Spring Game Visitors: Commit Watch?
Michael Onwenu and Donnie Corley are among this weekend's top visitors. [Fuller]
Let's skip the preamble. You want this weekend's visitors list. Thanks to a primer from Allen Trieu in the Detroit News and a quick overview from 247's Steve Lorenz, here are the top targets who'll be on campus this weekend.
Since they've been discussed so much of late, let's start with the in-state prospects:
- Four-star Detroit King WR Donnie Corley. Michigan seems to have made up a ton of ground on Corley since Harbaugh took over, to the point that they may be out in front along with Tennessee. Michigan State, Notre Dame, and Ohio State are also heavily involved.
- Four-star Southfield RB Matt Falcon. The top back in the state, Falcon has Tennessee as his leader, and while Michigan is gaining they'll have to make a big impression this weekend—Falcon is slated to visit UT at the end of the month and could decide shortly thereafter, per Sam Webb ($).
- Three-star Farmington WR Desmond Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick has stuck with his Louisville commitment so far, even after getting a Michigan offer, but that could change soon, especially if teammate David Reese decides to flip his commitment after a recent offer.
- Four-star Plymouth OT Michael Jordan. The usual Midwest suspects—Michigan, MSU, ND, and OSU—comprise Jordan's top four. He's been a steady presence on campus lately, but there haven't been rumblings of an imminent decision.
- Four-star Farmington Hills Harrison DE Khalid Kareem. After a brief commitment to Michigan State, Kareem has also been in Ann Arbor several times for unofficial visits. Notre Dame is also a factor.
- Four-star Cass Tech OG/DT Michael Onwenu. Onwenu previously favored Ohio State, but backed off that stance after the Mike Weber kerfuffle. Michigan looks to be in very good position to land him.
- Three-star Farmington LB/FB David Reese. Like Fitzpatrick, Reese is a Louisville commit pondering a flip after getting a Michigan offer. He could make the change as early as this weekend, and that could set off a string of in-state commitments—at the very least, Fitzpatrick would be likely to join him.
- 2017 four-star Orchard Lake St. Mary's LB Josh Ross. James Ross's younger brother has made quite a few visits to Ann Arbor.
- 2017 four-star St. Joseph WDE Corey Malone-Hatcher. An offer from Alabama last week shows that Malone-Hatcher won't be an easy pull.
- 2017 four-star Cass Tech WR Donovan Peoples-Jones. A potential five-star, Peoples-Jones has been on campus a lot lately but also is getting major attention from Ohio State.
If there's a commitment this weekend, Reese seems to be the most likely candidate. Now, for the out-of-state visitors:
- Three-star TX OT Austin Anderson and three-star TX OT Riley Anderson. The twin linemen both received offers from Michigan in early March.
- Three-star TX S Chris Brown. A teammate of four-star LB Dontavious Jackson, who'll also be on campus, Brown's best offers so far are from Michigan and Louisville, though local schools could jump into the fray.
- Three-star AL RB Kingston Davis. The big back hails from Prattville, the same Alabama high school that produced 2015 signee Keith Washington; Michigan will hold one of their satellite camps there this summer.
- Four-star MD OG Terrance Davis. Davis is a big-time national recruit, but he appears to have legitimate interest in Michigan.
- Four-star TX ILB Dontavious Jackson. Michigan won't have an easy time prying Jackson away from Oklahoma, Texas A&M, and Texas, but offering Brown helps; for now, the Wolverines are very much in it.
- Four-star IN QB Brandon Peters. Outside of the in-state prospects, Peters is the recruit who's had the most commitment speculation. While Michigan looks like the favorite, however, it's reasonable to expect him to take planned visits to Nebraska and Vanderbilt the following two weekends before he comes to a decision.
- 2017 five-star IL SDE AJ Epenesa. An Iowa legacy, Epenesa was offered last month; he's projected as one of the very best 2017 prospects in the country.
- 2017 four-star GA S Isaiah Pryor. In a promising sign, Pryor will be on campus for the second time in two weeks, this time with his family in tow, per 247's Steve Wiltfong ($).
- 2017 OH RB Todd Sibley. Considered an Ohio State lean, Michigan leapt into contention when they offered Sibley a couple weeks ago, though overcoming the childhood favorite Buckeyes will be a difficult task.
That's not quite an exhaustive list—for one, expect a bunch of in-state underclassmen to check in—but it hits the highlights. This is a very impressive visitor list for a spring game.
Meanwhile, Michigan is hosting a visitor today: three-star Lakewood (OH) St. Edward CB Tony Butler, a Pitt commit, is on campus and Lorenz reports he's likely to earn an offer ($). Butler's former head coach at St. Eds, Rick Finotti, is now at Michigan after being hired by Harbaugh as director of football operations. That connection could help, and I'm always open to Narduzzi-approved defensive recruits.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]
Jim Hackett talked to the Daily yesterday, and the words that he said were as encouraging as possible for a fan who likes his college football to be as distinct as possible from the pro experience:
The topic of conversation soon shifted to the student experience at Michigan Stadium and the tendency of many students to leave games well before they end. Hackett believes the issue will most easily be resolved by the improvement of the on-field product.
“I don’t want to sound sarcastic,” Hackett said. “What I don’t want is more entertainment that’s not football. I think that works in the pros, but we’re in college. I believe college shouldn’t be like the pros. It shouldn’t cost like the pros.”
Hackett specifically noted that he didn’t want the games to feel “corporate,” a complaint that was commonly voiced by Michigan fans during Brandon’s tenure.
I am still a little hesitant to open the ol' heart to the new AD because I remember the brief, stretchgate-inspired Brandon honeymoon that we all had a few years back… but I'm hopeful that Hackett takes the project of making Michigan Michigan seriously, and am more so every time he is quoted.
We're even seeing some specific steps discussed not only amongst the fanbase but with the guys in charge. After a student complained about the piped-in music, Hackett replied thusly:
Hackett asked the new coach what he thought of piped-in music during warmups. Harbaugh was firm in his answer.
“I don’t care. We don’t need it,” Harbaugh said.
Hackett agreed with Harbaugh, noting that in the past, the loud music has almost discouraged him from sitting through the team’s warmups when he has visited Michigan Stadium. As a result of the preferences of the coach, athletic director and many fans, the Athletic Department is in conversations with the band to have it play more during games.
I did not dream of a day when Michigan would look at the music during warmups as an issue to be addressed, let alone the actual in-game experience. I don't even mind the warmups music that much. I did treasure the quiet buzz of anticipation 45 minutes before the game, though, and if that comes back the stadium will be a step closer to what it used to be.
That thing it used to be was merely itself. The band, the lack of advertising, the silences in between the shouting. The natural up and down of a crowd was an important part of my formative experiences as a sports fan, and I still wince at the idea that doing something for the entertainment of the people in attendance actually, you know, entertains them. Too often piped-in music turns fan participation off instead of on. It's a convenient way to cover the fact that you have a lack of atmosphere. I prefer an athletic department that asks the hard questions about how to create one out of the materials they've been given. If MLS can do it—hell, if Detroit City can do it—there's no reason Michigan can't.
Here's hoping Hackett's the man to do it.
We talked about this some on WTKA today: it sounds like when the Adidas contract comes up in a year, Michigan is seriously considering a switch even if that move costs them some money.
“In my first months here, the question of which brand we wear is a big one,” Hackett said during the fireside chat. “We’ve organized — this is a secret — a project team to look at the question of, there’s really three players: Adidas, Under Armour and Nike.”
"Was" a secret if you're talking about it in a fireside chat with students. Adidas or UA will offer the most money; Nike offers the gear it seems like most of the athletes prefer… and it opens doors in recruiting, especially basketball. Like it or not, that is fact.
The mere fact that there's something other than a number in a spreadsheet being considered here is an excellent development. I don't understand people who care a ton about the style of an athletic clothing supplier, but there are evidently legions of them.
Personally, I would prefer Under Armour, which tends to create (or maintain) signature looks for the schools they have. Adidas and Nike both love to suit people up in things that say "this team is part of Adidas or Nike"; UA is better about working for the team, the team, the team.
Okay yes Maryland's flag uniforms are kind of a disaster, but it's not like they've got anything iconic to hang their hat on. Meanwhile I love what they've done with Northwestern and they've left Auburn's classic look virtually untouched. But UA is a distant third when it comes to recognition and door-opening.
It's a tough decision.
Charlton and the rest of his DE buddies are mysteriously absent
Michigan released their spring game rosters numerically, which is not helpful unless you're a blogger with a content hole to patch. Here are the teams laid out by position, with the assumption that we're still in 4-3 under land:
|Shane Morris/Wilton Speight||QB||Alex Malzone|
|Ty Isaac/Wyatt Shallman||RB||DeVeon Smith/Derrick Green|
|Joe Kerridge||FB||Bobby Henderson/Brady Pallante|
|Amara Darboh/Drake Harris||WR1||Jehu Chesson/Da'Mario Jones|
|Jaron Dukes||WR2||Mo Ways/Freddy Canteen|
|Bo Dever/Jack Wangler||WR3||Dennis Norfleet/Brian Cole|
|Jake Butt/Ian Bunting||TE||Chase Winovich/AJ Williams|
|Logan Tuley-Tillman||LT||Mason Cole|
|David Dawson||LG||Erik Magnuson|
|Graham Glasgow||C||Patrick Kugler|
|Dan Samuelson||RG||Kyle Kalis|
|Ben Braden/JBB||RT||Greg Froelich|
|Chris Wormley||SDE||Henry Poggi/Tom Strobel|
|Ryan Glasgow||NT||Bryan Mone|
|Willie Henry||3TECH||Maurice Hurst|
|Allen Gant||SAM||Jared Wangler|
|Desmond Morgan||MLB||Joe Bolden|
|Royce Jenkins-Stone||WLB||Ben Gedeon|
|Blake Countess||CB1||Channing Stribling|
|Jourdan Lewis/Ross Taylor-Douglas||CB2||Reon Dawson|
|Brandon Watson/Terry Richardson||NICKEL||AJ Pearson|
|Dymonte Thomas||SS||Jabrill Peppers/Jeremy Clark|
|Jarrod Wilson||FS||Delano Hill|
I don't know what happened to the WDEs. They must have been omitted by accident unless Mario Ojemudia, Lawrence Marshall and Taco Charlton all have transfers pending. Mike McCray and Noah Furbush are also absent. Maybe they're also at this hybrid end spot that got accidentally nuked as well.
UPDATE: Marshall is on there. Other guys not so much.
Couple weird depth chart hints:
- Walk-on city at WR on the blue team. If you assume Drake Harris is not going to be full go, which you should, then the Maize team is way overloaded on scholarship WRs.
- Juwann Bushell-Beatty is the sixth OL on the Maize team while the Blue team only has four scholarship OL, one of whom I picked at random to be the right tackle.
- Ondre Pipkins, James Ross, Drake Johnson, and Khalid Hill are other scholarship absentees. The latter two were expected as both are still recovering from ACL tears. Pipkins and Ross are new injuries, and in Pipkins's case an extremely disappointing one.
The program had its draft for the spring game over the weekend, right?
What kind of experience was it like for the coaches and the players seeing them all-
“Oh, it’s a great experience, yeah! It’s something that we’ve done in the past with coach Harbaugh so it’s an exciting time. You go through the roster and you pick out your strengths and weakness and you pick out your positions and you’re going through and strategizing as the draft goes on because you have to fill those positions and make sure you don’t lose out on somebody. Really as a coaching staff it makes you a better coach because you’re trying to build a team and build them to strength, so it was a fun time. Really fun.”
What was your draft strategy?
“Well, you’ll see that on Saturday.”
Is there going to be trash talk between you and DJ?
“No, we wouldn’t do that. Nah, we wouldn’t do that. DJ’s a good guy, but we’re competitive, which is fun.”
Where are you now with the offensive line, and Graham [Glasgow] is back practicing with the team?
“Yeah! Graham’s back, he’s back and glad he’s back, and the offensive line is- they’re doing good. They’ve taken another step forward, which we’ve foreseen them to do and they’re on track and I think finishing up the Thursday practice, Saturday practice, pushing into the strength and conditioning phase and then going into training camp, they’re right on track and they’re taking steps forward, which is really, really exciting.”
Did Graham missing time stunt the development there for those guys?
“No, it didn’t stunt [their growth]. If somebody’s not around somebody’s got to step in and that’s what we preach and it worked out just fine.”
Mason Cole was getting work at center-
“Yeah! We put Mason in there, which was good for Mason. He’s an athletic guy and did some really, really good things there so that’s good for Mason and it’s good for Michigan.”
[After THE JUMP: Jim Harbaugh, talent evaluator extraordinaire, and we circle back to the center]
Show me the Peppers! [Fuller]
Ace: Aside from the quarterbacks, which position group and specific player will you be keeping the closest eye on during the Spring Game?
Seth: Safety, Peppers.
I have a pretty good idea of what the corners can do—Countess can zone like a boss but isn't sized or speedy enough for lockdown press man—and I can't really tell what happens on the OL or DL without video. Quarterback is missing one or two contenders. Where the slot side safety lines up will tell us how aggressive they think they can get, especially when it's Peppers in that spot.
|My recurring nightmare|
Also I'm anxious to see who among Dymonte, Clark, and Hill can play when Peppers comes down to nickel. Hill has a bad rap in my brain from getting so turned around against Lippett on the TD pass that debarked the end of the game and the beginning of Dantonio's Revenge for Imagined Slights Hour. I hate it when a bad play is what sticks out to me about a guy and I really want to start banking some nice thoughts. Same for Dymonte and Clark. One of those three or Stribling is going to be at least half a starter in the nickel, and if it's Stribling we are back to a nickel who's not a run defender (ie Countess). The floor on this defense is pretty okay; I want to see how high the cathedral can go.
Alex Cook: I feel like this is a somewhat obvious answer, but I'll be focused on our secondary, which projects to be the best unit on the team by a fair amount. The offensive line is compelling for an entirely different reason; I'd like to see some breakout performances on the D-Line; QB is a clear concern, of course; but I'm very excited about the secondary.
Jabrill Peppers is the headliner there and, after a freshman year ruined by injury, Michigan fans surely are going to be thrilled to see him out there. He's probably the best player on the team and -- depending on if he plays on offense / special teams units -- he could be the most important non-quarterback on the team. Beyond Peppers, there's Jourdan Lewis, who's very good in my opinion, locking down one of the corner spots; I'm most optimistic about he and Peppers of anyone on the squad this year. There's Jarrod Wilson, who's unremarkable in the best way possible; there's Blake Countess, who didn't play well after recovering from ACL surgery (but could be in for a rebound season); there's Channing Stribling, who stands out immediately because of his size; Wayne Lyons won't be there, but he could start. There's a lot of depth there and if you're looking for a group to get excited about, watch the secondary.
[After the jump: aggresssssssssssiveeeeeeeeeee]
It didn't take long for "Rudock waiver approved" to go to "Rudock to Michigan." ESPN's Dan Murphy:
Confirmed that Jake Rudock plans to be at Michigan next fall. Story coming soon.
— Dan Murphy (@DanMurphyESPN) April 1, 2015
Rudock's 2014 stats were briefly addressed in the previous post: 61%, 7.1 YPA, 16:5 TD:INT. He faltered late and was pulled from the lineup for CJ Beathard, not that Beathard did much to inspire confidence himself. If the Rudock problems are Rudock problems then Michigan has a meh starter—still a huge win. If they are Greg Davis/Kirk Ferentz paleolithic goober offense problems, Rudock could be one of the better quarterbacks in the league next year and help the Harbaugh era off to a good start. Either way it's a massive relief.