in town for free camps
Michigan hosted four-star Illinois jumbo receiver Miles Boykin and his family for an unofficial visit over the weekend, and after receiving the full campus tour with a special "here's how we'll use you like Devin Funchess" film session, at least one of the Boykins was ready to sign up, per GBW's Kyle Bogenschutz ($):
“My dad and my brother are the biggest Michigan fans I know,” Boykin said. “So they loved it.”
Boykin adding, “When we got back home my brother looked at me and he said, ‘Miles, you’re a better man than I am.’ And I asked what are you talking about? And he was like, ‘I would’ve committed already bro.’
Miles told 247's Steve Wiltfong that he thought the trip "went awesome," and he "loved it" when Jeff Hecklinski showed him how he'd be utilized in the offense($), so while Boykin claimed no leaders it's tough not to feel like Michigan is in a very good position for him—especially since he already visited for the Spring Game and already plans on taking another summer unofficial to Ann Arbor before an August decision. Notre Dame is a serious contender and they're up next on his visit list, so this is far from over, but I like where Michigan stands.
The Wolverines also continue to look good for a few of their top targets, as well. Sam Webb's latest Detroit News article details a slight shift in recruiting strategy by the coaches—focusing on recruiting their position of specialty, as opposed to a set region, earlier than in years past—and how that's affected Michigan's chances with CT TE Chris Clark and NJ OT Grant Newsome.
Both have developed a close relationship with their potential future position coaches—Dan Ferrigno for Clark, Darrell Funk for Newsome—and will be on campus for critical unofficials this month, each accompanied by their mothers this time around. Michigan is Clark's stated leader, while Newsome is down to U-M and Penn State. Read Webb's whole article, which includes details on Alex Malzone's recruiting efforts, and you'll come away feeling good about Michigan's chances to land both.
Newsome won't be the only four-star tackle on campus this summer. According to Webb and Josh Newkirk, TN OT Drew Richmond has been impressed enough with Funk's continued recruiting efforts—even after Richmond left U-M out of his top 11 in March—that he's going to visit in July ($):
“I feel like he knows what he’s talking about and he cares about what he’s doing,” Richmond said about Funk.
The four-star offensive tackle continued: “They have just been consistently recruiting me. I really love the fan base.”
Meanwhile, recently offered TX WR A.D. Miller is on campus today while on a Midwest swing from Illinois to Ohio State, and he told Tim Sullivan he'll narrow down his focus to "about eight schools" after these trips ($). In other positive 2015 news, four-star TN LB Josh McMillon put Michigan in his unordered top ten.
Trending Not So Well...
Ohio State's campus hosted a Nike camp over the weekend, and the recruiting updates from Columbus weren't so good on the Michigan front. Damien Harris, in particular, came away singing the praises of OSU and Urban Meyer, per Doug Lesmerises:
"It's still kind of cool the way things go with Coach Meyer," Harris told cleveland.com Sunday, while attending a Nike Football Training Camp at Ohio State. "As a kid growing up, I'd see him on TV and I was like, 'Man, he's the man.' And now I get to be real cool with him. We walk into a basketball game together, we just get to enjoy life together right now - maybe for the next four years. It' definitely been a blessing. I get to be looked at as important enough to spend time with one of the greats of all time. It's definitely an honor. I don't take it for granted. I'm real thankful for it."
Harris told Steve Wiltfong that Kentucky, Michigan, and Ohio State were the programs recruiting him the hardest; in the same article, he discussed how much he "loves" various aspects of OSU, UK, Florida, and Alabama, but when asked about Michigan he mentioned trying to "continue to develop a better relationship" with Doug Nussmeier ($). Harris, if you'll recall, was close with Al Borges before U-M changed OCs; I've finally given in and flipped my Crystal Ball pick for Harris to Ohio State.
The above makes this bit of news from TomVH a little tougher to stomach:
RB Mike Weber told me he does have a top 3 within his top 5. Ohio State, MSU, Wisconsin but Michigan and Tennessee still in it.
— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) June 1, 2014
So that's not good. Michigan may be left looking for other options, and they at least have a couple. Tim Sullivan reports that Michigan offered three-star MO RB Alec Murphy (highlights above) a few weeks ago, and Murphy says he's looking at visiting U-M when he attends the Sound Mind Sound Body camp this month ($). The Wolverines could make a quick move here—at the moment, Iowa is his next-best offer.
There's also three-star GA RB Mikell Lands-Davis, who was offered a month ago. Steve Lorenz wrote a couple weeks ago, after U-M dropped by for an in-school visit, that the Wolverines could very well be the #2 team for him behind Clemson ($). If they can get him on campus—and they're working on setting that up—we'll see what happens.
Michigan was one of the first schools to seriously pursue four-star MN DE Jashon Cornell, and at the very least its paying off with continued mentions among his very top schools. The trouble is that the Wolverines have never seemed to quite reach the peak of his list; Notre Dame has the Cretin-Derham pipeline, Michigan State was his stated leader at one point, and now Ohio State has made a move to the forefront, per Wiltfong ($):
Sources close to Cornell told 247Sports Ohio State is now the team to beat. Cornell himself said the Buckeyes are in his top three now. They were on the outside looking in until this visit.
“Something about Coach (Larry) Johnson and Coach (Urban) Meyer,” Cornell said. “They bumped up high.”
Who else is in the top three?
“Maybe Michigan and Penn State,” Cornell said.
The bad news, of course, is that the Buckeyes appear to be on top. The good news is Michigan is still very much in the hunt, and they'll get another chance—along with Michigan State—to jump atop his list after an unofficial when he's in the state for SMSB.
Darrin Kirkland: NFTC LB MVP
One definitively good piece of news to come from the Columbus NFTC—commit Darrin Kirkland Jr. is doing quite well at the whole football thing, per Allen Trieu:
Linebacker MVP: Darrin Kirkland – Lawrence Central (Ind.)
The Michigan commit was impressive with his lateral agility. He did well in pass coverage, not something that was necessarily considered his forte coming in. He was invited to The Opening.
There's something about Kirkland and excelling in Columbus—his excellent coverage in passing drills "surprised" scouts at both the Nike and Rivals camps held there last summer. At some point, maybe it won't surprise anymore.
Recent Offers, Visitors
After receiving a Michigan offer last Wednesday, four-star FL DE Janarius Robinson told 247's Chris Nee he plans to visit Ann Arbor on June 20th ($). While Florida State will be tough to beat, a campus visit with these coaches can't be overlooked.
Another relatively recent offer that went unreported—or at least I didn't notice—until Tim Sullivan dug it up is four-star MD OL Pat Allen, who plans to visit this summer and expect U-M to fall within an impressive top five ($):
"Michigan is going to be in my top five, Georgia's going to be in my top five," he started. "I'm going to have those two, Ohio State is definitely in my top three, Florida State most likely top five.
"With Georgia, it's really the area. I've been there a couple times. It's a really good school, and I think Georgia's a solid program. I don't know much about Michigan yet. They do have a good program, and honestly anybody would be a fool not to go to Michigan. At Ohio State, I'm comfortable when I've been there. The region's really good, the coaching staff is great, the people there are comfortable to be around, I like the city of Columbus, it's really cool.
While OSU is in very good position, that could change once Allen sees U-M for the first time.
In the 2016 class, offers continue to go out to top national quarterback prospects. California five-star, #1 dual-threat QB Malik Henry pulled in an offer last week. Henry's already got serious national interest, and as always, it's best to take a wait-and-see approach with any top California prospect.
Michigan also offered the nation's top pro-style quarterback in WA five-star Jacob Eason, per 247's Clint Brewster. His offer list is even more impressive than Henry's, so he'll also be a tough pull from the West Coast.
The third QB to pull in a recent offer is four-star CA pro-style prospect KJ Costello, who told Scout's Greg Biggins he's visiting Ann Arbor on June 15th to kick off a trip that'll have him see several of the nation's top programs ($). Same deal here—we'll see how he feels after the visit.
GBW reports offers out to a pair of 2016 receivers. Four-star MD slot (5'9", 152) Steven Smothers was very excited to hear the news ($):
“[Mattison] called my coach,” Smothers said on his Michigan offer. “I had the offer for a week or two [before he told me]. But my coach just told me today. I’m really at a loss for words. A big school like that offering is shocking.
“I was pumped, I mean, what more can I say? It’s Michigan!”
U-M is now in his top six along with Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Tennessee, and West Virginia. While FL WR Binjimen Victor is unranked on the recruiting services thus far, he's also received some impressive offers, and he immediately brought up Denard Robinson upon hearing that U-M offered; unfortunately, the Wolverines still have work to do to crack his top group ($):
Victor, who stands at 6-foot-4, 170-pounds, says he is planning on making his final decision sometime during his senior season. While he wouldn’t name a leader, he did say there were a few schools sticking out early on in his recruitment.
“I’m not trying to (commit) or anything but the schools I really like right now are Miami, Ohio State, and Clemson,” said Victor.
Finally, 2016 OH LB Brendan Ferns—younger brother of U-M LB Michael Ferns—visited campus last weekend, and while he doesn't yet have an offer he told GBW having his brother on campus "will help" should one come along ($). After he pulled in a recent offer from Michigan State, it wouldn't surprise if U-M followed suit before too long.
|WHAT||USA vs Tukey
Send Off Series Friendly
New York, NY
|WHEN||2:30 PM Eastern, Sunday|
|LINE||I don't know man|
Man, my Armenian friend is just all about these friendlies.
THE THEM: LAND RATHER NEAR LAND OF FIRE THAT ALSO HAS FREQUENT TIFFS WITH ARMENIA
Turkish soccer fans are nuts, in the best way
Things step up in class for the US after a CONCACAF redux warmup against Azerbaijan. While The Turks aren't in the World Cup they have been in the recent past; they were +7 in goal differential in group D but finished fourth.
Both FIFA and ESPN's BPI metric have them 38th in the world, still some distance behind the US. CONCACAF comparables include Honduras (36th) and Panama (46th), though that former looks a little shaky after Honduras opened its own Send Off Series with a 2-0 loss to Turkey. That may have been a little deceiving, though, as Honduras had plenty of chances on which they just did not convert:
Hull City defender Maynor Figueroa, former Sporting KC standout Roger Espinoza and current New England Revolution striker Jerry Bengtson all had chances during the game's opening stanza but failed to convert.
Turkey played with hesitancy and managed only a handful of opportunities throughout the opening 45, seemingly content to fall back and weather the storm.
Honduras faded in the final 45, probably for the same reasons the US game against the Azeris slowed to a crawl in the second half: teams headed to Brazil are pounding themselves to get in shape for what promises to be a sultry world cup.
Turkey was pretty leaky in the back in World Cup qualifying, conceding in every game against the four real contenders (Estonia and Andorra are just around to get kicked) save one against Romania.
The vast majority of the Turkish team plays in their domestic league, with a few guys scattered around in Germany. Atletico Madrid's Arda Turan is the star… but he's nursing and injury and out, robbing the US of an opportunity to see how they matchup against a world-class threat. Galatasary striker Burak Yilmaz would be the guy they build around now… if he hadn't gone home a couple days ago.
Your detailed and educated Turkey bits can be found at The Yanks Are Coming and The Shing Guardian but take it lightly. This is a young, experimental Turkey team that could do just about anything. They are supposed to be the Portugal stand-in, as they've traditionally run out the same 4-3-3 Portugal uses.
left: 4-4-2 diamond; right the 4-2-3-1
The same debate about the 4-4-2 versus the 4-2-3-1 persists. The diamond looked sluggish against the packed-in Azeris; teams that actually try to attack may also force the US into a more conservative formation with an extra defensive midfielder. Personnel-wise these things are near interchangeable as long as Jones is keeping station in front of the central defenders, so we may see both.
DEFENSE: Chandler, Besler, Cameron, Johnson.
Cameron and Besler are seemingly the USA's top options at center back. They have not played together much—the Azerbaijan game was just their second start together—so Klinsmann will probably spend his precious competitive time before the World Cup on strengthening that partnership.
Johnson should reprise at right back as Klinsmann tries to get him comfortable with the right side of the US formation. In one game he's gone from "maybe the right back?" to obviously the right back.
And it's 50/50 whether Chandler or Beasley gets the start here. I'm guessing Klinsmann takes an extended look at Chandler, possibly flipping him to the right in the second half to give Johnson a breather. Can Chandler put in a strong 90 against a dangerous opponent? This is an opportunity to find out.
I would guess Klinsmann takes a look at Brooks in this one, and Yedlin will probably get a late run out.
MIDFIELD: Beckerman, Bradley, Bedoya, Davis.
nothing says Utah more than Beckerman
Guessing here; Beckerman and Bradley paired well in the Mexico friendly and he is a natural holding midfielder who has a ton of familiarity with the diamond. Bradley is MB 90.
Davis had a couple of bright moments in his substitute appearance and here's a guess he'll get a look at the starting left mid. His service is wildly overrated in the context of the US team because Zusi has been dropping balls on his teammates' heads for years now, but it becomes vastly more important if Zusi is dropped for some reason.
In that event, the need for crossing from the right goes down and the US can look at Bedoya on his more natural right side. And as to why you might drop Zusi: with Cristiano Ronaldo looming, Bedoya's workrate and tracking back look attractive as a right mid. If he can help shut down the Turkish left flank in this game he may displace Zusi for at least one game.
Diskerud and Green should also get looks. Green may offer that je ne sais quoi the US lacks, and while it's hard to envision Diskerud displacing either Dempsey or Bradley for one solitary World Cup second, that left flank is open for someone to do something with.
FORWARD: Altidore, Dempsey
Dempsey is reputedly hale and ready to go, so the US will probably try to try the thing they were set to try before Dempsey's groin acted up.
Altidore had a couple of instances of quality hold up play against the Azeris, but that was still clearly an awkward thing for him. When paired with Wondolowski, though, that is his role. With Dempsey the two forwards can interchange, and Dempsey is technical enough that once the ball gets to his feet he can hold it up and lay it off for a charging Bradley effectively.
He changes the entire dynamic of that front triangle, and that's why I'm not getting too bent out of shape about the lack of chances from the run of play against Azerbaijan.
Wondo and Johannsson are likely to come on. Johannsson might get a run out on the wing.
WHAT YOU'RE LOOKING FOR, OTHER THAN EVERYTHING
Diamond versus 4-2-3-1. I think we'll see both, with Klinsmann trying to see what he's got with the diamond when he's got his most dynamic attacking player available and an opponent that might venture one or two guys onto the US side of the field. If it's not working, a mid-game shift is in the cards, whether it's with a substitute or not.
How does that defensive midfield hold up against an offensive threat? If it is still Jones in a diamond, is he disciplined enough? If it's Beckerman, is he quick enough?
Seriously, what is the US going to do on the left wing? Bedoya probably had his best game in a US shirt against the Azeris, but even so his contributions did not help the team as much as Brad Davis's single deep cross did. If the US does go back to their 4-2-3-1 it would be nice to get a look at Johannsson in the Eddie Johnson role on the left wing. Portugal's right flank is supposed to be weak defensively.
How does Dempsey work with Jozy up top? The two have rarely been paired as out-and-out forwards together. Jozy scored a bunch of goals in Holland by running about the pitch instead of being a single hold-up guy trying to lay balls off or turn on defenders. Their partnership is of a different character than the Jozy-Wondo pairing and has to be one in which the guy with the ball has a good idea of what the guy without it is going to do.
SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Of U-M's 2015 decommits, Damien Harris is the most likely to end up in Ann Arbor.
Previously: The Policy And Its Benefits
The two-part recruiting mailbag concludes today with a look at in-state recruiting, the likelihood of Michigan's decommits re-committing, and the outlook at running back.
— craig laluk (@CraigLaluk) May 28, 2014
First off, it's a relative down year for football prospects in the state, with only three players right now earning composite four-star status, though Alex Malzone is right on the edge and should end up there. Adding to the lack of in-state activity, four of the top seven Michigan prospects have already made commitments: OL Kyonta Stallworth (MSU), Malzone, OL David Moorman (Wisconsin), and CB Tyson Smith (MSU).
Michigan isn't in very active pursuit of any of the prospects outside of that top seven; Cass Tech DE Joshua Alabi is ranked #8, and while he holds a Michigan offer, Michigan State and Tennessee have been at the forefront of his recruitment for a long time now. Nobody ranked below him has received an offer or much interest; the only player down there I could see getting a late offer is Oak Park ATH John Kelly, who might get a harder look after the Shaun Crawford decommitment—MSU offered him at corner, and that's a pretty solid endorsement.
That leaves the two top players in the state—Saginaw ATH Brian Cole and Cass Tech RB Mike Weber—and a Michigan legacy at #6 in Southfield OLB Tyriq Thompson. I won't sugarcoat here: there's a distinct chance all three end up in East Lansing. Cole's been high on the Spartans for a long time, Weber's strongly considering them, and Thompson's recruitment has gravitated towards MSU despite his U-M ties.
With that out of the way, Michigan also has a legit shot at all three, and their cause would be helped greatly by a season this fall that at least shows the program is getting back on track. Cole and Weber have both shown more interest recently, especially Weber, who seems very open to the idea of playing in Doug Nussmeier's offense. Steve Lorenz recently posted that Michigan is pursuing Thompson as hard as any recruit on their board, and it could very well be a 50-50 tossup right now. I think Cole ultimately ends up at MSU, but I like Michigan's chances with Thompson. As for Weber...
— Jeremy C. Anderson (@the_ASGroup) May 28, 2014
...I think he's the most likely to end up in this class, both among the top in-state prospects and the current running back targets. The Wolverines have really trended well with him since the change in offensive coordinators.
Jacques Patrick is going to be really, really tough to pull out of Florida; right now, his 247 Crystal Ball is at 97% for Florida State and 3% for Miami, and he holds offers from just about any powerhouse program you can name. Michigan at least will have him on campus when Patrick is in the area for the Sound Mind Sound Body camp next month, but they have a lot of ground to cover to catch the Seminoles.
As for Harris (man, I'm nailing these segues)...
— Eddie Xiao (@edxiao) May 28, 2014
Not really, though there's still some optimism about Harris—this is much more opinion than anything else, as Harris has said all the right things since his decommitment, and he clearly has genuine interest in considering the Wolverines again.
That said, Ohio State is making a move, the Alabama/Auburn/FSU/USC-types are sniffing around, and we can't even rule out in-state Kentucky. Just based on the number of schools—and very good football programs—Harris is still seriously considering compared to Weber, I think the latter is more likely to end up in the class. While it wouldn't shock me if Harris ended up back in the fold, re-commitments are the exception, not the rule.
There's no such optimism when it comes to George Campbell or Shaun Crawford at this point. Crawford canceled his planned Ohio State visit for this weekend; a commitment to Notre Dame is imminent. Campbell, meanwhile, appears ticketed for either Florida (the presumed favorite) or Clemson (always a dark horse, and he could reunite with former East Lake teammate Artavis Scott), and his decommitment from Michigan coinciding with his uncle taking over command of his recruitment doesn't bode well.
— Bry Mac (@Bry_Mac) May 28, 2014
What have we told you about stealing people clothes, BiSB...
Everything in Minecraft. Michigan Stadium in Minecraft.
I like healthy butts and I cannot lie. Jake Butt is jogging again:
"Went for my first little run yesterday and my knee feels great!" Butt tweeted.
The 6-foot-6, 250-pound tight end suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament on Feb. 13 during conditioning drills before spring practice began. Butt underwent surgery to repair the torn ligament on Feb. 28, exactly three months ago Wednesday.
ACLs are six-month things these days so Butt could be back even earlier than the third or fourth game, as Hoke projected a couple months ago.
Yes, this is a good idea. Auburn's having a big ol' recruiting weekend, so naturally they've painted the path of the Kick Six on their field.
If I find out they've also got a cardboard cutout of Nick Saban in tears, I will commit.
In unrelated news, Bret Bielema took a job at Arkansas. Bielema demonstrates his mastery of making himself look bad with his mouth:
Bret Bielema why he made move from Wisconsin to Arkansas "SEC will get minimum of 2 teams in 4-team playoff"
None of these are ever going to be Arkansas, is the thing. The other thing is that give or take a tough decision, the SEC would have gotten two teams in a four-team field about 25% of the time since the dawn of the BCS era. Three is off the table.
Hooray for three months of this. If there was a single moment when Dave Brandon completed his heel turn with the Michigan fanbase, it was when he picked up the steel chair of Appalachian State and beat us over the head with it by scheduling a rematch. While the blessed event is still three months away, first extensive article on the Horror has been published. I refuse to read the thing, so here's a paragraph at random:
It’s no secret around campus that the football success of 2005-07 was a boon for the school’s “PR value” and “notoriety,” in the words of ASU athletic director Charlie Cobb. It helped bring enrollment increases, academic improvement and more.
I can't wait for replays to be on my television 24/7. Reliving the moment Michigan football went from national power to… this… is not high on my list of desirable activities. Here it comes anyway.
Possibly related. The student section has dropped alarmingly:
"We're projecting that number to be somewhere between 13 or 14,000 for student ticket numbers this year," Michigan associate athletic director of media and public relations Dave Ablauf said. "(That number was at) about 19,000 last year. We don't have a finalized number (yet), that's just an approximation because all the incoming freshmen haven't put in their orders yet."
This is partially because students can just buy tickets next year without long-term punishments and this home schedule is not worth the 300 dollars they're asking for it, let alone the regular price they're charging everyone else. It is also partially because last year was no fun and partially because the students don't like Dave Brandon at all.
The alarming thing is that this is probably going to happen every other year going forward unless Brandon can find a home and home series that actually moves the needle. Arkansas and Virginia Tech do not have anywhere near the appeal that Notre Dame does, and since Michigan got totally boned by having MSU and OSU away in the same year, every other year has no schedule anchor.
Even for you, this is surprising. Zach Travis has a column on the student section drop that you should read. The themes in it are things we hit on frequently here. In the comments, though, TOC contributor MSUDersh relates a story about the things happening to the UM wings of his family that is sadly believable. His dad and uncles are old-timey ticket holders in section one with tickets that go back 50 years:
A few months ago my uncle who splits tickets with my dad & another uncle rec’d an email about their tickets. The university told them that it appreciates their loyalty and also wants to ensure that they continue to have those great seats going forward. And in order to do so, the school recommended that they purchase four more season tickets (plus PSLs) in a completely different area of the stadium. Despite there literally being decades of my family history with the school & athletic department, including an endowment from my great grandparents in the 60’s that continues to fund scholarships today, Dave Brandon’s team is threatening to pull their choice seats and relocate them if they don’t purchase more.
I just had a wow experience. Has anyone else received an email like this? I'd like to confirm that the AD is stooping so low.
I motion to not do this and have ice cream. Latest O'Bannon wrangling:
Lawyers for the NCAA asked the appeals court to vacate U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken's order for the trial to start June 9. The NCAA also wants the appeals court to rule that the O'Bannon antitrust trial should not be held before the Sam Keller right of publicity trial involving videogames, a related but now separated case scheduled for trial in March 2015.
The filing late Thursday night marks the fifth attempt by the NCAA in recent weeks to delay and/or redefine the case. A three-judge panel from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals previously rejected one of the delay attempts without comment.
Our local law-talkin', football-playin' dog weighs in:
Without boring you with the legal mumbo-jumbo, the NCAA's latest motion is not one filed by a party that thinks it is in good shape.
— Bry Mac (@Bry_Mac) May 30, 2014
The NCAA is also asking the courts not to consolidate the wave of anti-trust lawsuits filed by former players claiming they were cheated out of compensation above and beyond the value of a scholarship, and trying to get anyone other than Claudia Wilken as their judge, because Oakland is "spectacularly inconvenient" for a trial. A flight's a flight, according to the NCAA's own rules for seeding the NCAA hockey tournament.
Incoming. Dylan Larkin NHL draft profile ahoy:
“Larkin has shown he can be an elite-level power forward in addition to showing a high level of offensive ability. His ability to take the puck hard to the net allows for unique scoring chances most players would not be able get because of a lack of size and strength.”
Etc.: You definitely shouldn't watch Mitch McGary's draft workout video unless you want to be real sad. Nussmeier's position now sponsored by rich dude. Barking Carnival's boot camp series continues with leverage.
Name: Steven Smothers
Position: Wide Receiver
Ht/Wt: 5’10" / 150 lbs. / 4.4
Location: Franklin – Reisterstown, MD (2016)
Offers: NC State, Ohio State, West Virginia, Alabama, UConn, Florida State, Georgia, Marshall, Michigan, Old Dominion, Penn State, Rutgers, Tennessee, Virginia, Virginia Tech
Rating: ★★★★ .9755 (247 Composite)
Ranking: #62 NAT / #9 WR (247 Composite)
The Michigan coaching staff hasn’t offered many wide receiver prospects under six feet but after watching a few highlights of Steven Smothers it’s easy to see why he is an exception. What Smothers lacks in size, he makes up for in skill as well as confidence, describing himself in a way that I have never heard before.
I’m a totally different kind of player from any other on the field. The things I can do are like no other. I think I might be from a different planet! (Laughs) My game is based on pure speed. I think I’m the most dominant player in my class and I consider myself just all around electrifying.
On film Smothers appears to have legitimate 4.4 speed and he’s been told that his game is reminiscent of two fellow Maryland wideouts, one of which Michigan fans know all too well.
I’ve been told I play like my Godbrother Tavon Austin. Another close friend that I like to model my game after is Stefon Diggs. It’s cool to hear from both of them about the next levels.
At his size and age, Smothers’ offer list is impressive. His recruitment has already exploded for a rising junior that plays a position where size is often paramount. All of the big boys are interested in the young speedster.
I don’t really have a leader right now but Alabama, Tennessee, Ohio State, West Virginia, Miami, Oregon, and USC are who I’m hearing from the most. I’d say my top four is NC State, Ohio State, West Virginia, and Florida. I still really have to look into Michigan more because I just found out about my offer even though I think it happened about a week ago. I know that the tradition is real big at Michigan and about their huge rivalry with Ohio State.
Even though Smothers doesn’t know a lot about Michigan yet, he does have a little bit of a connection and plans to check into the Wolverines much more in the coming months.
I’ve talked to Blake Countess before through Stefon when they were both still in high school. I’m going to try and visit Michigan this summer. I'd like to get some officials in when the time comes and I’d like to make my decision a week after National Signing Day. Stefon did it that way and I liked it, so I want to make it suspenseful also.
5 – Trending Blue
4 – Solidly in a top 2-3
3 – Contender in a top 3-7
2 – Among large (8-15) group under consideration
1 – Let’s see if he visits before we talk
0 – Passing interest or none
As a 2016 prospect with offers from Florida State, Alabama, Ohio State, and Georgia among others, competition will be stiff to even get Smothers to Ann Arbor. The fact that he has a slight acquaintance in Blake Countess might help him take a serious look at a visit, but the likelihood of a commitment is far off at this point. He is a top flight recruit and his recruitment will play out as such. If he does visit this summer of course the whole process will get more interesting.
Dymonte Thomas (L) and Jourdan Lewis (R) both committed before receiving coveted offers.
It's been a long time since I did one of these, and after the Shaun Crawford decommitment the topic of discussion is Michigan's very simple policy: if a commit takes visits, the coaches will continue recruiting for that spot, and while they'll continue recruiting the prospect taking visits they'll no longer consider him a commit.
At this point, the policy itself is clear to the point that its particulars aren't up for debate. Its merits, on the other hand, have been questioned. Here's a great question that helps show why it works:
Two part question:
Have there been any Michigan signees that come to mind who benefited the most from the policy being in place? A guy who was locked in early before he blew up regionally or nationally and it kept him in Michigan’s camp maybe? Or a guy, maybe like Peppers, who by committing and not looking around was solely focused on his senior year and helping the recruiting effort.
And on the flip side can you think of a couple of specific names (not including Dawson and the guys who have decommitted this year) who were probably scared away by it and may otherwise have ended up in a Michigan class had it not been for the coach staffs visit rules?
Jabrill Peppers is a nice example to start with, as he considered taking visits a couple months before Signing Day, then reaffirmed his pledge after taking his official visit to Michigan and talking with both the coaches and his family. Who knows what would've happened if Brady Hoke had allowed him to remain committed and visit, say, Alabama? At best, it would've bothered a lot of the other commits. At worst, Peppers would've ended up in Crimson.
Two other current U-M defensive backs come to mind when answering the first part of the question. Dymonte Thomas committed nearly a year-and-a-half before signing his LOI; at the time, the Alliance, Ohio product didn't hold an Ohio State offer, which befuddled Buckeye recruitniks. Even though Thomas' cousin, Bri'onte Dunn, committed to OSU in the interim, when Urban Meyer extended an offer two months later Thomas laughed it off on Twitter. He'd committed, end of story, and he knew what a commitment to Michigan entailed—no trips to check out Columbus and see if he'd want to play with his cousin, something they'd discussed before their respective commitments.
There's also Jourdan Lewis, who eventually became an Army All-American but held this list of offers when he pledged during The Greatest Mid-February Weekend In The History Of Mid-February Weekends: Michigan and Toledo. That's it. Other schools tried to enter the fray, but Lewis remained firm in his pledge—again, in part because he knew the consequences if he started looking around. All he had to do was ask his teammate, David Dawson, the shining example of how the Damien Harris situation can still work out in Michigan's favor.
As for the flip side, there have been multiple prospects in recent years who very nearly committed to U-M while on visits, and in retrospect it's clear the policy helped avoid an eventual decommitment. Malik McDowell immediately comes to mind, as does Artavis Scott. If McDowell had committed, his journey to East Lansing—and I believe he'd have ended up there regardless—would've had even more twists and turns. Same goes for Scott, who took to Clemson's overtures so quickly it's difficult to imagine a Michigan pledge would've stuck.
The best example of the policy avoiding a major issue, however, is a prospect who did at one point commit to U-M: 2014 OT Denzel Ward. His recruitment requires bullet points:
- Committed to Michigan in October 2012, a week after receiving the U-M offer, his best to date. By the first week of January, he'd also hold offers from Arizona State, Florida, and Ohio State.
- Took an unofficial visit to Florida in January 2013 without informing the coaches; at this time, he also transferred high schools from the Chicago area to the IMG Academy in Florida, which also came as a surprise to Michigan's staff.
- Shortly thereafter, Michigan told Ward he was no longer a commit, and due to the lack of communication with the coaches they didn't plan to pursue him again.
- Ward named Florida as his leader in March. He picked up an Oklahoma offer around that time.
- Despite an impressive offer sheet, Ward committed to Purdue in June.
- Three days after an official visit to USF, Ward decommitted from Purdue in December.
- Less than a week after taking his final official visit to Syracuse, Ward committed to the Orange and signed his LOI.
When Michigan recognized Ward was a serious flight risk, they broke things off, and eventually replaced him in the class with a higher-rated, UA All-American tackle in Juwann Bushell-Beatty. If I had to guess whether JBB lasts longer at Michigan or Ward at Syracuse... well, I bet you can guess my answer.
This was going to be a full mailbag, but I got pretty wordy on this one, so I'll answer the rest of the questions in a separate post tomorrow.