itself… not exactly baseball in 1910 or whatever.
Thornton tearing things up. Beilein and Calipari were jowl to jowl watching Derryck Thornton, and they were treated to a show:
(Thornton) picked up right where he left off after standing out at the Steph Curry Camp to start the month. Thornton was a true floor general, in complete control every time he stepped on the court and able to impact the game in a variety of different ways. He handles the ball on a string and excels at making a variety of different reads off the pick and roll. He holds his dribble going through the lane as well as anyone in the field, just waiting on the defense to break down and reveal open receivers. He even shot the ball well here, making a series of pull-ups as well as rhythm 3s. Thornton took unofficial visits to both Kentucky and Michigan last month and was followed by both Kentucky’s John Calipari and Michigan’s John Beilein here.
Thornton's done taking visits this summer after heading to Michigan and Kentucky, both of which he plans on visiting again this fall. It appears this is a head to head battle.
Adapting to reality. Mark Richt is adapting to life in the fast lane.
"One of the big things for us is football is now becoming a very high up-tempo game,” UGA coach Mark Richt explained recently. “It used to be 30, 40 seconds between a play. Now it could be as short as 10-to-18 seconds between plays. So you’re exerting and then resting for a short period of time. So now, even in the weight room, we want to go hard, rest a short time, then go ahead. A quicker recovery time. We’re not going to run the longer distances anymore. We’re going to run the shorter distance.”
After last year's Indiana game, I'm hoping there's some sort of similar soul searching within the Michigan program. You'd figure so, but… if anyone was going to not give it as much time as they should it would be Michigan. They've been just so, so bad with anything related to tempo under Hoke, whether it's defending it or trying to go fast themselves.
Elite 11/The Opening Updates: Michigan Commits
Alex Malzone didn't make the cut from the 18 quarterbacks invited to the Elite 11 finals down to the top 11, as he couldn't put together enough consistency to move on, according to the camp's resident QB coach, Trent Dilfer (via the Freep):
“When you put him in an environment like this where it’s really fast and great athletes around you and every little microsecond of timing matters, there’s been some inconsistencies. His good is extremely good. His bad has been bad at times, and he’ll be the first to tell you that.”
Dilfer noted that Malzone's baseball background affects his mechanics as a quarterback—the football throwing motion requires a more compact delivery—which makes it tough to maintain consistency. That's apparent on the film from the first day of camp; on a few throws, Malzone keeps his motion pretty tight, but on others—especially the throws when he has to avoid rushers, a situation where a QB is likely to revert to their most natural-feeling delivery—he lets his throwing arm dip down too far, elongating the motion.
Playing in a loaded field while tweaking his mechanics on the fly, with a very limited number of reps to work with, Malzone making the final cut was a tall order. When I say limited reps, I mean limited reps, as Malzone relayed to Scout's Sam Webb and Kyle Bogenschutz ($):
“Yesterday, all we had on the field was a red zone session, seven on seven, each quarterback had six throws, missed a couple of guys. I felt like I could have done better myself. I made up for it in the end. I threw one touchdown at the end and today I came out and did what I could do.”
Ultimately not selected in the top group of the Elite 11 following the rigorous workouts, Malzone just sees it as extra motivation, noting he most definitely gave it his all.
Malzone's moved on to The Opening, which is in its final day today, and as expected recruiting for Michigan is as much a focus as playing at the camp, per 247's Steve Lorenz ($):
"I've talked to [George] Campbell, [Mike] Weber, Keisean [Lucier-South], [Auden] Tate, Ray-Ray [McCloud], Damien [Harris], [Mook] Reynolds and Iman [Marshall]," [Malzone] said.
When asked which player seemed the most receptive to Michigan? "Mike Weber."
More on that last bit later in this post.
Michigan's other representative at The Opening, Darrin Kirkland, stood out as one of the best defensive performers on Tuesday, garnering top ten honors from Scout's Allen Trieu...
Darrin Kirkland - Linebacker, Indianapolis (Ind.) Lawrence Central
Kirkland, a Michigan commit, has worked hard on his ability to run and move in space and that was on display today as he was one of the top linebackers in coverage. He could run with backs and did a nice job playing the ball in the air, coming away with a couple of interceptions.
...and earning a mention as one of the top four linebackers in attendance from 247's Barton Simmons:
Michigan commit Darrin Kirkland Jr. doesn’t strike you as an overwhelming kid athletically but he is always in the right place, he doesn’t get shaken in space, he can get in the hip pocket of a tight end or running back and he can make a play downfield on the football.
For a prospect whose ability to stuff the run is supposed to be his biggest strength, Kirkland sure gets a lot of camp praise for his coverage. That came up a fair amount during last year's camp season, as well.
2015 Updates: Running Backs
Things are happening on the running back front, as both Damien Harris and the aforementioned Mike Weber will visit for this month's BBQ at the Big House. Harris, who's at The Opening, told 247's Luke Stampini that he's still searching for that feeling he had when he initially committed to Michigan ($):
“I still talk to Coach (Doug) Nussmeier and Coach (Brady) Hoke now and then. People think I lost all connections with Michigan because I decommitted. That wasn’t the case. I just wanted to step back and reevaluate my options.”
He’ll be looking for that spark he once had with Michigan the next time he’s in Ann Arbor.
“Just that feeling I got when I was there initially, the first couple times when I was committed,” Harris said. “That family feel I got with Coach Hoke and the staff. Just kind of reconnect with them.”
Alabama, Kentucky, and Ohio State are the other schools that seem to have separated themselves from the pack. After landing commitments from Jashon Cornell and Justin Hilliard last week, the Buckeyes may very well have the edge, per Webb ($):
“I’d be lying if I said (the Hilliard and Cornell commitments) didn’t impact me a lot,” Harris stated. “Those are just two of my good friends that I’ve become friends with in this whole recruiting process. We all talked about playing together like you said, and now that they’ve committed it gives me more to think about… if I do still want to play with them, or if they (just) went to the school that I like. I just have to take all these things into my thought process and making my decision.”
Harris plans to cut his list to five just before his senior season, then take official visits to each of those schools. Michigan should make the cut, but I get the feeling Ohio State will be tough to overcome. Don't everybody sigh at once, now.
The good news is Michigan still seems to be trending up with Weber, and he's not the only other option should Harris end up elsewhere. Four-star FL RB Dexter Williams, who's "80-percent committed to [Miami]," told Scout's Gerard Martinez that Michigan is one of three other schools he plans to visit ($):
“I know I’m taking an official visit to USC and Michigan as well. I might also officially visit Notre Dame too if I can’t get out there this summer on my own.”
Another, potentially more realistic, option is three-star MO RB Alec Murphy, who recently named a top four of Iowa, Purdue, Mississippi State, and Michigan. Among that group, only the Wolverines haven't offered him, which leads me to believe they'd have a great shot to land him if they eventually extend one. The quote he gave to Scout's Derek Young about Michigan and his decision timeline makes it seem like he may even be waiting on U-M before making his choice ($):
Michigan: "They haven't offered me, yet. An offer could come at some point. They've had a lot of interest in me. I'm hoping they possibly offer because they are a great program."
A summer decision is not out of the question for Murphy.
"I'm thinking about making my decision over the summer," he pointed out. "I'm not real sure yet. If I find the right place before the season then I will make my commitment."
With Ty Isaac in the fold and likely redshirting, my guess is Michigan will wait on the higher-ranked backs before moving on to Murphy—they only need one back in the class, and Murphy seems like a prospect they could offer late in the process and earn a commitment even if he's pledged elsewhere.
2015 Updates: Everything Else
While also mentioning that he's trying to set up a visit for the BBQ, as well as confirming U-M will receive one of his official visits, four-star TN LB Josh McMillon told 247's Clint Brewster two schools are currently standing out to him ($):
Ranked as the 11th best player in Tennessee and the 17th best outside linebacker, McMillon mentioned some programs that have an edge at this point in the process.
“Michigan, Alabama, Auburn, Ole Miss, and Vanderbilt. Michigan and Alabama are pretty much on top I would say.”
Florida State, Ohio State, and USC are also in the mix, as McMillon said he plans to take official visits to those schools—he can visit the SEC schools among his top group without having to use officials. While that's stiff competition, Sam Webb posted a very positive outlook on Michigan's standing with McMillon on the GBW board ($). Michigan looks to be in very good shape here.
Another standout linebacker at The Opening, four-star UT OLB Osa Masina, plans to cut his list to five before the season starts, per TomVH ($). In that same board post, Webb suggested Michigan could be on the outside looking in due to distance playing a bigger factor that Masina originally expected. Tyriq Thompson and Asmar Bilal are more realistic candidates to end up in the class, as Brandon suggested earlier today.
The pipe dream of landing five-star CA CB Iman Marshall seems to be exactly that; while Marshall previously mentioned a possible July visit in addition to a potential official visit, he told Webb and Bogenschutz at The Opening that nothing has been set yet ($):
One other visit Marshall has been toying with taking is to Ann Arbor to check out Brady Hoke and the Michigan Wolverines.
“It’s still in the planning stages,” Marshall said. “Like I said it’s really been a hectic couple of months and stuff like that so I want to sit down with my parents and discuss what our visit plans are going to be, our travel plans are going to be, so it correlates all together.”
Working in Michigan's favor, however, is the presence of Freddy Canteen, who's been recruiting Marshall since they worked out at the same gym recently. If Marshall is going to get to campus, though, it seems like an official visit is the best bet, and regardless of the visit situation he'll be an extremely tough pull from the West Coast.
Another potential Shaun Crawford replacement, DC CB Marcus Lewis, a current Florida commit, told GatorBait.net that—along with Miami and Oregon—Michigan is one of three schools that'll receive an official visit from him ($):
On Michigan: "They've been recruiting me really hard even though I'm committed. Coach (Kurt) Mallory, coach (Roy) Manning and the whole staff down there. I've heard it's a nice campus, and they're rebuilding. They got a good 2014 class in, so we're going to see what they can do in the Big Ten.
"Right now they look good. Coach (Brady) Hoke, we had a good conversation. I mean he basically said he needs corners. They've got corners on the way out and they need that next Reed to come in. They've got Garrett Taylor and another kid committed, so they need one more DB.
Lewis doesn't seem very strong in his Florida pledge; in the same article, he mentioned concern over the number of cornerbacks they've taken recently (four in the 2014 class, two in 2015). If that's a major factor, uh, nobody show him the depth chart, okay?
Four-star NC SDE Darian Roseboro named Michigan to his top six along with Alabama, Clemson, North Carolina, NC State, and Tennessee, per Scout's Michael Clark ($). He's set to announce on August 29th, and Michigan looks to have serious momentum in their favor right now; if he picked today, they'd likely be the choice.
Four-star FL WR Auden Tate is another top prospect who's trying to set up a visit to the BBQ, and he's slated to take an official to Ann Arbor during the season, per 247's Luke Stampini ($). Tate described U-M as a "dream school" and his "favorite school" growing up, though Florida State, Florida, and Georgia are also serious contenders. With Miles Boykin off the board to Notre Dame, expect the coaches to make a serious push for Tate.
ESPN released their initial Junior 300 for the 2016 class. Messiah deWeaver came in at #115 overall (#11 pro-style QB), while Erik Swenson landed at #256 (#20 OT). ESPN's scouting report on Swenson is quite light on details, so it's quite possible he moves up after further looking into his game (assuming ESPN does so).
The #50 overall player on that list (and #41 in the 247 Composite), LA OT Willie Allen, told Tim Sullivan that Michigan will get a visit from him, though the timing could be a ways off ($):
"I know they're close to an Ivy League school academically, but I really don't know too much about them," [Allen] said of the Wolverines. "I plan on taking a visit up there, but financial-wise, it's when my family can really afford it. I'll have to talk to Coach Fred and see what we can do. It'll probably be next summer. If I can get the money this year, I'll definitely take a visit to Michigan. I plan on waiting it out until senior year, and then making my commitment to a school. But I'm open right now. Every offer that I have as of now is equal. I just want to wait it out."
If Allen makes his way to Ann Arbor, Michigan will be in on one of the most coveted prospects in the 2016 class; as always, however, a top-flight prospect from Louisiana should be presumed to go to LSU or Alabama until all signs say otherwise.