If you read last week’s roundtable and you’re anything like me, you’ve spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about different line combinations and wondering who might be able to slide where and which guys are most ready to see the field right now. That’s where Youtube comes in.
Cesar Ruiz is purported to be one of the more college-ready linemen in the 2017 class, which is something of an OL luxury for Michigan if that does end up panning out. Ruiz earning the starting nod at center would allow them to move Mason Cole out to tackle if need be; yes, that’s putting the cart before the horse, but you wouldn’t be reading this site if you weren’t a cart-before-horse-putter now and then. Thankfully, Ruiz went to IMG Academy. IMG has a number of games on the youtubes, and a week without hockey to GBGA presents a perfect opportunity to take an every-snap look at the nation’s composite best overall center.
I couldn’t find a full game where Ruiz was lined up across from a DI nose tackle, but the Cetennial game cut-up below does feature a two-star 3-4 DE in BYU commit Seleti Fevaleaki. On top of that, the game itself was incredible. It was a true shootout, with the teams practically trading touchdowns and extra points until there were just 12 seconds left in the fourth quarter. IMG converted on 3rd-and-16 with a 38-yard heave into the end zone; they then decided to go for the two-point conversion (and likely win). They converted, Centennial’s Hail Marys fell short, and IMG held on in a fashion befitting the teams that would end the season ranked third (IMG) and eighth (Centennial) nationally in USA Today’s HS poll.
[Hit THE JUMP for the scouting report]
Per Adam Schefter, Michigan has its Jedd Fisch replacement, and it's a doozy:
Former Browns Asst HC Pep Hamilton had accepted an offer to become Michigan's Asst HC/passing coordinator, per school source.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 9, 2017
Like Fisch, Hamilton has been a college and NFL offensive coordinator. Unlike Fisch, he is leaving his current job of his own volition, probably because it's the Browns.
In 2011 and 2012 he was David Shaw's offensive coordinator at Stanford; the Cardinal finished 8th and 29th in S&P+. (That second year was post-Luck, FWIW.) After 2012 he followed Luck to Indianapolis, where he was the OC for three years. The Colts finished 13th, 17th, and then imploded thanks to a spate of Andrew Luck injuries and poor play when he was available. Hamilton was fired midseason in what was widely regarded as a Jed York-esque scapegoating. Hamilton was well-regarded around the league just a few months before he got the axe.
That's a pretty good resume for a coordinator; Hamilton is coming in as a co-co-coordinator. Meanwhile any QB coaching issues that may be inferred from Luck's terrible no-good 2015 should be obviated by his head coach. Also he might make a good head coach candidate when Harbaugh leaves for the Rams. (Did the Rams already hire a coach? Does it matter?)
Happy trails, #1
let's keep O'Maury Samuels plz
By now I don't have to tell you that 5* CA RB Najee Harris stuck with Alabama after the world's highest low-profile recruitment. While it would have been real nice to get the #1 recruit in the country in back-to-back years, Michigan is well stocked at running back for the next few years with Chris Evans, Karan Higdon, and redshirt freshmen Kareem Walker and Kingston Davis already on campus.
Losing AJ Dillon stings a bit more now; getting the slightly wobbly O'Maury Samuels to cease wobbling is a January key.
Ultimate crootin' comes to Aubrey Solomon
5* GA DT Aubrey Solomon arrived at the Army game proclaiming that Alabama had a "huge" lead; later he popped up on Periscope saying things that you usually read on people's shirts at away games. (Especially Illinois, for reasons that remain obscure.) Thus ended Michigan's long, strange recruitment of—
Er. That is a Ryan Bartow crystal ball in favor of Michigan entered on the seventh, which he explained thusly:
Per a source, Solomon reached out to his high school staff following the bowl game in San Antonio indicating he’s planning to commit to the Wolverines.
Solomon, per a source, indicated a similar message to Michigan’s staff later in the evening.
Bartow is a national 247 guy with the excellent track record you can see above. Most recently he was ahead of the curve on Isaiah Wilson's late shift to Georgia.
More detail? Sam Webb has extensive interviews with Solomon and his mother after The Periscope Event. Solomon himself was contrite...
“(Michigan is) one of my top schools,” he replied. “Bama is top, but Michigan is up there with Georgia too. So you never know.”
...and said that an upcoming official to USC was the last trip he'd take. Solomon's mother, meanwhile, has seemingly memorized everything about the official she and her son took this fall, and lists an If Momma Decided top three of Michigan, Georgia Tech(!), and Alabama. Lorenz, meanwhile, reports that he's been told Michigan "truly made progress" with Mrs. Caldwell on the official, which the interview confirms. Also that certain people in his camp aren't big fans of Alabama.
Extensive parental interviews with Sam are a good thing. So are Serious 247 Analyst crystal balls. Offsetting that good thing are some less than good things, but if you told me I'd be fairly optimistic about landing Solomon after last week I'd take that and run.
The stretch run
With the Army decisions out of the way, Michigan has 25 solid commits and approximately seven spots left in the class. The situation for everyone who's still on the board, has an offer, and has bothered to visit or schedule one:
- NM RB O'Maury Samuels is scheduled for a mid-January official. If that comes off it's likely he sticks in the class. No other visits scheduled at this instant. WAG: 90% to stick.
- UT RB Sione Heimuli-Lund has said he'll take an official sometime this month. He's said he'll official for months now and hasn't; he's definitely a Harbaugh guy. WAG: 2%.
- GA WR Nico Collins has had Michigan at the top of his recruitment for months now, and visited on his own dime repeatedly. That's a recipe for getting a bit talent out of the South but Michigan has to dodge some officials. Wiltfong heard from a "source close to Clay-Chalkville" that Georgia is Michigan's biggest competition and that that source "thinks" it will eventually be UGA. That would be a kick in the nuts, not least because... (WAG: 50%)
- ...IA WR Oliver Martin isn't mentioning Michigan any more in interviews, seemingly because Michigan ceased their pursuit. Webb and Lorenz were predicting Michigan removing itself before articles like the above started popping up, so that's probably what happened here. That only makes sense if they're extremely confident in Collins. We'll see. Martin only has one official set in January, that to MSU. Michigan could pop back up here. WAG: 10%
- FL OL Kai-Leon Herbert has officials set up to Auburn, Miami, and Florida. He's been circumspect in interviews to the point where he doesn't seem like a commit, and Michigan's already had their shot. WAG: 30%.
- FL OL/DT Tedarrell Slaton has named Florida his leader and Michigan is drifting away. Slaton told Josh Newkirk that he talks to Michigan "sometimes." He's been on campus but without a 180 this isn't happening; step one in that process is scheduling a January official. WAG: 0% without official, 30% with one.
- GA DT Aubrey Solomon was extensively discussed above. WAG: lol don't even ask.
- UT DT Jay Tufele is one of those guys who nobody has a good read on. He recently asserted to Scout that location doesn't matter, which means "recruit has been asked about location and given the standard answer." WAG: 33%.
- MS LB Willie Gay may or may not have been screwin' around when he said he was headed to LSU; buzz there is "real" per Lorenz, but Michigan thinks they're very much in it. Per Sam, mom and aunt—who were with him on his official—are in Michigan's corner and pushing. Playing time seems to be key. Gay told Lorenz that it was "50/50" he would take an unofficial to Michigan in January. That would echo Rashan Gary and make everyone feel much better that one-time Michigan lead was going to stick. WAG: 40%.
- CT CB Brandon Sebastian will take an official in January and a flip is on the table. WAG: 80%.
- CA CB Elijah Hicks is going to stick with ND, I guess? Because Brian Kelly seems like a good idea right now? WAG: 10%.
I project 3 or 4 weird guy spots available.
Army bowl scouting
MI CB Ambry Thomas popped up periodically. He made Scout's East top five on Day two largely because he was able to contend with Peoples-Jones and "his length and speed makes him a tough defender for receivers to separate from."
Donovan Peoples-Jones vs. Jeff Okudah pic.twitter.com/TkY8g8OzKi
— EJ Holland (@EJHolland247) January 3, 2017
MI WR Donovan Peoples-Jones "explodes off the ball" per Brandon Brown—I haven't seen much national scouting from Rivals yet—and beat UGA commit Richard LeCounte deep because he had "no chance of running with Peoples-Jones." Scout put him in a top five because he "regularly showed the ability to stretch the field vertically." Lorenz reported that he "did what he was supposed to do" to maintain his spot as the #1 WR on the composite.
CT WR Tarik Black "flashed a bunch" per 247 and made the East top 5 on Scout because he's a "smooth athlete with a big catch radius" who "really stood out in a strong receiver group." Brown reported that he is the "most consistently effective receiver" on his team because he's not just a big body:
His ability to quickly get downfield at the snap allowed him to easily eat up the cushion of the East cornerbacks, who spent much of the day playing off coverage. Black showed off an advanced understanding of how to use his stem and body movements to manipulate defenders. ...
What was most impressive during today’s practice was Black’s speed, which does not show up on film as well as it did during today’s practice. Black was able to run by several defenders on vertical routes, often gaining several steps on corners. He made a number of impressive plays, but one of his best was blowing past Detroit (Mich.) Cass Tech cornerback Donovan Johnson on a go route.
We've been talking about how fast Johnson is for a couple months here, usually when we're wondering why MSU didn't bother offering him. For a 6'4" guy to blow by him is maybe a bit of a fluke but also impressive. Sam thought he was "the revelation" for Michigan fans at the Army game; Lorenz thought he was "really good" and had an argument to move up.
Part two of Filiaga/Irving-Bey pic.twitter.com/Fbq9nxW7w5
— Steve Lorenz (@TremendousUM) January 3, 2017
MI DT Deron Irving-Bey didn't come in for much notice nationally; Brown noted that after some early success against an ND commit Irving-Bey started to get predictable and lose reps. He was playing end, which I don't think is going to be his spot at Michigan. One dollar says he's a three tech, and his performance there is in "ask again later" territory. OTOH, he nearly earned a starting spot on his team per Sam because of his "speed off the edge."
for some reason this picture makes me think Willie Gay is in a Coen brothers movie
In guys we hope are future commits, Solomon was praised for a "twitchy first step" and his strength by 247; after day one they named him the #2 guy on his team since he "split double teams with ease ... showing elite quickness and high energy." Scout talked up his "excellent get-off and close-quarters quickness".
Tufele was also one of the most-praised defensive linemen. 247: "the one defensive lineman that can beat you with quickness and power ... consistently the toughest West defender to slow down." A top performers take: "great quickness in interior one-on-ones and he shows big-time power in defeating run blocks." Scout: "most dominant interior defensive lineman in practice ... step is as quick as any one in this class and his got great strength to push his blockers off the ball."
Gay was named the "best pass game linebacker" by 247 because he's a "flash to the football" and is "the perfect nickel linebacker." In another of those top performers articles they asserted he is "maybe the most athletic linebacker in the country." A third 247 take: "outstanding first-move twitch, very fluid, great speed, rangy, has courage to stick his nose in against the run, made plays in the alley, was sound in drills, performed like a five-star." Lorenz further hinted he would get that bump in an Inside Michigan Recruiting.
Brandon Brown talked with a Detroit King coach about Cass star and MI S Jaylen Kelly-Powell, who sounds like another one of those hybrid types that are so critical for defending the spread:
"He’s ferocious against the run and can really tackle but he’s really good in coverage too. He’s a really strong kid. It’s great when you can have a guy who can cover in man, play in the zone, and tackle in the box and Kelly-Powell is that guy. Even at a place like Michigan he should be able to stay on the field all the time."
Cass's coaches confirmed that coverage take when they matched JKP up on one Ambry Thomas in the city championship game:
"...we didn’t think he was going to be on Ambry. He did a good job on Bry and that’s tough to do. We were looking at him as a true safety but they did a good job switching that up and putting him on Bry like that."
There's talk that Kelly-Powell will be given a look at VIPER(!!!) as Michigan seeks to maintain the flexibility Peppers offered the 2016 defense. Willie Gay is the ideal fit there, but Michigan has some options if he ends up in the South.
Allen Trieu had a Q&A session which is worth the trip behind the paywall. This is the opinion I liked the most because I happen to agree with it:
Of the current commits, in your opinion, who in 4 years do Michigan fans look back at and say "wow he was undervalued coming in".
James Hudson recently earned a fourth star, but I could see that kid really blossoming further in college and out-performing his ranking. We ranked Taco Charlton somewhat cautiously as a lower four-star based on his outstanding physical traits, but also his rawness. He has developed into a potential first-round pick. We are at the same point with Hudson where he really came on as a senior and has great size and ability, but still has some parts of his game to improve.
Hudson's senior film is Willie Henry-esque. Dude is crazy strong and explosive. Might take a year; afterwards, look out.
Scout evaluated PA DE/DT Donovan Jeter's senior film and made him sound a bit like Ryan Glasgow:
...quick with his hands, and he uses several moves instead of just relying on his physical ability to overwhelm his opponent. ...gets up the field well from the defensive end position. He uses a swim move and also will club the offensive lineman. He also has a spin move, and he will use strength, led by a solid initial punch. ... body can easily handle 290 pounds, and keeping his quickness is not a concern. His hand speed will also allow him to be successful on the interior of the defensive line.
Three-tech is all set in this class and Michigan can turn one of Jeter, DIB, or Hudson into a nose if that turns out to be necessary. Having a pure NT like Tufele or Solomon is the one way they can seriously upgrade in January.
FWIW, I had MI DT Phil Paea and NJ WR Brad Hawkins listed as early enrollees. Per Isaiah Hole those guys aren't actually EEs. Everyone else expected to arrive has done so.
In "Aubrey Solomon does something that is not surprising": he praises 2018 GA LB commit Otis Reese, a teammate, as "the best in the country."
Michigan is recruiting 2018 TX TE Malcolm Epps, a Bama commit. Hooray!
Maryland outmuscled Michigan in the first half. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]
Michigan struggled to get started against a good defensive team. On the other end of the floor, they made a mediocre offense look excellent.
Unlike Wednesday night's game against Penn State, Michigan didn't have it in them to finish off a comeback effort against Maryland. The Wolverines fell behind by as many as 11 in a first half marked by pathetic post defense and wayward outside shooting. Maryland center Damonte Dodd, filling in for injured starter Michal Cekovsky, scored 11 of his career-high 15 points in the opening half. Michigan's post players didn't fare much better on the perimeter—and, in this case, didn't get much help, either:
Melo is a great player, but this is the epitome of terrible defense. pic.twitter.com/aOwvLnKkcu
— Big Ten Geeks (@bigtengeeks) January 7, 2017
Michigan connected on just 3-of-11 three-pointers, meanwhile. A nine-point halftime deficit would've been larger if not for a strong closing effort by Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, who scored three buckets—all in the paint—over the final five minutes and change. He'd finish with 12 points and four steal in the best game he's had in a while.
After being limited by foul trouble in the first half, Moe Wagner had a stellar offensive showing, pouring in 15 of his 17 poitns in the second stanza; he took Maryland defenders off the dribble by alternating his spin and behind-the-back moves, hit pick-and-pop threes, and worked through contact. While Wagner had gained Michigan an edge in the paint, however, they lost it on the other end with shoddy perimeter defense; the Terps went 6-for-9 from beyond the arc—several of them open looks off of dribble penetration.
The Wolverines were able to get within two points on three different occasions only for Maryland to respond. On Wednesday, Michigan won a game they should've lost. Today, they lost a game they should've lost. There are signs of promise—today, from Wagner, MAAR, and Xavier Simpson—but this team so rarely puts it all together that it's becoming harder and harder to hold out hope for a strong run through Big Ten play.
[Photo: Michael Bruntz/247Sports]
Michigan added a huge piece to their 2017 class in four-star Aledo (TX) offensive tackle Chuck Filiaga, who announced his commitment to the Wolverines over fellow finalists Nebraska and Oklahoma live at the Army All-American Bowl this afternoon.
Filiaga is Michigan's 27th commit in the 2017 class and the sixth along the offensive line. Given Michigan's depth at offensive tackle, he'll have the chance to make an immediate impact as a freshman.
4*, #15 OT,
4*, #16 OT,
4*, 83, #14 OT,
4*, 94, #13 OT,
4*, #14 OT,
Filiaga's rankings are in a remarkably tight bunch; all four sites place him within a four-spot range in the offensive tackle position rankings and just outside the top 100 overall prospects.
Thanks to Filiaga's participation in the Army Bowl, we have up-to-date and detailed measurables:
The strength and conditioning program at Aledo High School has served Chuck well. He's trimmed down from the summer and he's looking lean at 326 pounds. He's massive at 6-foot-5 1/8 with 36-inch arms and the biggest hands in attendance at 10 3/4 inches. Oklahoma, Michigan and Nebraska are finalists.
6'5", 326 with long arms (second-longest at the Army Bowl) and big hands screams tackle, which is almost certainly where Filiaga will play at Michigan.
Filiaga was initially regarded as a two-way prospect. The first scouting report on him, from his sophomore year at Vista Murrieta (CA), mentions he played both offensive tackle spots and was a "powerful" run blocker. At the RCS and Opening Los Angeles regionals the next spring, however, he worked out at DT; 247's Barton Simmons said he was "extremely raw" but with "elite" length and size.
After his junior year, Filiaga began focusing exclusively on the offensive side of the ball, at least in camp settings. While still quite raw, he stood out to Simmons at this year's Opening LA regional because of his size and potential:
While Chuck Filiaga didn't make the final five on the offensive line, he remains one of the most intriguing prospects out west. He's gained 60 pounds in the last year and is embracing offensive tackle but he's extremely raw. The athleticism and movement skills are there, as is the size.
He used his power to earn a top performer mention at the RCS LA:
Filiaga has an excellent frame to play offensive tackle and the Murrieta (Calif.) Vista Murrieta four-star is physical, has tree-trunk legs and a powerful base. Sometimes, he lets defensive ends get into his body too much, but because Filiaga is so strong that usually doesn’t matter and he wins with power and technique.
247's Texas outlet did detailed film evaluation of their top offensive line targets and continued the theme—Filiaga showed great size and potential in his junior film but has a ways to go to reach that potential, especially in pass protection:
STRENGTHS: Shows good athleticism, size, quickness and agility for a big kid. Good bounce with good feet and mobility. Shows good hand placement, can lock out defenders, steer and control. Plays with excellent leverage and leg drive to overpower defenders. Has the ability to punish defensive tackles when he is asked to secure a down block. Excellent athlete with good upside.
AREA TO IMPROVE: Pass protection. Lines up in the back field at times and doesn't have a true kick slide, most of the time he just mirrors his opponent at the line of scrimmage. Does not play with great technique.
They mentioned that he has "good knee bend and flexibility," which is encouraging to hear; that can be a significant issue with bigger OL prospects and it's not something that's easy to develop.
Filiaga displayed improved technique at this summer's Rivals Five-Star Challenge. Rivals's USC outlet said he "had great technique and was very productive," while their Oklahoma site went into a little more detail:
You'd struggle to find a bigger player inside the GeorgiaDome but Filiaga isn't just a huge mauler. He didn't take many reps but when he did he showed an ability to move his feet and battle players on the edge though clearly he is a guy best built to operate with his hands locked onto a defender and running his feet.
That suggests he could be better-suited for guard.
Scout got out to see him play live in November and saw a player who could make a big impact sooner rather than later:
The big man who transferred in from California plays with a chip on his shoulder and has the size and dominant nature to enforce his will and that is why you quickly see why there are so many top-tier college trying to convince him to come to their campus. What I really like about his game is that even though he is massive right now he still has a very high upside from a frame potential. He is going to be an absolute beast in a year or two from now.
He moved up to #125 overall in their postseason rerank:
On his senior tape, he has shown great strength and close-quarters power as a drive-blocker. He plays with a high motor and finishes blocks with his unusual tenacity. He could still improve his body control and balance, but that's a common trait for prospects who are as massive as Filiaga is.
At the Army Bowl, Filiaga has had some trouble in practice with elite edge-rusher Jaelen Phillips, the #5 player in the composite rankings, but otherwise performed well on day one, per TMI's Josh Henschke:
He has all the tools to be a good one at the next level. The first thing that stood out was how massive of a kid he is. He lined up versus five-star defensive end and UCLA commit Jaelan Phillips for several reps, winning only twice. Phillips is a monster, and beat Filiaga with his speed. Our scouts are bullish in their opinions that Filiaga is a great run blocker (mauler), but suggest his technique needs to improve as a pass blocker. Now don't get things twisted, he dominated in all his other reps. Again, it’s just a matter of him learning to play with consistent technique. The coaches had Filiaga pulling and trapping, so that kind of gives you an indication that he moves well.
There hasn't been much else on Filiaga from this week but there should be more to come after today's game. Based on the above, this week has confirmed the scouting reports: while Filiaga has the requisite physical ability to be a dominant tackle, he's going to need to improve his technique before he's going to be reliable in pass protection. While that's not at all unusual for a high school prospect with Filiaga's build, it could be an issue if he's pressed into immediate playing time.
Filiaga took his other official visits to Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Oregon, and he also held notable offers from Alabama, Arizona State, Arkansas, Auburn, Baylor, BYU, Cal, Colorado, Florida, Ole Miss, South Carolina, TCU, Tennessee, Texas, UCLA, USC, Utah, and Washington, among others.
Filiaga is a California native who transferred to Aledo (TX) for his senior season, so this isn't your normal recruitment from that state. Filiaga is the second-highest-ranked prospect to come out of Aledo in the Rivals era (2002-present) after 2012 five-star RB Johnathan Gray, who signed with Texas. Filiaga is the first Aledo prospect with a three-star or better rating to go to a school outside of Texas/Oklahoma.
OL, no stats.
FAKE 40 TIME
Filiaga has a SPARQ-measured 40 time of 5.59 seconds, which gets zero FAKEs out of five. He did relatively well in the more relevant testing results for an offensive tackle with a 4.66 20-yard shuttle and 39-foot powerball throw.
Junior highlights and single-game reels can be found on his Hudl page.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
As we discussed extensively on Thursday, Michigan's razor-thin depth on the offensive line is going to provide Filiaga the opportunity to see the field right away, especially if Grant Newsome isn't healthy enough to play. If Michigan wants to keep Mason Cole at center, the only other competitors at tackle will be Juwann Bushell-Beatty, Nolan Ulizio, perhaps Ben Bredeson (if M can find another starting guard), and Filiaga's fellow freshmen. Filiaga is the incoming freshman most likely to be college-ready from a size and strength standpoint; he and Andrew Stueber have the best chance among the current commits of cracking the 2017 starting lineup. That battle should come down to how far Filiaga has progressed with his pass pro technique; if it's at an acceptable level, he should win the job.
Even if Filiaga doesn't earn a starting job, Michigan may have no choice but to play him as an extra tackle in 2017, much like they did with Newsome, in preparation for a potential starting role as a sophomore.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Filiaga is Michigan's 27th commit in the class and the sixth along the offensive line, joining Cesar Ruiz, Kai-Leon Herbert, JaRaymond Hall, Andrew Stueber, and Joel Honigford. Herbert's standing in the class is far from certain; he's taking visits to Auburn, Florida, and Miami (YTM) this month, with the Gators emerging as a serious threat to flip him. Expect the Wolverines to go after at least one more lineman in the class, with Virginia three-star OT Mekhi Becton the most likely addition to the class.
Other top targets include CA RB Najee Harris, GA DT Aubrey Solomon, UT DT Jay Tufele, AL WR Nico Collins, MS OLB Willie Gay, and CT CB Brandon Sebastian. With Georgia making a strong push for Collins, none of those guys are locks to Michigan, so expect some new names (and/or some old names with renewed interest) to emerge on the board, especially if M can't bring in one of the two DTs.
Here's the class as it currently stands:
Brian is out sick so this is my first shot at one of these. I’m not as plugged in as the other guys so if I missed something important leave it in the comments. Mostly this is going to be Army Game practice stuff.
No Blind Siding
Michigan target Chuck Filiaga, with normal-sized humans [U.S. Army All-American Bowl, via USA Today]
Let’s start with the good news: Crystal balls to Michigan are still flying in for 4* TX OT Chuck Filiaga, who’s a 6’6/335 pound shot at a starting left tackle that Michigan desperately needs. Filiaga will be at right tackle during the Army Game because his team is full of LTs. His decision, between Michigan, Oklahoma, and Nebraska is scheduled for noon.
Even if Filiaga enters the fold, Michigan is not done recruiting potential tackles. Next likeliest target, 3* OT Mekhi Becton, told Maize and Brew that Michigan remains “definitely high on my list.” Michigan also make the top three for AL 3* OT Toryque Bateman, though grades and the likelihood of other commits coming/sticking makes that seem unlikely now.
Obligatory Najee Section: We are linebackers
You have been a good recruiting follower so you’ve so far managed to refrain from watching the parade of ankleless linebackers following 5* CA RB Najee Harris to various endzones. The recruiting industry is finding him just as slippery. We are now officially past the Flight Aware segment of the recruitment and on to Flight Plan Aware. 247’s Bart Simmons first wrote yesterday that Army Bowl people said they’re flying Harris back home after the game, but then said a source told him Harris had requested a change to the wrong Birmingham:
Per a source, Harris has requested a flight change — asking to land in Birmingham now, instead of back home in California (Oakland). That would put the running back on Alabama's campus by Sunday evening at the latest as an early-enrollee, ending a dizzying back-and-forth between Alabama and Michigan that's worn on for months.
I maintain that you should ignore virtually everything until Harris is literally on campus at one school or the other on Monday, since that is quite apparently his preferred method of announcement. Bama people seem confident, Michigan people seem confident. Rivals had their national analysts weigh in, with votes going 2-1 in favor of the Tide. Harris has denied everything. Look closely at anyone new in your freshman seminar Monday.
Willie Being Silly?
The last round of interviews from San Antonio with MS 4* OLB Willie Gay have convinced reporters that LSU now leads Michigan and Mississippi State for what would be the first life form to ever escape “the Sip.” For their part LSU is taking Gay’s sudden interest very seriously, with Tigers linebacker commit Patrick Queen rescheduling his official to coincide with Gay’s. Sam Webb confirmed that LSU is the stated leader…
"Really all of my schools are even. LSU has probably got a little bit high, a little bit. I don't know where I'm going to go yet but LSU has moved up a little bit higher."
…but reported that Gay’s family is still heavily favoring Michigan, and this doesn’t sound like someone who’s moved on:
"They didn't move down,” he said. “When I went to Michigan it was like, perfect. Everything I ever wanted in a school… academics, I feel like I was at home still (and) the weather wasn't that bad to me. I was cool with the cold weather. I loved it."
Gay called the report that LSU leads “kind of accurate.” Call me a homer but I think this one has a lot of elements of a guy who’s messing with reporters. Michigan does still have to weather an official visit to down-the-street Mississippi State in addition to that to LSU on the 20th. I doubt it’s done.
Wille a Will? Possibly relevant, according to SEC Country LSU is recruiting him at WLB:
LSU is courting Gay as a WILL linebacker to help pad the team’s depth at a crucial position.
If you remember your Wisconsin previews, Aranda’s 3-4 has a WILL that’s a second middle linebacker—think Mike McCray’s job—so no they’re not trying to make him Vince Biegel, but neither are they calling him a slot overhang guy. Michigan has made it clear he would play the multifarious Peppers SAM spot.
Possibly unrelatedly, this got tweeted:
Y'all gotta think... a kid will press one school to then choose the other for the surprise ... just think
— Tarik Black (@LetmeRockk_) January 5, 2017
Big Nose Tackle Options are Shrinking
You would think if there is only one word in the English language that an uncommitted prospect can put before “Michigan” to erase any doubt about his intentions, it’s “F---.” Well, 5* GA DT Aubrey Solomon dropped just that particular bomb this week in a Periscope to fellow former Michigan commit WR Jeremiah Holloman (now a 4* UGA commit). A day later Solomon apologized on twitter to Michigan fans.
So: we’re done? Not quite. Sam said on his segment today that Michigan is still after him hard, which WTF?
I guess there are two ways to look at it: On one hand perhaps Aubrey was consoling a friend who apparently got pushed out of the class by higher-rated receivers. The other way to look at it is “What is literally the last thing you want to hear from a guy Michigan is recruiting?”. The likelihood of Option B is the likelihood this is officially happy trails. If you’re holding out for the sympathy words excuse, Michigan still has a lot of ground to make up.
That leaves Michigan’s hopes for a guy who can instantly spell Mone next year down to just UT 4* DT Jay Tufele. While Ohio State was a major factor earlier in this recruitment, lately the sense has been that hometown Utah has moved ahead of both Midwestern rivals. Michigan’s former director of player personnel Tony Tuioti leaving to become DL coach at Fresno State could not have helped the Wolverines’ chances. However Tufele told Sam at the Army Game practices today that at least distance won’t be a deciding factor:
“It was never a factor,” he reiterated. “For me going away or going home… it’s either one. It’s just at the end of the day it is going to be wherever best fits me… that’s where I’m going to go.”
While painting the picture of a Ryan Glasgow-like player, Sam noted the relationship with Bryan Mone. Official visits to USC and Utah loom for a now-crucial recruitment that could go a lot of ways. Scout…uh scout Brandon Huffman also chimed in on why Tufele’s a big deal:
Through the first part of the week, Tufele has been the MVP of the defense. He's yet to lose rep in the one-on-ones and when he went against the East interior offensive linemen during Tuesday's practice, he was beating them repeatedly just as he was the O-linemen for the West team. Tufele has a cat-quick first step and grown man strength. Tufele is considering BYU, Michigan, Ohio State, USC and Utah.
While BYU and USC are probably placeholders, Michigan has at best as good a chance as the other two, which equals not a great chance.
At least our scouting works. Once again solid Oregon commit Rutger Reitmaier is making everybody’s lists for top performers at the Army practices. 247’s Bart Simmons’s East team update depressingly mentioned two names familiar to Michigan fans this cycle as standout defensive tackles: Reitmaier, and OG prospect Tedarrell Slaton, who’s expected to commit to Florida. Slaton was also the largest prospect in attendance, weighing in at 363 lbs.
The Sabanification of Georgia is Not a Good Development
After leading for a year for AL 4* WR Nico Collins, suddenly it appears Georgia has made it a game. Wiltfong:
A source close to Clay-Chalkville Top247 receiver Nico Collins told 247Sports this week he thinks Michigan and Georgia are on top.
He added he thinks will be the Bulldogs and not the Wolverines that ultimately sign the four-star recruit.
That would indeed be an upset of greater magnitude than turning around Isaiah Wilson, since Collins made multiple visits to Michigan on his own dime. He’ll announce on national signing day.
The Dawgs showing some bite on the recruiting trail after Kirby Smart’s first season ended 8-5 in the Liberty Bowl has caused some people in our community to wonder what’s going on down there. The answer is that it was far more extraordinary that Richt had Georgia at merely Lloyd Carr level in the Age of the SEC. Georgia is twice the recruiting ground of any other SEC state save Florida, and in-state rival GT is less of a threat than Michigan State is to us. Plus, Athens is gorgeous, admittedly as nice a town/campus as Ann Arbor; I can personally attest that their gameday atmosphere is unreal. And Georgia's not a bad school either.
I’m sure some Bama stuff is going on there, but the real reason they’re a threat to Michigan now is because Michigan has chosen to invade SEC territory and compete against the best the SEC has to offer.
Scouting Updates on Committed Recruits
Sam Webb did a feature this morning on WTKA on the Michigan guys he’s watched and spoken to down in San Antonio, and while I couldn’t get the Audioboom recording to work MGoUser ColelsCorky kindly summarized it on our board. Among tidbits in there that weren’t mentioned already, Ambry Thomas looks like an early contributor, Deron Irving-Bey is unrefined but also Young Taco-like off the edge, and Tarik Black has been a “revelation.” Huffman’s scouting report agreed on the last:
The Michigan commit has consistently made plays all week and impressed with his smooth route running for being a bigger framed kid. He has shown good, reliable hands and ball skills as well.
Sam and Josh Newkirk caught up with Black on Wednesday and asked him to name his (homer) pick for top cornerback he’s faced, which offers us a nice segue into MI 4* CB Ambry Thomas:
“I’m not being biased or anything like that cause he’s a Michigan commit. But I do think he’s the best corner out here.”
Adding: “He’s a technician, a long ranging guy and has a lot of speed. You've got to work him to get open.”
Another Michigan recruit who could challenge for early playing time, DE/DT Donovan Jeter got a new eval from Brian Dohn, and it sounds like one of those that could accompany a ratings bump:
Final Thought: Jeter offers position flexibility, which is a great thing for a staff and a player. He can be a defensive end, particularly on the weakside where he can use his length and quickness in his first two steps, or he can add weight and strength and move inside. His body can easily handle 290 pounds, and keeping his quickness is not a concern. His hand speed will also allow him to be successful on the interior of the defensive line.
At 6’6/261 Jeter seems large enough to be in the mix for some standard-down spelling of Chase Winovich as a more Taco-shaped WDE, or Rashan Gary’s backup at SDE immediately. Since Gary is expected to take off some of Hurst’s load at tackle this year, the Anchor position has plenty of snaps available.
The Distant Future 2018
After talking up SEC football 6’6 NJ TE Elijah McAllister told Steve Wiltfong he grew up a Michigan fan and that Michigan has been in contact. I may have posted that just for this quote:
“I liked the SEC culture, everyone is great down South. Growing up in New Jersey, a lot of fast-moving people, not everyone is nice. Down South everyone is nice.
MGoBlog’s official Southern correspondent BiSB reports that “Bless your heart” is actually Tennesseean for “F--- you!”, but as we noted above that doesn’t necessarily mean they hate you.